Q & A: Did Jesus Really Sacrifice Anything Since He Was Resurrected?




pls an agonist friend of mine sent me this, what do you think


Let's talk about Jesus' 'sacrifice'...

Apart from the obvious highly improbability of his asexual conception, the utter ridiculousness of the magical grocery multiplication and his alleged resurrection, another thing I find really interesting about the story of the Jesus character in the bible is the portrayal of the concept of sacrifice in the story.

According to the Bible, humans were so awful that God had to send his son, who also doubles as himself to be sacrificed to god himself, in order to save us from the eternal torture prepared also by no other person but God. At age 33, after about three years of magic shows and the founding of a new religion, Jesus, God's son was apprehended, tortured and killed. He, however, rose up later, on the third day, according to the story.

Now the last part of the above paragraph is the crux of this post. Jesus was supposedly sent to give his life for humans, to die in our place, as a sacrifice. However, he rose up later, he stopped dying, just after a few days, about two days to be more precise. This isn't exactly sacrificing.

The English dictionary has the meaning f sacrifice as 'to give away', 'to offer', 'something given up or lost', etc. The common denominator to the above meanings is 'lost'. When you sacrifice something, you definitely don't get it back else it ceases from being a sacrifice.

Time, money or some other resources valuable human possessions that are often given up by humans for the sake of others or for those who give them up to have something in return. The limited nature of a sacrifice determines it value or worth. Two gifts of equal proportion may not mean the same to the receiver or the giver as they are worth different things to the giver and therefore says something about what the receiver means to giver. For example, a man on a sick bed may receive a gift of five thousand (#5,000) naira from two of his friends. Ordinarily, the two presents may seem the same but they aren't. The friend whose five thousand naira gift costs him more will be considered to have more worth than the other whose gift cost him less. If the friend whose gift costs more happen to have given that gift instead of using it for something more important, losing the aim or purpose of that other thing, then that gift is considered a sacrifice. The more the worth of the forgone purpose, the the more the worth of the sacrifice.

Human sacrifice, the sacrifice of a person's own life is considered the greatest form of gift because of the value of a person's life to him/herself. Everything in life is finite, most especially life itself. When a person gives his/her life, along with it goes everything considered dear. Loved ones, family, friends, dreams and aspirations. Everything is gone and never to be had again. This is the reason why human sacrifice is considered the greatest gift or act of love.

When we look at the story of Jesus again, can we really say that jw sacrificed his life?

First, according to the story, this mortal, finite life was never his to begin with. Jesus never had the very things that make life so dear so much that givng it up would amount to a great loss. Mortal family and friends, parents who gave up part of themselves to bring him to the world but would one day leave never to see him again, friends who he grew up together with but would never see again once dead. Perhaps a lover or love interest who would forever miss him. Dreams and aspirations that would never be fulfilled. Etc.

Jesus didn't have all the above. He, according to the story had a life before, am original life, a life of eternity that he briefly interrupted to come to earth. He didn't have mortal parents who he would never see again, according to the story, god is/was his father/parent, or he was/is his own parent so neither of them would be lost or forever missed. As for friends, I can hypothesize that the angels were his friends in his real life in heaven. Even when here on earth, he would have being in touch with them and they would have reunited when he went back to heaven. As for dreams and aspirations, I don't know if ethereal beings have those but if he did, I'm sure 33yrs pales in comparison to eternity and would seem like merely a one second break.

All the above invalidates the idea of Jesus actually sacrificing his life since he lacks the ability to understand the sense of loss that makes sacrifice worth its name for humans. He simply can't understand what it means to lose his life since he doesn't understand finiteness. To make matters worse, he rose up from dead on the third day, with the foreknowledge that he would wake up, he even bragged about it before he was killed. This makes the whole thing shady and nothing but a poorly planned and executed deception.

At least, if you would sacrifice your life and then hold all of humanity to ransom on that deed, you could have at least stayed dead. Jesus didn't sacrifice anything, not his life or its worth. According to the story, he merely sacrificed 33yrs out of eternity only to go back to his real life and be reunited with his real family and friends back in heaven.

-- Messenger

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Thanks for your question, Messenger. I've heard this a few times before but just never took the time to write about it. Your urgent sounding message to me on the Cerebral Faith Facebook page gave me the incentive to finally do so. Let me give several reasons why your agnostic friend is misguided in his objection.

If Resurrection Cancels Sacrifice, Then No One Sacrifices Their Life 

Jesus did sacrifice His life for us. He was dead in the ground for three days. Yes, he got his life back 3 days later, but that does not change the fact that He willingly gave up His life for us, even if temporarily. By his reasoning, soldiers who throw their bodies over grenades to protect their comrades aren't sacrificing anything either. Why do I say that? Because The Bible teaches that all men will be raised from the dead when Christ returns (see Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, 1 Corinthians 15:22). The Bible teaches that death is temporary for everyone, not just Jesus. Jesus is the simply the first to taste the fruit of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23). If Jesus' death on the cross doesn't count as a sacrifice, then no one else' death in others' place count as sacrifices either!

