Can Jesus' Death Truly Be Called A Sacrifice?

Continued from Part 2

The rest of the story

The fact is that Jesus’ death through crucifixion was no remedy for sin.  He did not die in man’s place; his death was not a ransom price paid for all eternity.  His death was no sacrifice.

Jesus’ death was the means by which the New Testament says he obtained great rewards for himself of which he was fully aware they would be his if he allowed himself to be executed.  Jesus sacrificed absolutely nothing if he was a supernatural being.  He knew what his mission on earth was, he knew that his was a temporary death (John 10:17), he knew he would be restored to life with an in tacked body, and he knew he was to be well rewarded for allowing himself to be executed.  As an equal member of the supposedly triune god he rewarded himself for his troubles.

Did the Jesus of Christian theology have free will and could he sin?  

Jesus is described as lacking a basic human characteristic—free will.  Where there is no free will being sinless is no problem.  Free will is an innate quality of the human species not a consequence of a sin nature. The presence of free will allows for one to make decisions—right or wrong.

Adam and Eve possessed free will prior to eating from the Tree of Knowledge.  Their choice to partake of its fruit was a free will decision.  Their sin was disobedience to God’s instruction. Their ability to choose between obedience and disobedience indicates the presence of free will.

Whether the Jesus of the Gospels was tempted at various points in his life is not the issue.  It is said that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  John said about Jesus:  “In him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).  Hebrews states that in his alleged post-resurrection state Jesus is “a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26), but we are here concerned with him while alive.

There are two specific issues involved:

  • If Jesus did not sin, why did he not sin?
  • If Jesus did not sin, was he truly human?

The New Testament envisions Jesus as a supernatural being who could not sin.  Then again it is said that because Jesus was a man, he could be tempted—but because he was God he could not sin.  A temptation might be genuine, in that it has an enticement factor.  But one man’s temptation leaves another indifferent.  It is not simply ability to be tempted that is of concern, but what one’s response to that temptation is.  According to the New Testament, Jesus was tempted (Satan’s temptation—Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13) but without free will he had no choice but to reject Satan’s offer.

Jesus could experience genuine temptations being offered to him, but he would not be tempted to give into them.  Jesus allegedly had no desire to even consider the temptation.  That being the case his physical body might appear to be human but his humanity was deficient in his ability to make free will decisions.  Without free will Jesus was not in a significant sense a true human being.

52:14:  “So marred was his appearance unlike that of a man, and his form unlike that of the sons of men

 Let the truth be told

Although many post-New Testament descriptions of Jesus on the cross paint a gruesome agonizing picture of his suffering the Gospels do not describe his appearance as being in a form unrecognizable as a human being.  Isaiah’s description is best understood when one views photographs of horrific Jewish suffering during the Holocaust and the contempt of their oppressors toward them.  That is literal fulfillment of the verse not one that comes from the imagination of Christians contemplating on the agony of crucifixion,

52:15:  “So shall he startle many nations

The Hebrew text

What is the meaning of the word nazah?  Christians maintain that nazah which has the meaning of “sprinkle” carries with it the thought of expiation in verse 15.  It is thought the verse portrays the servant as a priest who “sprinkles” (that is, spiritually cleanses) the nations.  They then claim that this verse refers to the supposed power of Jesus to make “many nations” the beneficiaries of his blood.  That is, Jesus was expected “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17) and have their “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrew 10:22).  However, this interpretation is problematic.

Both grammatically and in terms of the sacrificial system the correct meaning of verse 15 has no relationship to the priestly sprinkling of atonement blood at all.  In every other instance where the object or person sprinkled is indicated, the verb is used in conjunction with a preposition (such as “onto,” “upon,” or “before”).   This combination does not occur in verse 15.  The proper rendering of the verb, nazah, in this verse is not “sprinkle,” but “scatter” in the sense of being startled and confused.  It indicates the astonishment of the nations as they scurry about in shock over the turn of events.  In sprinkling, one scatters a liquid into innumerable droplets.  Similarly, the inhabitants of the nations will be scattered as well.  There is no reference here to Jesus spiritually cleansing the nations.

52:15:  “[K]ings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told   them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they perceive.”

What did the kings hear about Jesus and when did they hear it?

Attempting to apply verses 52:13-15 to Jesus is an exercise in futility.  Christians say verse 15 refers to a situation when Jesus returns at his second coming.  But, the person of Jesus has already been exalted, lifted up, and made very high by the great homage paid by national rulers. Although many rulers have paid homage to Jesus does this fulfill verse 15?  What is it that these rulers were not told that they now saw, what is it that they did not hear before that they now understand?

Look at the behavior of the rulers of Europe, the kings, queens, nobleman and other rulers to whom this supposedly refers.  From a Christian perspective, is it simply reverential acknowledgement of Jesus as a superior being to themselves that is called for in verse 15?  Or was there to be an elevated sense of morality, temperance of blood lust, and pecuniary appetite as well?  For, in truth, they continued and still continue to support perverse behavior.


© Gerald Sigal