Why the suffering?

So, last night we were discussing Jesus’ death and our need for an atoning sacrifice, and I heard the question: “Why couldn’t God have forgiven our sins without Jesus dying?” I attempted to answer it first from a theological perspective: God cannot be capricious or inconsistent. He cannot tolerate sin, and sin carries a penalty of death. To forgive it out of hand would be to ignore the needs of justice, and to act whimsically, which is inconsistent with His character.

So far so good.

But looking at it from a human perspective, I think there is perhaps another layer to the line: “For our sake he was crucified and died.” Because from a theological perspective, surely the only requirement was that Jesus died? But he didn’t just die. He was subjected to the most excruciating, torturous death possible, a practice so horrific that even the famously depraved Roman Empire eventually outlawed it as excessively cruel. I guess the central question here is:

Why did Jesus have to suffer?

In the human mind, suffering is often perceived as even worse than death. Death is ultimate, but from this side of the veil we don’t ever actually experience it. Sure, we experience the pain and loss of a loved one dying, but that’s as close as we come. The worst thing that we personally experience is physical suffering. And I think perhaps the suffering of Jesus on the cross was not for the sake of the Law, or for God, but for us.

We need to understand that this forgiveness that we are offered is a really big deal.

We need to understand how much it cost God to offer us this reconciliation to Him.

We need to see how much God loves us.

4 thoughts on “Why the suffering?

  1. I really think your onto something with this. Our perspective is wrong with a lot of theological stuff, with our forgetting that Godde is a person. There’s a brilliant summary in “The Invention of Lying” that summarises the maltheism that often passes off as theism.

  2. “I think perhaps the suffering of Jesus on the cross was not for the sake of the Law, or for God, but for us.”

    We can say “for us” in a more spiritual/devotional sense but from a theological/biblical approach I am going to suggest that it would actually be all three.

    “For the sake of the law”–Jesus, of course, is the archetype of the law. Not only issues of blood, sacrifice, “the Lamb of God” and the interpretation of the mercy seat that the writer of Hebrews gives us, but then in Galatians Paul reminds that the purpose of the law was a tutor leading us to Christ–then there are Jesus statements about not abolishing but fulfilling the law.

    “for God”–Jesus as our propitiation. That can be understood as either the “wrath-bearer” or the satisfaction of God’s justice. Then there is Isaiah 53: 10 which tells us “it was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”

    “for us”–this is where we have the most understanding–justification, substitutionary atonement, etc.

    Maybe that was all unnecessary but it was fun writing it.

  3. Pingback: Forgive us our sins « Spiritual Meanderings

  4. Pingback: Daily bread « Spiritual Meanderings

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