After Wednesday Night Supper tonight at my church, our pastor led a Bible study during which we watched a DVD presentation with Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. This week's topic was Substitutionary Atonement.
They assert, and I agree, that Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice. He believed in his mission and his message so much that he stuck to his guns, so to speak, even though he knew it would probably lead to his death. The same could be said of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Ghandi. So his life was a sacrifice.
But not a substitute.
In fact, they make the point that part of Jesus' message was to let people know that instead of having to go to the temple to make a sacrifice and seek forgiveness through the high priest, they each had individual access to God and always had.
During the discussion afterward, the analogy I used was that it's like moving to a new place where the electricity has been turned on but the people moving in don't know it. So they don't flip the switch. And they remain in the dark.
One of the other people in the group asked, basically, "if Jesus didn't die for our sins, then do you still have to believe in him to go to heaven?".
The prevailing theme of the group's responses was that Jesus had a lot to say about how we should live and what impact a loving relationship with God should have on the way we live, but he didn't seemed to be focused so much on requirements. It is as if he was setlling once and for all that God loves and forgives us and then, says, "Now, then, how shall we live? Here are my suggestions...".
He wanted to make it clear that Roman imperialism was not the way, and neither were greed or force or violence, but instead, the way is love. God's love and our love for each other. Which cannot be taken away from us.
And the crucifixion followed by the resurrection demonstrates that with an exclamation point and in highlighted color.
That's what Easter means to me!
The lights are on. Flip the switch.