:::Ask the Alliance #8::: Did God murder his son?
Question submitted by Riovesil: Did God murder his son for us or did he give him up for us?
Riovesil, thank you for your question. Here are some responses from The Christian Apologetics Alliance:
This is such a great question – because any opportunity to discuss why Christ died on the cross is the bread and butter of Christian apologetics 🙂 What is even more interesting about your question is that you are so close to grasping the full picture in the way you frame your “either/or” question.
In order to answer the question, it is necessary to understand the context of what happened before we can understand the the motive and reason for what happened.
In Luke 22-39-45 as well as Mark 14:36, before Jesus was crucified we see that Jesus asked for “this cup” to be removed if the Father is willing. What is “this cup”? Passages like Isaiah 51 and Jeremiah 25 indicates we are to understand it as a “cup of wrath” as God’s attitude towards sin. And what exactly was Christ afraid of? It would have made no sense if Jesus was merely afraid of dying – after all, OT prophets such as Daniel and Jeremiah had no fear of death, and Jesus’ disciples too were not afraid of dying spreading the Gospel. The answer – to be found in Romans 3:25, John 1:29 and 1 Peter 2:24, consistent with Jesus’ utterance on the Cross, was Jesus bearing the sin of the world on himself… which entails separation from God the Father, since God abhors sin!
So in one sense, yes, God the Father willed that Christ should die on the cross for us and the execution of that will killed Jesus. But that’s not the whole story – because God the Father did not murder Jesus. While God the Father did place Jesus in that circumstance in that place in time, what killed Jesus was human nature: the jealous priests, the cowardly judge, the betraying friend in Judas, the dishonest Jewish crowd who now wanted his death, the greedy soldiers who would rather value Jesus’ garments than him as a person. In Plato’s The Republic, it was said that should the divine Logos come down and live amongst us to show us the perfect way to live, we would have him executed rather than to see our imperfection. This was exactly what happened – Jesus was murdered by human nature.
But wait, that’s not the end.
At the end of the Passion narrative in Luke, when Jesus saw that the Father’s will was for Him to die on the cross, Jesus willingly obeyed. But who is Jesus to obey such a will? Is Jesus God? Since the Jews understood him to imply so, and this was the reason why Jesus was executed as a blasphemer – Yes, Jesus was God – provided that he rose from the dead and proved himself to be the Son of God!
In the end, the best way to reply to your question, is to reframe your own words “God in Christ willingly gave himself up for you and me to be killed on the cross”.
[Lest there is any confusion by what is meant by God: “God” here means both a status and a property/being. This is the doctrine of the Trinity – 3 persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in one being (God) who was also the supreme Creator and sustainer of all things. If you consider that Christ dying on the cross to take on your sin entailed the separation of the Trinity for a brief moment in time and history so that you can be restored to a rightful relationship with God, wouldn’t it be a good time to know whether it is true or not? :)]
Further reading recommendations:
John’s Stotts’ The Cross of Christ
NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope
I think this question is important as well! To add to the previous answer, a murder is an unjust taking of a life, which God certainly did not do–on two levels. First, he did not actually kill Jesus. As has been pointed out, others did that, and they took Jesus’ life unjustly. Moreover, it can be argued that God owes no one extended life whatsoever, as our lives (human lives) are God’s to do with as He pleases. Therefore, by definition, no unjust taking of life can even occur with God. But finally, consider why God allowed His Son to die. His Son, willingly (willingly!) laid down his life to pay the penalty for our sins. Not only was Jesus’ death not murder, it was the ultimate act of love–on both the part of the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ.
Steve Wilkinson, TilledSoil.org:
I’m going to read into this question a bit, and simply offer a resource (in addition to what others have already said) which was helpful in answering some deep, but similar questions from a friend.
It is insanely long, but covers the topic in a way and depth I’ve yet to find elsewhere. I especially like the fictional, ‘heavenly court scene’ semi-parable which makes up over half of it (starts a bit before half-way).
We thank you for asking, Riovesil! We hope the discussion continues in the comments.
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