By: Will Blasingame, Editor
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. In order to live, sacrifice is required. Just as we look for a scapegoat after any scandal, we look for a scapegoat for our sin. Children say “the devil made me do it” and even adults act as though some evil force, the enemy, tempted them and their usually good self was overwhelmed. So why didn’t God send Satan to be killed as the ultimate scapegoat of sin? He tempted Adam and Eve, so he would be a great sacrifice, right?
When you think about this, it makes sense to a point, then the obvious stands out. We would all cheer for a moment, but there would still be sin in the world. This would lead to more catastrophe and eventually, we would want to sacrifice someone else for our individual sins. But since the devil himself has been killed, we must sacrifice someone else, say a dictator like Hitler. Sin would still exist and we would execute the next worst and so on and so forth until we suddenly realize that only the sin of every single one of us leads to the malevolence and horror in the world. We all deserve the death of the devil we first killed.
So the real question is not why would a sacrifice of Satan be inadequate, but how Jesus’s sacrifice saves?
To answer this, I want to look at a seemingly random source, the dead poets society. In the movie (spoiler alert), Mr. Keating is blamed for Neil’s suicide. The other members of the dead poet’s society know this is false, that Mr. Keating did nothing wrong, but they cannot face their own expulsion that would occur if they choose not to blame Mr. Keating, so they sign the paper. Each faced with the knowledge that they individually were in part responsible for Mr. Keating being fired and disgraced, they stand up and acknowledge him as he leaves, forever changed by his teachings and destined to share his wisdom with others they encounter.
I could expound on the individuals and what they represent t in this sacrifice story as it relates to the gospel, but that is for another time. Obviously Dead Poets Society is not a Christian movie and Mr. Keating is not perfectly infallible and this is just one interpretation of the film, but the parallels between this narrative and the gospel are strong enough that it can be used to understand why a perfect sacrifice is needed.
A sacrifice without blemish (aka without sin) is by definition not responsible for anything thing evil AT ALL (in what they say, do, or even allow to happen passively). Thus, when a perfect moral creature (aka human) is sacrificed, it is beyond debate that the death was not deserved in any way. We are then forced to ask the question, if this person did not deserve to die for anything they had done at all, why did we kill them? And make no mistake, “we” includes everyone for any sin, no matter how small, contributes toward making the world more miserable, more like Hell, separated from God. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn puts it in the Gulag Archipelago,
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
When Jesus prevents the stoning of an adulterous woman he says “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course the law has allowed for adultery to be punishable by stoning, but by pointing to our own sin and emphasizing the first stone, Jesus shows us just how similar we are to the adulterous woman. As René Girard discusses in his article “The First Stone”, “ Instead of the mindless unanimity of the mob, we watch genuine individuals emerging from the crowd.” In other words, we deserve death and “with the measure you use, it will be used against you”
Thus the answer to our question why did we kill such a perfect sacrifice is that we are sinners. We should not have, but that is what sin leads to, the death of perfect innocence. From this realization, we are called to change, to repent, and stand up in the face of evil just as the individual students stood up after their signatures got Mr. Keating fired.
If you believe that Jesus was truly the Son of God, that he lived without sin, that he was executed, and that YOUR sin put him there, you are finally in a position to eternally repent. You understand that sin leads to death and even death of the perfect Son of God. You can want to change and will work as hard as you can to stop sinning and live righteously.
And if Jesus did not rise from the dead, that would be as far as we could go. We would try to fight against sin and do better than others who are not trying, but ultimately fail so many times that we lose count and despair and lose hope. We would have the baptism of John, but not the baptism of the Spirit (Acts 19:4-7). We need to look up and see that indeed, sin can be overcome by perfection.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him” (John 3:14-15). Jesus rose from the grave (i.e. was lifted up) and just as looking at the snake cured the Israelites, when we who have repented look at Jesus’s resurrection, we are filled with hope of our own. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, God living within us, and know that just as Jesus lives and he dwells in us, so too will we live.