I say and say again that in the eyes of the Roman government and of the religious authorities of his day, Jesus was not an innocent man. For the most part, Christian theology says that Jesus was a sinless man, a perfect sacrifice, who died for the propitiation of the sins of humankind. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The Christian witness to a call to believe that Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, that he died on the cross to save humanity, and was raised on the third day with all power and authority in his hands. When we believe, we are saved from hell. We are saved through faith alone. This is the soteriology of Jesus’ story.

I want to consider the ethics of his life and death. I want to consider the possibility of bringing heaven to earth.

Jesus was condemned to death by the Roman authorities because he was a threat to their power. He was handed over by religious authorities because he was a threat to their position and authority. The story of the last days of Jesus’ life is a story of the result of economic, religious and political power coming together to preserve itself. It is a warning of what happens when religious authorities stop speaking truth to power and seek to use the power of the state to maintain their traditions. It is a story of what happens when people begin to worship the idol of tradition.

Jesus was not a Christian. He was born into a Jewish household and raised to understand the law and the prophets. However, his ministry was about teaching people to observe the spirit of the law and the prophets and not only the letter of the law. He came to teach a radical love as demonstrated in compassion and living the Golden Rule that says: “IN EVERYTHING do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” He taught that human beings ought to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. As ourselves. There is no them and us, there is only us. When we read the Sermon on the Mount, we ought to read it as a guide to living in this world.

Some theologians think that it is meant in a symbolic and spiritual sense. I disagree. When Jesus instructs his audiences to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to give up coat and cloak, to love enemies, to stop worrying about the future and what we will eat and wear, he is talking about a new way to live in this world. Jesus advocated a radical love economy where everyone entered into an obligation to help those who needed help when they needed it. In the model prayer known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, he prays that the heavenly Father would forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. He instructed at least one rich man to sell all he owed and give it to the poor.

Jesus instructed his followers to leave their gifts at the altar if someone has something against us. We are to make peace with the person then return to give our gifts. He taught secrecy in giving, prayer, and fasting. He taught that what the Father sees in secret, he rewards openly. So much for public piety.

Further, the presence of money changers in the temple courtyard offended Jesus, and he and his disciples attacked them. This was probably the final straw that gave the religious authorities the pretense they needed to have him arrested. The economics of the cult of blood sacrifice cheated the people and did not help them to create a beloved community.

During his last Passover meal, the event commemorated in Christianity as Maundy Thursday, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper where he gave a new commandment that we ought to love one another. He gave us the logic of communion. When he said that the bread and wine were symbols of his body and blood, he brought an end to the cult of blood-shed sacrifice. Salvation is not found in shedding of blood. We find our salvation in communion. We find it in sharing. I say that bread and wine are symbols of sustenance and joy. When Jesus says that we ought to do this in remembrance of him, from an ethical point of view, he is talking about remembering his instructions and remembering his deeds of compassion, of feeding and of healing. This is the establishment of the beloved community. This is heaven come to earth.

The crucifixion of Jesus was capital punishment. It was the state ridding itself of a threat with the blessing of the religious authorities who would lose their social status and financial advantage with the end of the cult of blood shed sacrifice and the institution of a new covenant promised by the prophet Jeremiah: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor; and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

I believe that God is Love, and when we love, truly love, we become an instrument of God in Creation. How many people are so busy with doing this or that for the institutional church that they have no time or energy to recognize the presence of Divine Love when it shows up? How many people today worship their tradition that creates them and us categories, that much too often allows, even encourages, bigotry and hatred in the name of Jesus.
Jesus taught and lived Divine Love. He often referred to himself as the Son of Man, an appellation that signifies his complete humanity. This reminds us that we, in our own humanity, have the capacity for radical love.

The world tried to kill a love so profound that it drives away fear. It died for a day. But the joy of Easter, the promise of Resurrection Sunday, is that love is stronger than death. Divine Love lives and is manifested in humanity. It is our work to allow it to live in us and to live through us.

 

See: http://justpeacetheory.com/files/Torture_Terror_War_and_the_End_of_Bloodshed_Sacrifice.pdf

 

 

Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”


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