Thoughts on Christ’s death from my friend Jacob Wright, which I’ve titled “A Mercy of Peace, A Sacrifice of Praise for this is how I see the crucifixion:
Someone asked me again why Christ died, since I reject the idea that Christ died to satisfy Gods wrathful demand of justice. As if an ancient torture device devised in the deranged sadomasochistic minds of barbaric Romans is Gods perfect ideal of justice. Here is my answer:
Christ died as the “second Adam” to undo the fall, to take into himself the brokenness of all humanity, in the loving power of his Father, and thus defeat sin, death, and the devil, resurrecting with the new creation.
Why the gory public execution though? Why the drama of betrayal, empire, religion, mob scapegoating and the clear narrative of the unjust horrifying execution of an innocent victim? Why not just have the disciples strap him to an altar and kill him as a pleasing human sacrifice to God? Again, this should first make clear that this was not a divine demand of appeasement. This shows that we were wicked and unjust in killing Christ. We were not pleasing to God in this. Second, this drama was to expose victimization and scapegoating and end the dehumanization of the principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them. To juxtapose our human barbarism and victimization with the innocent Christ lifted up on the cross declaring our forgiveness even while we ignorantly murder him. This has and will continue to revolutionize our consciousness of injustice and victimization in the world as well as reveal the divine way of forgiveness.
Christ also died to reveal the self-giving, cosuffering nature of God which casts out fear, and casts down the accuser. It draws out the love and empathy of humanity which casts down the oppressive powers and social structures of this world and brings the world to justice, that is, setting the world right and the reconciliation of all things. Christ died a broken marred figure of a human at the hands of our religious/political judicial system and declares to us that he is the perfect image of God, and thus acquaints Gods self with victims everywhere and with all suffering humanity.
Christ is a sacrifice in that God sacrifices himself to make peace with us, offers us his body and blood. Not the other way around where we offer a sacrifice to God to appease him and offer him the body and blood. Gods peaceful and reconciliatory self-sacrifice is what changes the world and completely overturns all of our violent ways of thinking and reorients us towards reconciliation and the hope of peace on earth. It cleanses our conscience of sin because we know that Christ’s unconditional forgiveness poured forth in his own peacemaking blood. God doesn’t desire or require sacrifice, but rather mercy. God sacrifices himself and offers us to partake in him and be reconciled by love.
This is why he calls us to take up our cross with him and drink of his cup, not to appease Gods wrath with him, but to participate and be co-extensions in what he accomplished.
The Holy Oblation is Christ, the Son of God who has become the Son of Man in order to offer himself to his Father for the life of the world. In his own person Jesus is the perfect peace offering, which alone brings God’s reconciling mercy. This is undoubtedly the meaning of the expression a mercy of peace, which has been a source of confusion for people over the years in all liturgical languages.
In addition to being the perfect peace offering, Jesus is also the only adequate sacrifice of praise that men can offer to God. There is nothing comparable in men to the graciousness of God. There is nothing with which men can worthily thank and praise the Creator. This is so even if men would not be sinners. Thus God himself provides men with their own most perfect sacrifice of praise. The Son of God becomes genuinely human so that human persons could have one of their own nature sufficiently adequate to the holiness and graciousness of God. Again this is Christ, the sacrifice of praise.” –Fr. Thomas Hopko