Today, First Methodist Houston began a series – Ask Me Anything – where the sermon is answers to questions asked by members and friends of FMH. I do not see the questions in advance, which has the nice effect of creating a spontaneous conversation and the restless effect of causing me to wish I said more or something different.
One of the questions this morning was this – Did God really require a blood sacrifice in Jesus? Could God have redeemed us another way?
What do you think?
As a confession, I always struggle a bit with the phrase ‘God’s plan’. When tragedy hits it is hard for me to believe it is always part of a purpose. For me, human responsibility too has to come into play in that our choices matter. What we pray moves God, I believe, as do our choices, and Jesus works his redemption through our freedom to choose rather than forcing our choices to fit in a predestined plan.
This is why I make a better Wesleyan than Calvinist.
Jesus, to the point, engaged his followers. He wanted to know what they thought and showed them what they could do. When asked what was the most important commandment, Jesus responded with the same question – How do you read the scriptures? When working with Peter, he told Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water. At that point Peter had a decision to make that mattered.
Jesus, it seems to me, wanted followers to be faithful in the moment and trained his disciples to make the faithful choice when it mattered most. Imagine what churches would be if they were places filled with people focused on that…..
Which leads me to Good Friday. On Good Friday, the church tells the story of the events that led to Jesus’ crucifixion, and in that service we usually read the moment where Pilate asks the crowd who they want him to release from prison, and the crowd responds with Barabbas, not Jesus.
I wonder, what if the crowd made a different choice? What if the disciples made the case for Jesus rather than denying him? What if the crowd shouted for both, proclaiming the power of forgiveness over punishment? Would that have brought the Kingdom in for all to see?
To answer the question – I see the crucifixion as not so much a requirement as a tragedy. At our worst moment, we chose hate, violence, and death. God loved Jesus and us too much to let hate have the last word. Love prevails, and that is why God raised his Son from the dead.
It was our choice that forced God’s plan.