Week two of my Alpha adventure, and we're already into the tough stuff.
Tonight's topic: Why did Jesus die?
Well, my first answer was, "Cause we all gots to die!", but I was guessing this wouldn't be acceptable in our spiritual discussion. So many tough questions around this topic. It's not simply why did He die, but why like that? Why so graphic? And why are we so obsessed with it? The gospels are one-third filled with the story of His death, and the rest of the New Testament is trying to explain that death. I've always been confused with our obsession with the death of Jesus, when we also have this miraculous story of his triumph over death. He was raised from the dead! Why don't we concentrate on that more?
Why do we concentrate so much on the death of Jesus? We love the crucifix and the gory details. Is it simply because we are obsessed with the darker side of life? Are we just rubber-necking at the crucifixion? I think it's important to know the physical details of the crucifixion because we tend to sanitize the whole event. We make the figure on the cross into jewelry and key chains. We tend to gloss over the blood and water and screaming pain in favour of poetry and polish. We're not a culture that has any personal experience with crucifixion. I think we need to hear these details so we have some idea what Jesus was physically experiencing.
Why would God treat His son this way? Well ... what if it has nothing to do with Jesus? What if the whole point was to get to us? What if God thought, "I need to get to these humans. Nothing I'm doing is really working, but maybe if I try something really dramatic, with lots of blood and guts. Maybe then they'll listen." Yes, I'm oversimplifying. But perhaps God was looking for an event that he knew we'd be obsessed with. Maybe that was his way of keeping it in our consciousness. Two thousand years later and we're still trying to figure it out.
Nicky Gumbel, the host of the videos, mentions that with other world leaders, we always remember their life and contributions. But with Jesus, the thing we talk about the most is His death. Why is that? My theory is that He was bigger than simply a world leader: He was a pop-culture leader. I don't mean pop-culture in the MTV type of way. I mean a leader of popular culture. He was a man of the general population. Yes, he was known by the learned folk, but He was just as known, perhaps even better known, by the common person. We often debate where Jesus would appear if He came today. Don't we all think He'd access television? It's the best way to reach the masses. It's not just that He was known by the common folk. He wanted to be known by them. By us! He wanted to be in the popular realm. Not to win some ego points. I believe it was so that He could show us that God is available to, and loves, all people.
For a long time, I had a huge personal problem with the crucifixion. Every time someone would talk about Jesus giving up His life for us, I would equate it with suicide. I couldn't see it as anything else. Now, I'm far enough out of my grief to see it in a clearer light. I can't say it's brought me more answers, but I can now say that I know that the crucifixion is a positive and loving event. I would even go so far as to call it generous
I know I have a lot of questions, and as I write, more are coming in to my head. And I know my discussions aren't actually making a lot of sense. But I'm just stumbling through and trying to figure things out. That's one of the things I'm really appreciating about Alpha. All questions are valid. All view are welcome. Even the stumbling ones.