Did Jesus come to die, or to live?

A consideration of what Jesus said about his mission, according to the Bible Photo: Jesus, from the Hagia Sophia

ARLINGTON, VA, April 23, 2012 – In the  view of most traditional Christians, Jesus Christ came to earth with one supreme purpose and intention, that of offering his life as a sacrifice, as an atonement for the sins of the human family in order to save mankind. What if this belief, however sincerely held, is mistaken?

For those who already are grateful to Jesus for saving their spiritual lives and who love him very deeply, it can be very hard to accept any suggestion about him that goes against traditional, centuries-old beliefs. Many feel that an absolute mindset concerning Jesus and his mission is an expression of loyalty to him.

However, suppose Jesus urgently wanted to lead a long, long life, teaching and enabling the human family to establish a beautiful, peaceful, thriving world right back then when he was living?

If Jesus’ first desire was to save humanity through living, not through dying, and if the crucifixion was forced on him only as a tragic, secondary course of salvation, wouldn’t he want us to loosen our rigid grasp on traditional views? The deepest expression of loyalty to Jesus surely would be to try to understand who he really is, and to be willing to prayerfully consider what he wanted to accomplish.

Regarding Jesus’ desire for his mission on earth, it is very important to consider his own words. For example, when people asked him to specifically tell them what God wanted them to do, he told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29) He did not tell them, “The will of God is that you listen to what I have to teach, and then kill me as a sacrifice.”

He told his contemporaries that God’s will was simply that they believe in him, meaning surely, to believe in him as who he is, the messiah for whom they had been waiting and longing. If the people around him had understood that he was the long-awaited messiah, who would have killed him? Who would have allowed him to be killed?

In many countless ways, Jesus demonstrated that he wanted people to believe in him and to understand his role as messiah. For instance, consider his anguished words about Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matt. 23:37)  

Some readers might want to protest, “Wait a minute! Jesus had to die. He had to die as a sacrifice for all mankind. Are you suggesting that he thought he could carry out salvation, the forgiveness of sins, without going to the cross?”

Didn’t Jesus abundantly demonstrate the authority to forgive sins as a man living on earth? There are many, many instances in the Bible in which Jesus forgave sins. One example is found in Luke 7: 47, in which he speaks about the woman who had washed his feet with her tears: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven.”

And yes, there are some instances in which Jesus said things that seem to imply the inevitability of his going to the cross. However, it is very important to understand that early in his ministry Jesus spoke about the imminent coming of the Heavenly Kingdom, not about the cross. It was only after people in general failed to understand and support his mission that Jesus was forced to embrace the way of crucifixion as a secondary course of salvation.

If crucifixion were the primary and glorious original intention of Jesus, why did he pray three times in the Garden of Gethsemane that God could allow him to avoid the cross? A centuries-old explanation of this prayer has been that Jesus was temporarily afflicted with fear. Considering how many Christian martyrs faced their deaths fearlessly, this explanation of Jesus’ prayer is unflattering and unjust to the Son of God, to say the least!

Isn’t it far more likely that Jesus prayed the way he did because he foresaw the troubled history that would unfold for the human family if he were not able to finish his original mission of establishing a peaceful, ordered Heavenly culture on earth? Can anyone imagine that in the years since his death, Jesus has been very happy with tragedies such as those resulting from the wars of Rome, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Hundred Years War and the Thirty Years War, or more recently, World War I, World War II and the struggles of our present days?

Through his sacrifice at the cross and through his resurrection, Jesus accomplished a cataclysmic, history-changing revolution, bringing to the human family the opportunity of spiritual salvation. He revolutionized the relationship between mankind and God!

But if going the way of the cross had accomplished all that Jesus had originally intended, why is it that no matter how devout a Christian couple may be today, they still give birth to children who carry original sin?

Could it be that Jesus still has something to tell us about his mission, something that has not been well understood over the years? After all, before departing he told his disciples, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth … “(John 16:12-13) 

For a more thorough explanation of the evidence that Jesus wished to bring salvation through his life on earth, visit the Divine Principle message at http://www.unification.net/dp96/dp96-1-4.html#Chap4

Finally, a crucial consideration: Since the accounts of the words and works of Jesus in the Bible can be understood in quite different ways, even people who admire and love him can disagree strongly over how to understand his life and mission. Should people with such differing views regard each other with hostility, or think to themselves, with sorrow or with satisfaction, that the other fellow is going to suffer in the next life because of his errors in understanding?

Not at all! This would simply cause Jesus even more pain. People with sharply different beliefs can discuss their views free of anger, in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship. Let’s trust that if someone’s sincerely-held beliefs are correct, he will discover this when he arrives in the world of spirit to which we are all headed. If a person who loves Jesus is wrong in part of his understanding, let’s trust that when he reaches the spirit world, Jesus will firmly, but with a loving, Parental heart, straighten him out.

Meanwhile, for as much time as we still have on this earth, let’s do all we can to contribute to making the world, the nation, the community or our own families and friends, a little healthier and happier!

Read more of Clark Eberly’s Stories of Faith in the Communities at the Washington Times.

 


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Clark Eberly

Born in Lafayette, Indiana and I grew up mostly in the northern part of Texas. From 1982 to 2009, I worked as a research librarian at the Washington Times. Most important, I'm married to Silvia, my best friend. We have a son, Brian, and a daughter, Sonja, both of whom are a great blessing.

 

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