The theo-nerdiest podcast on the intertubes, Homebrewed Christianity, just finished up what they called the Easter call-in challenge in which listeners of the podcast called in and responded to a post written by one of the makers of the podcast, Bo Sanders. Essentially, Bo’s argument is that God sent Jesus into the world for many reasons and Jesus, because he was faithful to God’s intention for sending him into the world, was then murdered unjustly by an oppressive system that was threatened by his radical message of forgiveness, love and peace. You can read the original post here.
Ken Alton from northern British Columbia called in with this response:
Did God send Jesus to die on a cross? Did God send Jesus to die for our sins?
My reaction is to say no. God sent Jesus to save us.
And I want to say that there was a possibility, even way back in biblical times, that Israel, responding in human freedom, could have realized just who this Messiah was and got behind and between and caught up in the kin-dom, such that all nations would have been drawn to that light, that human flourishing and the kin-dom be proclaimed to the ends of the earth without there being a cross in the story.
I want to say that even with the Sanhedrin being all caught up in shoring up their hierarchy and religiosity, then Pilate and Herod could have responded, in human freedom, to the invitation of God in their ears at that moment, to the invitation of God standing right in front of them, and set Jesus free, not only set him free but got behind and between and caught up in the kin-dom and taken it to the ends off the earth in a different way, also without there being a cross in the story.
Jesus could have lived to a ripe old age, teaching thousands of brew-babies brought to him from miles around, sitting on a swing hanging from a tree to fulfill the prophecy. And after he died in his sleep, God still could have raised him from the grave and the lesson of new life could have been learned, and the giving of the Spirit could all have happened without a cross.
If none of that was a real possibility on Christmas morning, then something is wrong in how I understand our human freedom to say yes to Sophia’s divine wisdom whispered in each and every ear. I know we live in a world where the cross did happen. Thank God that cross is not the end of the story. Maybe if we spent less time focused on Jesus having to die for us, we could open ourselves to being able to live into that kin-dom that is always coming near, so near that it is among us even now.