Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Greatest Story Ever Told

While I was growing up, we would go through the Easter story every year, we would read about the last supper, Peter denying Jesus 3 times, the scene with Barabas, the random woman trying to help Jesus carry the cross and getting pushed aside, the death on the cross, the resurrection, and let's not forget doubting Tomas. But the focus of the story was the reason for all of this, so that we could get to heaven. God is so great, he loved us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his only son so that we could escape hell and make it to heaven. What a great God!

But is he really? As with many religious stories that I heard as a kid, they really only make sense if you don't think about it too much. Let's start with the heart of the story, that God wants us all to get to heaven but we are destined for hell. Why is that exactly? Ultimately God created everything, including hell and the rules that send us there. So if God really wanted us to go to heaven he could have just set the rules up like that in the first place, or just change the rules midstream by snapping his fingers, there's no obvious reason why sacrificing his son would be necessary.

And while we are talking about that, how much of a sacrifice is it really? According to the story, Jesus is in heaven with God right now is he not? His sacrifice was sending his son off for a bad weekend. I don't mean to be glib here, I don't think anyone would want to spend a weekend in hell, but sacrifice seems to be a strange way to describe the situation. I think saying that Jesus endured a trial would be more accurate than to say he sacrificed his life. Soldiers (and their families) sacrifice far more when they go to war, without omniscience they don't know if they will ever come back, and even if they do come back completely unharmed, what they have given up is much more than what God and Jesus gave up since the soldiers will live at best to around 100 years old, while God and Jesus are infinite beings.

I've recently been seeing a lot of people call the resurrection story the greatest story ever told (this has probably been happening for a long time, but it's the first time I've noticed). I think this must come from looking at the story very superficially. If you take it at face value that God had to sacrifice his son in order to save everybody it seems like he has done an amazing thing. Especially if you had kids, I can imagine it being very powerful, the thought of giving up your kid is unimaginably, the thought of God being willing to do that is amazing. But as I've argued, this isn't a very apt description of what happened. Perhaps a more accurate analogy would be if you threatened to lock up all of the neighborhood kids in your basement for a year, but then offered to let them off the hook if your kid would spend the night down there. Is that father a hero or a monster?


  1. So Jesus was in hell for the days he was dead in the tomb before he ascended? Is that what they believe? I never thought about where his spirit was supposed to be during that time. I've heard it had to be three days because there was already a Jewish belief about the spirit hanging around the body for the first couple days after death.

    1. That's what we learned in church. I have always assumed that this is what everyone was taught, but now that you mention it I'm not sure I've ever heard that from anywhere else. Interesting.

    2. That's worse than the dad who lets his kid spend the night in jail to teach him a lesson.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...