I have just returned from a service in which the focus was on a single event, and event that is at the heart of the Christian faith: the death of Jesus Christ.
A question haunts me.
Seems like every day I get some sort of advertisement for a way to become a better person. Richer, healthier, more positive, more focused, more successful, more loving. The self-help industry booms, and promises abound of the way to a new life, free of all the “negative energy” that weighs us down. The latest touts 11 Principles to get whatever you want in life and build a better world (in that order, I wonder?).
So, the question nags me: If we can make ourselves better on our own, did Jesus really have to die?
That question haunted Jesus himself, in a garden just before his horrific murder.
Alone in the Garden of Gethsemane (his disciples having fallen asleep, though he’d asked them to stay up with him and pray), he pleaded with his Father: “Isn’t there any other way? Do I really have to go through the horror ahead?”
He asked the question three times.
He knew the answer. He knew he had left the glories of heaven for this very purpose. Several times he told his disciples that he came to suffer and die. When Peter said, “That can’t happen to you,” Jesus turned and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, you do not having in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Human perspective. Jesus fought hard to keep his eyes on not only his purpose–to die–but the ultimate goal–bringing those who would accept his sacrifice into the same glory he knew with the Father.
The glory he trusted was just on the other side of the tomb.
His divine nature kept his eyes on the prize. His human nature agonized over the suffering ahead. So, he asked the question, desperate for another way.
Jesus’ death attests that there is no other way. At least, that is what I can’t seem to get around. Twenty centuries of human history later, we still face death, disease, injustice, cruelty, and now, the ability to eradicate our own species.
Some of us believe, however–because we have experienced it–that heart change is possible. But not through our own means. Only through something somewhat mysterious, yet simple, called faith, can we begin to be changed. And it starts with this acceptance of the meaning of this death that history attests.
Yet, I am haunted, not just by the question, Did Jesus have to die?, but also by another question. Can people change their lives on their own? Can they become truly good from the inside out, simply by will power or some technique heretofore hidden from most people?
I’ve heard the Christian testimonies. Marveled at the many martyrs, past and present, who would rather suffer intense pain, even death, rather than deny their faith.
Now I’d like to hear testimonies on other perspectives. If you have found a way to make yourself better on your own–truly better, from the inside out–I’d like to hear about it. What was the key? Was it therapy, positive thinking, energy manipulation, meditation, some other new technique? How exactly did it change you?
This is not a trick question. I really want to know. I continue to be haunted by the question, “Did Jesus really have to die?” when I’m faced with evidence that people can change themselves without God. If you’ve ever seen the “The Passion of the Christ,” you like me probably gained a new appreciation for the cruelty of death by crucifixion. If it wasn’t really necessary, why did Jesus go through it?
So please, post your responses below. Let’s get some honest debate going. Did Jesus really have to die to save the world, or can people become good on their own? Thank you so much!