The Cross is the central focus of what the Bible wants us to know about who God really is. The legal as opposed to the relational explanation of the Cross can leave people confused and hardly wanting to know or draw closer to their Creator. The traditional legal theory suggests Jesus’ blood appeased God’s sense of justice and protected God’s holiness. Jesus was estranged from God by sin. God required sacrifice or punishment to remain sinless and to outwardly display anger and disgust with sin. Do you hear crickets? Did Jesus really die mainly to serve God?
The relational explanation of the Cross suggests Jesus died in hopes we would accept God’s love for us. The best analogy I have heard is when soldiers die for one another because they believe that the cause for freedom is worth it. Jesus, the miracle worker, could have avoided His crucifixion. Jesus could have simply denied being the Messiah to save His skin. Jesus could have simply wiped out the naysayers. Jesus was willing to die for a message He felt lead to true freedom – following God’s than the world’s guidance. Overrunning choices doesn’t lead to genuine relationships rather than when one is willing to die in hopes to persuade others.
By now those who believe the Bible defends the legal explanation are asking for chapter and verse. The Bible was not meant to be a book where you pull sentences out of a story written about God to prove your point. Women, don’t turn your cheek when being abuse by a man! But, indulge me. Mark 10:45 is frequently quoted to defend the legal explanation: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” But, the passage doesn’t explicitly say the ransom was for God’s appeasement (i.e. I Tim. 2:6). The ransom can easily be understood for our encouragement to avoid personal and relational destructive paths. The passage doesn’t say Jesus came to serve God but to serve us in hopes we might choose forgiveness, going the extra mile, etc. to best lead to healings in relationships.
Let’s suppose Mark teaches Jesus died mainly for legal reasons in behalf of God, though it’s hard to believe God couldn’t love us before Jesus was killed. Hebrews 9:14 says: “…Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Which is it? Was Jesus’ death for the purpose of serving our guilty conscience or God’s? Which explanation is more relatable?
I don’t always feel like God hates my guts though others may think I should feel that way. I haven’t at least killed anyone. Well, some may be convinced God could never love them based on what they have done. But, I can relate to often failing at loving my wife the way I wished to be loved. I don’t beat her but I rather not count the time I have failed her. Do you every think God needs a break from you at least for a day or do you think God can’t possibly forgive you for the 10th or 100th time? Guess again! God’s love and mercy, not gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for breaking free from habitual habits or bad behaviors.
Jesus died so we are can feel loved by God no matter what! Actions have consequences but God doesn’t pour on the hate. Have I convinced you that explanations of the Cross are debatable? Choose the interpretation or explanation that makes God the most relatable for you. Let others decide rather than suggesting if they don’t believe the legal interpretation, they are disrespecting the holiness of God because God can’t stand the sight of us without killing His Son. Jesus died for our conscience not God’s. Hebrews goes on to say Jesus death’s has done away with sin (9:26-27). We can feel fully loved by God so sin can never overpower us. Jesus died to convince us what God is really like, not what we may think God is like.