Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Was Jesus' Sacrifice a Sacrifice for Him?

I received this question last week:

Would you say that Jesus dying on the cross was not a huge sacrifice for Him?

How would you answer this? If Jesus knew he'd get his life back, does that lessen the sacrifice?

I'll give you how I responded in the next post. What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

That is a really great questions with a lot of implication.

Essentially this is aiming at the theories within Atonement.

I think Jesus' sacrifice was a big sacrifice on so many levels, namely physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

At Calvary, Jesus destroyed the evils ways of this world (Heb 2.14, 1 Jn 3.8), reconciled all things, including humans, to Himself (2 Cor 5.18-19; Col 1.20-22); forgave us of our sins (Acts 13.38; Eph 1.7); healed us from our sin-diseased nature (1 Peter 2.24); poured his Spirit on us and empowered us to live in relation to Himself (Roman 8.2-16); and gave us an example to follow (Eph 5.1-2; 1 Pet 2.21). This is why Calvary is so central to Christianity. Calvary communicated redemption, sacrifice, salvation, comfort, hope, and victory through Christ and the cross. The act on the cross is the reconstruction of the world’s corruption.

If everything I listed was not a big sacrifice, I do not know what is.

Lastly, what happen on the cross was soo much bigger than just a mere sacrifice.

Dale Fincher said...

Ryan George made this comment on the blog (syndicated over on Facebook).

"A sacrifice beyond human definition. If someone told you that your father--or the person you love the most and knows you best--would turn his back on you and that you'd endure excruciating physical torment and humiliation at the hand of people in the lowest caste (comparatively) . . . but that you'd come through it just fine . . . nobody in their right mind would count that insignificant."

Anonymous said...

It still just does not seem to be a huge sacrifice since it was all planned and known since the beginning when Jesus was involved.

Yes, it is a sacrifice to die when you did not do something for it, it is a sacrifice to have your 'dad' turn your back on you...but Jesus went along with the plan, knowing it, knowing the purpose of it, knowing the good that would come from it...the sacrificial part is still hard to grasp.

Dale Fincher said...

Ashley, if someone walked up to you on the street and asked you to define sacrifice, what would you say?

Anonymous said...

I would say that it is giving something up to someone in return to get something else.

Jesus got nothing in return.

Dale Fincher said...

I don't know if that would be the standard definition. I think your definition may be closer to a word like a 'trade.'

Sacrifice for many means giving up something for less than its value. Or to surrender something expecting nothing in return. When a parent sacrifices for his kids college, we'd say, he gave up things so his kid to gain things. But he himself didn't gain anything....

Anonymous said...

Or one could argue the parent received internal blessings, of joy, happiness, security, etc because they knew their child was going to get an education, so they did get something back, even if it was not a tangible item.

Jesus got death...that's not really receiving anything that would be considered positive. He got death so that the 'people he loves' could continue to hurt him all day every day...that's not sacrifice, that sounds like stupidity.

It just seems that for years people have heard Jesus was a sacrifice and never questioned it.

It just doesn't make sense for him to really be a sacrifice since he knew it all, knew how it was to happen, in on the plan, and had no way to say no. Without a choice, there's no sacrifice.

That'd be like me saying to you, that in two years, you're going to die. Your death is going to save a person's physical life because your heart will go to them. That's not a sacrifice on your part, it's just simply going to happen, you can't change it, you know it's coming, and you know that it's your goal in life for that to happen.

It works the same in my mind with Jesus. He couldn't change it. He went right along with the plan from the beginning, and he received nothing for it.

Dale Fincher said...

I used a mild example of how sacrifice is used in our culture. A heavier example would be someone rushing into a fire to save a life and losing his own. What happy feelings are gained by that?

What is more, in your first example, Jesus "sacrifice" would at least be greater because he doesn't have those happy feelings that a parent has in sending his kid to college.

Another way 'sacrifice' is used is in the death of an animal for a diety. In the Judeo/Christian view, the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. So in that way, sacrifice may be a very apt word for Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World.

In your last example, I think the analogy doesn't work. If you told me I was going to die in two years, that would be quite different than my choosing to die in two years. When a terminal disease strikes me, it isn't a sacrifice on my part. I'm just a victim. But in the case of Jesus the Messiah, he freely chose. The Father didn't require it. He freely 'emptied' himself (Phil 2).

