This week on Q&A when asked about the relevance of Easter Bob Carr made this insightful comment:
“The words of the sermon on the mount do resonate, must resonate. It is a very radical message. It’s a challenge to all of us about how we live our lives. The thing that puzzles me about Easter is why the sacrifice was required. Sacrifice there is a lot of pre-echoes. That’s sacrifice has a lot of – that blood sacrifice has a lot of pre-echoes in the Hebrew scriptures, but why it required? No preacher has ever explained to me why the death of Jesus had to happen, why it was mandated, why any message from God to man had to happen by that route.”
It is a great question, as we live in these days celebrating after the resurrection, and I can’t help but empathize with the conundrum, “why any message from God to man had to happen from that route.” It is this puzzle that has set me in pursuit of deeper more cogent answers than God’s wrath had to be satisfied.
Recently, I have been reading Stricken by God and was particularly struck by the work of James Alison who suggests, “All sacrificial systems are substitutionary; but what we have with Jesus is an exact inversion of the sacrificial system: he goes backward and occupies the space so as to make it clear that this is simply murder. And it needn’t be.” (p.173)
In answer to Carr’s question (and my own), I wonder if the answer lies in this idea that it was not God who demanded this route of sacrifice but we as human beings who determined the route on which we would take God. God’s response to the barbarity of sacrifice is not vengeance or retribution but a submission to the violence of the world to demonstrate that violence is not the last word.
What God does in response to the events of the cross is simply astounding: the risen Jesus comes among his followers, just as the High Priest did on the Day of Atonement, and declared “Peace be with you.”
“Peace be with you” who would betray, deny, destroy and doubt me.
“Peace be with you” who would hide away and huddle in fear.
“Peace be with you” for I am your God I have loved you with and everlasting love.
God’s desire is not for blood sacrifice but for loving relationship.
A good question Bob Carr and one which is fundamental to our confused and convoluted faith.
I feel the truth in James Alison’s words. Just before Easter, I was wandering through Brian McLaren’s website and came across this statement, a quote from Paul Nuechterlein in an article about Noah’s flood on McLaren’s blog. It’s the most succinct and best explanation of what Easter is all about that I’ve come across.
“God suffers our violence on the cross, shows it to be impotent compared to God’s life-giving power of love on Easter, and enacts the healing power of forgiveness in the giving of the Spirit. The cross and resurrection is God saving us from the flood of our human violence that threatens to destroy us.”