Today we heard from Luke the Passion of Jesus. It is a recounting of betrayal, violence, suffering and death. Jesus who practiced love, taught love and wants all to know that God is love was killed by Roman state sponsored capital punishment in the most degrading manner-Crucifixion. Up until about 100 years ago, this tragedy was portrayed by many, including the church as God wanting this death of Jesus, His son so that the world could be saved! The common phrase was "Jesus died for my sins!" This theological thought only came current about the year 1100, known as Atonement Theology. It is a perversion of the truth. Jesus did not die for your sins and God is not a child abuser who wanted Jesus to die to satisfy Him!
Jesus died because the Roman leadership of occupied Jerusalem were terrified that Jesus was leading a political uprising against them. There solution was always to kill the leader and scatter the followers. It was a time of discontent and Rome was on edge about the occupied territory of Judah. They had built up a fortification at Caesarea Philippe and anyone who might poise trouble was being killed off. The Jewish Temple leadership-Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were terrified that the Jesus movement would disturb their cozy scam in the Temple. They were the 1%ers of their day. Jesus was teaching love, equality and purity of faith which was against the style of these temple leaders.
Atonement theology got distorted in the 10th century. Atonement never involved death and sacrifice! There was in the Jewish tradition a sacrament called Atonement. It is where a goat was taken, the community laid hands on the goat and it was driven out into the wilderness. This action symbolized that God took care of your sins once acknowledged. There was no blood, no killing, no sacrifice. The confusion comes when people thought the blood of sacrifice was for the cleansing of the people's sins. In reality the blood was there to cleanse the space so it could be pure for the worship of God. Jewish worship is all about purity of persons and space before God. The Temple itself had water pools at every entrance so that people could bath before entering to worship. The blood was used as it was a symbol of life to purify the altar space, never individuals. In the Exodus from Egypt, blood was used as a sign of protection from death.
The Christian Eucharistic symbols -bread and wine are those of life and its possibilities. God's love given to us and God's love poured out for us like the blood of child birth with blood spilled in love and hope for a new life to come. Jesus died for love and social justice. He died for equal wages, housing, end of abuse and a desire for justice for all. Jesus did not die because we are sinners and God demands a blood sacrifice to forgive us!