Since it’s Easter, I’ve been having a few discussions around the resurrection of Jesus (see Luke 24 for one account). One of the discussions involved my interlocutor arguing that the resurrection would require complete suspension of the laws of physics, and thus must be discounted. His idea was that the best explanation was “mass delusions and a series of hallucinations”.
I think it’s important to distinguish in what capacity we make different statements. As individual human beings we tend to be multifaceted; within specific disciplines, we must narrow our range of possibilities. Science, for instance, explores natural phenomena within the known universe. History explores multiple strands of evidence (some scientific, some not) to investigate and understand events in the human past. Psychology tries to unravel the curious workings of the human mind. Each of these is limited in scope, but powerful within its field.
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.