Not for God
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. This does not mean that God required the sacrifice of Jesus. It was not God who required it, but man.
Throughout the approximately 2,000 years of the Mosaic Law, God’s people fell further and further away from God. They were stuck in an endless cycle of sin, sacrifice, scapegoats and more sin.
God knew he had to do something to break them out of this. Fortunately, he had a solution. In John 3:16, we get a glimpse of what was to come:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [NIV]
The effect of sin was death; God had a solution that would bring his people eternal life. Thus reversing the effect of sin.
God always forgave sin, even from the start. We have seen that he didn’t need any price to be paid in order to allow him to forgive his people for all of their sins. Instead, his people needed to see their situation for what it was. They needed to see how far they had fallen and how far away they had become from God.
Jesus shows us how to live
When Jesus came into the world, he followed the Law in letter and in spirit. He showed everyone around him the beauty of God’s Kingdom. The Jews before him had failed miserably because they had only focused on following the letter of the law. Often it was possible to follow the letter of the law but at the same time fail to love one another. This was not going to bring them closer to God. It only separated them.
Often Jesus would compromise on obeying the letter of the law in order to fulfil it in spirit. For example, healing the sick on the Sabbath. This offended the legalistic minds of the Pharisees (the Jewish legal experts) and they plotted to kill Jesus.
We can now see how the evil of that day—the legalistic Pharisees, the fake Jewish court and the Romans—all came together to kill Jesus. And not just kill him, but torture and kill him using the most painful, humiliating method of the day—crucifixion.
God gave Jesus freely
When God freely gave us his only begotten son, he knew that we would reject him, but he gave him anyway. We all needed to see this. We had to see just how bad we had become under the Law. Jesus had to die, and he had to die an extremely violent death. If he had not, we would not have seen our evil, and we would still be in the same old cycle of sin and death today.
This was God’s act of sacrifice for us, and us alone. It wasn’t about satisfying the wrath of God, because God was already forgiving us for our sins. It was about breaking the cycle of sin and death that we were trapped in. After Jesus died, he rose from the dead. This proved that he had broken the cycle of sin and death for good. This was the victory he won for us, which Psalm 22 speaks of.
At one with God
When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. This curtain symbolised the separation of Heaven and Earth. So now there is no more separation between us and God. We, as his people, have the duty to tell the whole world this good news so that his Kingdom is expanded across the whole Earth. And what an amazing sight that will be!
The message of the cross is as relevant to us now as it was to the people of 2,000 years ago.
We can only be at one with God through a relationship based on love. Laws and sacrifices will no longer be entertained!
I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles on the meaning of the atonement. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Also published on Medium.