This Sunday I will offer 3 different ways of understanding the death of Jesus on the cross (the atonement). Often in church-world, the non-super-nerdy folk don’t ever give second thought to Jesus’ death – it’s simply agreed upon that Jesus died “to save us from our sins.” But as my fraternity brothers would say, “it aint that easy bro.”
There are a variety of Christian traditions that understand the death of Jesus differently…and with good reason: the scriptures themselves are diverse in their understanding of God’s work through the crucifixion.
For this post let’s start with the most basic understanding: Jesus died because he pissed a bunch of people off.
I love asking my Christian friends, “why did Jesus die?” They’re always quick to answer with theologically complex theories, but in reality when we read the gospels their theories don’t make much sense.
Jesus died because he non-violently subverted the religious elites and when religious people get mad politicians listen.
This revolution is most clear in his last week of life. The week we call, “Holy Week” was one of Jesus’ best portrayals of his peculiar subversiveness.
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday. During the Passover Feast the Emperor road into town on a war horse with his militant legions, but to defiantly and humorously show his lordship, Jesus, rode into town on the back of a rugged donkey. Non-violent and hilarious but still very much a threat – public mockery was not accepted by the powers and principalities, the source of the mockery was taken out…killed.
Jesus then goes to the temple – the center of religious life – and flips tables, drives out the moneychangers and upsets the religous 1% like a royal bad ass.
He then finds himself in a garden praying with his friends. He ends up getting arrested and responds non-violently as his disciples attempt to attack the officers. In the midst of violence Jesus offers his healing touch. Compassion creatively absolved the violence.
Civil disobedience. Arrest. Trial. Execution.
So why did Jesus die? Jesus died because he pissed a bunch of people off.