At the last God and Guiness gathering I told the group that I had read somewhere that there are seven different theories about the significance of the cross. I quickly explained a few of them as best I could. A few days later, in the parking lot of the Kawartha Coffee Company, Elaine asked me to write them down so the group could talk about them. Elaine has hosted the last couple of sessions since we got kicked out of the pub, so it would only be polite to respond to her request.
I have this vague memory of reading those theories in an old book but can’t remember what the book or author was. Let’s see what is in me head still…
1. Sacrificial significance or “God’s Bad Debt payment Plan”:
God is offended by our sin. In the Old Testament God is appeased by the sacrifice of animals and performance of rituals pleasing to Him. The sacrifice of the supreme innocent lamb (Jesus) ends the need for sacrifice. Jesus is the scapegoat – all of our sins are applied to him. His sacrifice means that our debts are paid for all time; once and for all. God is now happy. His plan has worked. Your sin is now paid for – SO STOP SINNING! – don’t you feel guilty making Jesus go through all that for nothing?
2. Ransom to the devil or “Do not pass Go, go directly to Hell”:
The cosmic deal was struck in Eden. Because Adam and Eve listened to Satan and broke the rules, they chose to live in a cursed world ruled by Satan and would die. When people sin, Satan collects on the deal. Their debts belong to Satan who is like the Prosecuting Attorney. You have sinned, therefore your ass belongs to him – and eventually you go to hell as final punishment. Jesus, who is God, who owes Satan nothing, ransoms our debts by paying off Satan in a cosmic once and for all deal-breaker. God takes our place, receiving our punishment, dying for our sins. Satan is paid off if we accept Christ’s salvation (offer of “Get of Hell free card”). We are now free to help Jesus win back other souls from Satan’s grip. “We’re good – so what’s wrong with you?”
3. Mythical significance or “We’ve got to get Back to the Garden”:
The Fall from grace of Adam and Eve caused by their disobedience separates humanity from God. Jesus is Mythically “the first man – the son of God – the second Adam” whose heroic purpose is to restore humanity to a right relationship with God. On the cross, he takes on the “curse of the Fall” for all humanity thus getting us past the angel with the fiery sword at the gates of Eden. The only path to Heaven (Eden) is by following Jesus the Christ. The Hero cycle is complete. Get on the cycle and take a spin – it’s your turn.
4. Courage for change or “God’s preferential option for the poor”:
The evil of the world is primarily social instead of personal. Personal sin is caused by the conditions of injustice imposed by corrupt social institutions. Corporate greed and government violence exploit the poor. Life is Hell. Violence and Death are the weapons of Power. Sin is benefiting from the social conditions of this corrupt order and not resisting injustice. Jesus models a society where the poor are central to the order of a new earthly Kingdom. His followers establish Heaven on Earth. He faces the worst that God’s opponents can offer on the cross. His message is death is not the end, do not be afraid, the power of love is stronger than the power of death. The community of Jesus lives on empowered by the spirit, purpose, and truth of its founder. It cannot die because it is not about individual souls - but a social soul. Sounds heavy eh? Just add music, art, and dance and you get to the wedding celebration – making Heaven on Earth part.
That’s what is in my head. Four out of Seven. That’ll get you through four days of the week – the other three are up to you.
I emailed the group the above “Comic Book versions” of the purpose of the cross. John’s response was – “You left out the one I liked from last week.”
I said “You don’t expect me to explain it the same way twice do you?”. And then I wondered what it was that he heard that worked for him?
What does the cross mean to you?
What did Jesus accomplish?
Write your own Comic Book version and send it to me – I’d love to hear why you think Jesus died…