Public execution must be one of the most harrowing, traumatising and disturbing events that a human being could ever witness. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly. Thus Easter week, which millions of Christians celebrate every year is puzzling.
Honestly, I don’t know what to think about Easter celebrations because I don’t understand how some mainstream Christians think or if they think at all. I am well aware that there are Christians who are kind, thoughtful, extremely intelligent and devoted – qualities that I sincerely believe I have too –I wish that they could solve this puzzle for me. I’m not prepared to go as far as to state that Christians celebrate the betrayal, arrest, trial and public execution of Jesus but I admit to being confused about where they stand on these troubling events, events which seem to be glorified by modern Passion plays and movies.
I can understand that some Christians may shed a few tears of gratitude that Jesus saved them from a lost and debased lifestyle but are any of them horrified by the intense trials and agony that Jesus suffered? Or are their natural sensitivities suspended by believing that God intended to publicly torture and sacrifice his Son and then mysteriously physically resurrect him to be seen only by a handful of believers? When I contemplate the Crucifixion, as I must do every Easter holiday, I am shocked and horrified. Such a waste! That’s what I think. And it makes me tearfully sad. So sad in fact that I have trouble accepting the prevailing Christian ideology about the Crucifixion.
I don’t want to be different from fellow Christians. I’m not trying to be better than them, I am genuinely confused, shocked and deeply saddened. I want Christians to sensitively contemplate the immense sacrifice of Jesus and to ask questions like “Why did it happen like this? Did it have to happen like this? Did something go wrong?"
It’s agonising not having answers to these questions. Either Christians have something that I do not have or they have misunderstood an essential aspect of Jesus’s life. I am not trying to make myself better than Christians, I really hope that they have the Truth, and if that is true that someday I can understand these mysteries. But for over 30 years I have struggled to find the answers by interviewing men and women of faith from various churches cultures and countries – as well as seeking answers from God Himself.
For example, when I was a young adult supposedly holidaying in America, I tracked down an elderly university professor in Chicago who was well respected within both Messianic Jewish and Christian circles. He led me to understand that, as a Jewish believer in Christ, he had even more understanding and evidence that Jesus is the Messiah than the average Christian because he was able to read and understand Hebrew and the biblical prophecies, religious traditions and culture that related to Jesus’s times. He tried to explain the necessity of the Crucifixion by associating it with animal sacrifice that was performed each Passover in the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem.
The believing professor told me that an unblemished, unbruised animal had the sins of the people transferred to it by the High Priest who then ritually slaughtered it. That’s how I remembered it (since I was vegetarian it was hard to hear this theory). I understood that he wanted to claim that Jesus was the last sacrifice and that the purpose of the 2nd Temple became redundant and so was destroyed by the Romans about 40 years after the Crucifixion. However his explanation was more than troublesome for several reasons which we were not able to resolve during his lunch hour at the University, and so I left more troubled and confused than when I had arrived. Whilst his explanation was incomplete and lacking, it had been the fullest explanation that I had heard so far and today I haven’t heard better but it still falls far short of satisfying me. I’m going to briefly and only partially explain why.
Let me repeat again that I find the whole concept of public execution and human sacrifice distasteful. Even the idea of animal sacrifice sickens my stomach. I do not understand how killing an innocent animal releases human beings from their sin. Possibly a creative explanation can be found but on the surface animal sacrifice does not make sense. Even assuming that animal sacrifice is true and does work does the public execution of Jesus by the Romans remotely resemble a 2nd Temple animal sacrifice ritual? I really don’t want to have to think about this or drag my readers through this distasteful reasoning process however in search of truth I have pushed myself uncomfortable experiences, many related to the strongly held beliefs of other people!
Firstly Jesus was not an unblemished sacrifice. He had been brutally whipped. Christian apologists may say that his lack of blemish was not physical but spiritual He lacked sin.
Secondly the sin of the people was not transferred upon Jesus. How could anyone transfer sin to Jesus or indeed anyone else? I suppose someone might conjecture that an official of the Roman sponsored Jewish puppet government told Jesus that the blood of the people would be on his head if there was persecution of Jews by Romans because of Jesus’s actions. But this is speculative and incomplete. As I recall the Messianic Jewish professor told me that Jesus was the High Priest. This meant that Jesus sacrificed himself. The theory is bad science because it is an unfalsifiable theory. It is circular and unsatisfying. In this theory Jesus has to be his own persecutor and victim; judge jury and defendant; executioner and victim. In this version of Jesus’s life and death, Jesus plays all of the parts – and they are all invisible.
If the purpose of the Crucifixion of Jesus was so that mankind would understand that Jesus came as a sacrificial offering to nullify their sin and allow them connect to God then as a public drama in broke a cardinal rule of moviemaking which is to “show and not tell”. Did I really have to travel all the way to a Chicago University to hear a religious professor tell me something about the Crucifixion that was not evident in the actual story? You might understand why I was unsatisfied with mainstream Christian explanations. It seemed that the professor was too, although he wasn’t about to openly cast aspersions upon the beliefs of his fellow Christians.
Well I tried, and have been trying for over 30 years to understand mainstream Christian theology. Since I evidently don’t understand it, I can only return to my own understanding and experience of Jesus – which is much more satisfying but causes both happiness and sadness at the same time. I love that Jesus loves us and I am sad that Jesus was executed. Mainstream Christians don’t seem to have the same viewpoint which makes me feel oddly different from them. My view is that Jesus didn’t come to be executed. As far as I am concerned the public Crucifixion of Jesus broke God’s heart. It’s our responsibility to understand what God wants and why he sent Jesus.
If the mainstream Christian viewpoint is incorrect we should not spend any more time on it. However it is an opinion will not go away and is always pushed upon us. I am sorry whenever True Teaching is distracted by prevailing untruths. As a spiritual teacher, I find that many spiritual seekers are distracted by misunderstandings and erroneous beliefs which they dogmatically hold to be true and strongly resist both reason and insight. Consequently even spiritual communities are hotbeds of disagreement even when it is only going on under the surface. The only solution is to root out this unconscious thinking and plant a new Garden of Eden on virgin soil.
I rarely spend so much time exploring something that I feel is untrue. I’m quite certain that the majority of my readers are not Christian apologists and so do not care to debate. I am not seeking argument anyway. Instead I have sought to create a gap between popularist thinking about Easter so that anyone who cares can have a more real appreciation of what actually happened.
I wrote this essay as I contemplated “what is the most essential Teaching about Jesus and the Enlightenment Transmission (Holy Spirit) for Easter?” This year we can understand more about Jesus because we have learned about God’s Original and Unchanging Ideal for Humanity in recent Online Enlightenment Transmission Classes. Inevitably we must look at the circumstances that allowed Jesus to be betrayed, arrested and executed but these tragic themes are not the most significant part of a Message of Hope that could heal every trauma that mankind has suffered and thereby return all of humanity back to the bosom of God and the Garden of Eden.