Now, the skeptic could argue "Ah, but Jesus was only dead over the weekend, those soldiers have been and will be dead for a lot longer". My question is: what difference does that make? In both cases, the sacrificer gets his life back. Why is Jesus' sacrifice less special because his resurrection came more quickly than theirs?

Your agnostic friend's worldview is coloring the way he sees sacrifice. This is most apparent when he writes "Human sacrifice, the sacrifice of a person's own life is considered the greatest form of gift because of the value of a person's life to him/herself. Everything in life is finite, most especially life itself. When a person gives his/her life, along with it goes everything considered dear. Loved ones, family, friends, dreams and aspirations. Everything is gone and never to be had again." This presupposes that the Christian worldview is false. On the Christian worldview, none of what he said is true for me either. I don't have a finite life. I'll be resurrected someday because I've trusted in Jesus (John 11:25). If I give my life everything is not gone, never to be had again. ""Everything is gone and never to be had again?" Not according to Jesus! "Truly I tell you,'Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--along with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30). Yes, if I died right now, I would miss out on Earthly things, and I would leave friends and family behind, but so long as my family and friends have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord (and many have), we'll all be together again someday, first in the intermediate "paradise" (Luke 23:43) and then in the new physical universe (Revelation 21).

By his logic, if Christianity is true, if I were to take a bullet for him and lose my life, I didn't really sacrifice anything! Hopefully, he wouldn't have the gall to say that at my eulogy! "According to Mr. Minton's worldview, he didn't really sacrifice anything, since he'll get his life back someday and he's fellowshipping with his family members who died before him right now in the pre-resurrection intermediate state. I appreciate him saving me and all, but it wasn't a true sacrifice."

I severely doubt his premise that life has to end at the grave in order for me forfeiting my life for someone else to count as a true sacrifice. I would say that if I took a bullet for him, it was indeed a sacrifice, even though God's going to give me my life back some day. I gave up something. I gave up my time here on Earth. That's what it means to sacrifice.

"The English dictionary has the meaning of sacrifice as 'to give away', 'to offer', 'something given up or lost', etc." Jesus "gave away" His freedom when He submitted to the Jewish and Roman authorities. He gave away His life when He died on that cross of Calvary. He offered Himself to suffer God's wrath in our place. According to the definitions, he gave out of the dictionary, Jesus' death was indeed a sacrifice. "But he got his life back!" who said something has to be permanently given up in order to be a sacrifice? The dictionary never said that. The objector did. Let the objector back up his claim. The objector is frontloading a lot of presuppositions into what it means to make a sacrifice. I think he's overthinking it, honestly. If Jesus gave up his life, He sacrificed His life.

The Objection Neglects The Humanness Of Jesus

Your agnostic friend failed to understand some critical things. First, and most obviously, he fails to understand the real humanness of Jesus. Like a lot of people do, he overemphasizes Christ's divine nature and downplays His human nature into being a mere shell. The Biblical reality is the Jesus was fully human. He did have human parents, friends, loved ones, etc. "Jesus wept" for Lazarus for a reason, it was not a mere showpiece. Jesus experienced intense anguish prior to His execution (Luke 22:44). Jesus wasn't simply God in a human costume. He wasn't like Superman disguised as Clark Kent. He had a genuine human nature. Therefore, He genuinely felt the sting of Judas' betrayal, the anxiety of anticipating His torture, and the pain of the scourging and nails. This wasn't an easy ride as the objector seems to be painting it as.

His Objection Misses The Point Of Why Jesus Died

The whole point of the incarnation, the whole point of Jesus going to the cross, was to pay the penalty for our sins. We have all sinned before God (Romans 3:23, Psalms 14:2-4), and God is just (Psalm 9:7-8, Psalm 9:16, Psalm 10, Psalm 11:16, Psalm 103:6) and therefore, He cannot let sin go unpunished. If He did let sin go unpunished, he would be a corrupt and unholy judge. However, God is love (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16) and therefore loves all people (John 3:16), and He, therefore "is willing that no one should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). But not punishing sin is unjust. So God appeared to be in conflict with Himself; wanting to show love by letting people into Heaven but needing to show justice by sending them to Hell.

God resolved this conflict by taking on human flesh and taking on the penalty Himself (Philippians 2:5-8). This came in the form of subjecting Himself to slow, agonizing torture and pain (since that's precisely the penalty for sin, cf. Revelation 14).