Jesus did have a choice. He didn't have to come (the Trinity is mutual submissive among the three). But you might say he was obligated in that his love for us obligated him. If love is not enough for something to be a sacrifice, then nobody has ever sacrificed ever. Are you willing to go that far?

mike daniel said...

Okay - here's two separate thoughts on the topic:

1) Jesus didn't just die for those who would receive Him. He died for all, even those who would reject Him. Just because some of us say no, doesn't mean He didn't pay the price of admittance - that's a whole lot of something for a whole lot of nothing - except displaying true love and selflessness.

2) When Abraham went to sacrifice his son Isaac, was it less of a sacrificial act because he reconciled God's promise by expecting Isaac's resurrection (according to Hebrews)? Did it take more faith to sacrifice His son anticipating resurrection, or expecting the finality of death? And if more faith is required, is their not greater potential loss? And if there is greater potential loss, is not the sacrifice great? In other words, could Jesus' anticipation of resurrection have required more faith, and as such could He have had more to lose in the act if He were wrong? Certainly He was tempted. Certainly there is not faith without doubt (or it isn't faith). Then are we really arguing if one with greater faith has a lesser sacrifice just because His faith is greater?

No - in the first count - Jesus died as an expression of His love so that both those who reject and those who receive Him would be confronted by His love and character. In the second count - Jesus greater faith - being fully human - does not discount the gravity of His sacrifice.

Rachel said...

[Dale: this turned out to be long (no surprise there I guess!). Feel free to edit/shorten--or not publish. --RW]

In my view this discussion is heavily influenced by the "suffering" view of Yeshua's (Jesus') sacrifice that was popularized first by the Roman church, but taken up also by Protestants.

In that view, being in awe of the physical and emotional suffering of Jesus on the cross becomes important in a way that I do not believe is Biblical, nor in line with the understanding of Yeshua's kinsmen of his day.

This view says:
"Jesus suffered more than any other man, therefore we ought to respect and love him."

"Jesus' physical wounds are holy; therefore we venerate his blood and his wounds."

Some even say: "Jesus suffered so that we don't have to" Of course scripture explicitly says this is not so, in fact it says we will suffer with him.

Why does the scripture talk about Jesus' blood? Is it because he bled and suffered pain?

I think we need to understand the entirely Jewish context in which Yeshua lived, died and became the first fruits of "m'chayay ha'maytim"--the resurrection of the dead.

Dale mentioned briefly in a comment that we need to understand the Jewish concept of animal sacrifice, and particularly the national atonement: Yom Kippur.

This is true. But I believe, further, that we need to look into the nature of sacrificial love in the whole scripture--particularly the Hebrew scriptures in order to understand Yeshua's sacrifice.

The Church very early cut off its roots--that which connected it to the only covenant relationship God has made with a people. God's sacrificial love for the people of Israel needs to be understood before we will understand what Jesus did on the cross.

Related to this is the willingness of God to feel the agonizing pain of a parent letting a beloved child suffer the torture of a sinful world. I am speaking here not of the son Jesus, but of the son Israel, the Jewish people. God has allowed this people he calls his firstborn to suffer (to quote the Bard) the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" so that the other "ethnos" of the world would have an opportunity to repent.

We humans cannot measure or judge Jesus' sacrifice. But to even begin to comprehend it we have to place it in the context of God's continuing sacrificial love for humanity and specifically the Jewish people.

It is the ultimate journey of "God in Search of Man" (J.A. Heschel). He met Adam and Eve in the Garden, he calls to us, he revealed his Torah (instruction), he provided a system of atonement for sin, He sent out his covenant people to be a light to the nations, he sent his prophets, he designated a Land --an actual PLACE here on earth-- that is his, that is holy. He journeyed with us, seeking us out.

Ultimately, he stepped onto that Land and took that journey to the tree--not so he could feel physical pain so we could feel sorry for him and guilty on his behalf. Several hundred thousand Jews were crucified during the Roman period. Some surely suffered physically more than Yeshua, whose death was relatively quick. Mothers who have seen their babies slaughtered before their eyes have suffered emotional agony that cannot be measured against Jesus's agony.

The point is not how much he suffered and sacrificed (from the human standpoint). The point is WHO he was and is--and what he chose, in love, to do. It is the WHO that is crucial. God the Creator has loved us so deeply and sought us so far that he tasted death for us all that we might live.

Love, and love only, will sacrifice. Love is bound up in sacrifice. That is one of the deep truths of reality that we are in danger of loosing--except that it keeps showing up in fantasy and fiction. Hollywood knows what turns touches us!