The suffering before crucifixion was horrific. When the Romans crucified a person they would use whips with multiple jagged edges made of sheep bone that would cut through a person’s skin like butter! The Roman lashes often times consisted of 40 of these lashes so you can imagine how shredded a person’s back would be after being whipped with these multi-thronged, bladed whips. According to Dr. Alexander Methrell, the whipping could get so bad that the white of the spine was sometimes exposed.1 Eusebius; a third-century historian describes the pre-crucifixion scourging thusly; “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowls of the victim were open to exposure.” The Passion Of The Christ got very close to accurately portraying this type of gore that crucifixion entailed but even that didn’t fully portray the goreyness of Jesus’ death! In fact, Mel Gibson himself admitted to this! He said that he wanted to portray what a crucifixion victim went through but couldn’t show the full horror of it because “the human mind can only take so much”. And this is a movie that got an R rating because of the violence.

1 Peter 3:18 and Isaiah 53 make it clear why God would take on human flesh and endure all of this for us: to suffer His wrath in our place so that we wouldn't have to endure it. He paid the price so that we wouldn't have to. He discharged the debt so that we wouldn't have to discharge it. He took our place. Now it is up to us to accept His payment by responding to the gospel (John 8:24, Romans 10:9).

It was necessary that Jesus die, and not just die but die torturously. If this hadn't happened, there would be no atonement. The Bible says "Without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins." (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus got the job done, and that's the most important thing.

He didn't have to endure all that, but He did. He sacrificed ("to give away', "to offer", "something given up or lost"), His cozy life as pure deity to clothe Himself in human flesh and suffer the agonies of Hell.

His Objection Misses The Points Of Jesus' Resurrection

Jesus could have remained in His grave, but there would have been severe negative consequences. For one thing, The Bible seems to imply that Jesus' death wasn't enough to earn us salvation, but His resurrection also played a part in it. Romans 4:25 says "He was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification." He was raised to life for our justification. According to God's Word, had Jesus not been raised, His atoning work would only have part of the equation. We could not be saved!

Secondly, Jesus' resurrection served as a vindication of His ministry and teachings. I believe The Bible because I believe in Jesus, not the other way around. And why do I believe in Jesus? Because God raised Him from the dead. This meant that The Father put His stamp of approval on Jesus' ministry and teachings, from his claim that demons are real to His claim to be God incarnate. The latter would have been blasphemy if it weren't true, and if it weren't true, do you think The Father would have raised Him from the dead? I don't think so. I don't think God would raise a heretic and a blasphemer, which is exactly what He would be if He wasn't who He claimed to be (i.e God). For more information on how Jesus' resurrection vindicates the Christian worldview, see my article "What Is The Significance Of Jesus' Resurrection?"  and for a quick look at the evidence for the historicity of His resurrection, see my article "A Quick Case For Jesus' Resurrection".  

Thirdly, had Jesus remained in his tomb, the disciples would have continued to be despondent and would likely conclude that the Pharisees were right in condemning Jesus as a heretic. Many people claiming to be the messiah were crucified in the first and second centuries, but once they were, their movements died out. As the New Testament scholar N.T Wright put it; when your favorite Messiah was crucified, you either went home or you got yourself a new messiah.2 This didn't happen in Jesus' case. His movement still lives to this day. Why? What separates him from all these other crucified so-called Messiahs? He was raised from the dead. Had Jesus not been raised from the dead, he would most likely have been forgotten by history like all the phonies. Jesus' resurrection was proof to the disciples he really was who He claimed to be.

These are just a few of the reason why it was important for Jesus to rise from the dead.

Sacrifice As Killing Someone For God

One of the several definitions of sacrifice that Merriam-Webster gives of the word "Sacrifice" is "an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially :the killing of a victim on an altar" (see here) Now, clearly the death of Jesus indisputably matches this definition of "Sacrifice". Jesus committed "an act of offering to a deity something precious"; He offered His own life to God The Father. It was "the killing of a victim on the altar", the victim being Himself and the altar being the cross. Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to God The Father.

So even if Jesus didn't "sacrifice" himself according to the definition your agnostic friend gave, it certainly doesn't mean it doesn't match a different definition. Merriam-Webster would certainly think Jesus' death was a sacrifice under the first category. Moreover, I don't see any requirement for why Jesus' death would need to be permanent in order for this to be the case.

Conclusion 

Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Those who say His death wasn't a sacrifice are mistaken.

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Footnotes 

1: See Dr. Alexander Methrell’s interview with Lee Strobel in “The Case For Christ”, chapter 11, page 195, published by Zondervan

2: N.T Wright, as cited by William Lane Craig in "Reasonable Faith", page 372.

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn't matter whether you're a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you're having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one.