Some thoughts on the cross (or why did God kill Jesus?)


The single most important question we can ask is “How does the cross shape our picture of God?”

What makes that question so powerful is that more than any other question it defines who God is to us and in turn it defines who we are. I am coming to believe that we cannot change (am I the only one who finds changing myself near impossible) in any significant way if we do not change what we think about God and more specifically who he is in the light of the cross.

In the light of that I recently watched this well known story which has been used for many years to lead people to Jesus. Here it is:

(Obviously I do not want to discount anyone’s salvation if they came to Jesus through this story, but I am saying that it is not the healthiest or most accurate picture of God.) I came away from watching it feeling very uneasy and like something was wrong with that picture.

Now I just happened to be reading around the issue of psychopathy, which is a sliding scale, obviously just because someone isn’t the most emphathetic person doesn’t mean they are an axe murderer. However I made a startling discovery, there is a very simple test (obviously this is one of many) psychologists can use to determine a tendancy towards psychopathy and it goes like this:

Imagine a train is traveling down a rail-road track which has a fork in it. Now if it forks to the left there is one person caught in the tracks, but if it goes right there is a group of 15 people that are caught in the tracks and you have to flip a switch to divert the train and chose how many people will die.

Obviously we find the thought sickening but if forced into that situation we are going to flip the switch and sacrifice the 1 to save the 15. Now here comes the twist, there is a second part:

Imagine you are on a bridge that crosses a rail-road track and you see a trail hurtling along it. There is also a very large gentleman on the bridge with you. Suddenly you see that a group of 15 people stuck on the track and they will die when hit by the train. However the gentleman next to you is so large that if you push him off the bridge, he has enough girth to stop the train and save the group. Could you push him off?

Now apparently in a psychopaths brain, they can chose to push the fat gentleman off without giving it another thought because the maths still works. The average person can’t because you no longer have to just flip a switch, it is now very personal and you have to actually push a person into harms way.

This is how the above mentioned video can portray God, as a person with psychopathic tendencies. I am sure you haven’t thought about it like that because this actually happens at a sub-conscious level, but it still has a big impact on you just like other sub-concious knowledge. Emotionally we are focused on the sacrifice of the son, but when the emotions fade, what kind of God are we left with?

The problem we have at the cross if we hold to this view of God is that it portrays God needing to use violence to solve the sin problem we have in the world. Now if I look around the world I can’t help but see that while we need to have justice and law to make things work, when someone breaks the law through an act of violence, another act of “justified” violence or retribution doesn’t actually solve the issue. Violence begets more violence.

This thinking actually reduces God’s law of love to the same level as justice. What that means is that for God to love he must have justice. For God to love us, or to forgive us, somebody must first die and blood must be shed, oh and they must be innocent. I no we don’t like to say it like that, but have you ever figured out how punishing an innocent person effectively deals with the sins of a guilty person?

What I see in the cross is something very different. I see God in Jesus, here is the verse (that is an important distinction to make, that on the cross God and Jesus aren’t separate) reconciling the world to himself. Secondly he allows Evil, Sin and Death to exhaust all their violence on him and he overcomes them by the beauty of sacrificial love and by his resurrection, here is the verse.

In the cross, I don’t see God demanding an innocent person die for the guilty. I see satan, sin and evil coming to kill steal and destroy. I see the wisdom of God worked out by breaking the cycle of justified violence (look at the conflicts around the world, no matter what side you are on each side feels justified in acting out in violence). I see Jesus paying a ransom with his life, I see the power of sacrifical love and innocence as a higher law, infused with resurrection power, breaking the grip of death itself.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.


4 thoughts on “Some thoughts on the cross (or why did God kill Jesus?)

  1. Awesome post dude. I think it answers a question that a lot of atheists and ‘seekers’ are asking right now regarding God’s character. That video makes Christ’s time on earth look like a problem-solving mission gone wrong which lead to God having to mop up the mess by killing him to save us. Pretty warped reading of the story.


    1. Hey Andrew, yeah it totally fails to deal with sin and also the son in that video is never given a choice, he is just simply a victim of a horrific situation.


  2. I have never seen that video before, but it really is nothing like the Biblical picture. I don’t think it is helpful at all. But as you say God may have very well used it.

    I believe the Bible points out:

    – God is ultimately sovereign over all time, space, matter, minds, and hearts.

    – God sent his son to be sacrificed at the cross.

    – The son willingly allowed himself to be sacrificed at the cross.

    – The purpose in both of these is for the glory of the triune God, the display of his love and justice, and the sanctification of his people.

    – God is always all attributes at once and thus infinitely-perfectly-lovingly-just, and infinitely-perfectly-justly-loving. This means that what happened at the cross was and is both the highest and most perfect display of God’s (triune) action of love and justice.

    I think what is useful is to see that the sacrifice of Jesus (his sacrifice and his father’s sacrifice of him), was not a Plan B “fix” for the original Plan A going wrong (sin), but rather it was the original and only plan.

    These two passages come to mind immediately:

    “… and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” Rev 13:8 (ESV).

    Revelation’s imagery is ambiguous of course, but it is not too complicated to read here that apparently before the world existed, there is a record of individuals held in and under the banner of “life” whose ownership appears to be “Lamb who was slain”.

    “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your [God’s] hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28 (ESV).

    Again we see God’s plan being carried out as planned, not as a reactionary change of plan.

    Then we have Isaiah 53 which is very useful to read in light of the cross:

    “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5 (ESV).

    “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11 (ESV).

    More so Jesus is not sacrificed unwillingly:

    “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'” John 4:34 (ESV)

    “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38. (ESV)

    And regarding prophecy again:

    “And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.'” Luke 18:31 (ESV).



    1. Hey Thom, great to hear from you again. I agree with everything you have said. I especailly like your point about Jesus dying on the cross not being a plan B.

      I don’t think God was taken off-guard by our sin or that he is threatened by our sin. I believe he wanted genuine love and relationship with us and he knew that we would at first rebel against his wise limits to our freedoms and so he counted the cost of what it would take to not only deal with our sin, but the even bigger issue of cosmic evil.

      Also I think that Evangelicals often focus so much on the issue of personal salvation and personal sin that they haven’t thought through how God is addressing evil in the world, which is what I see happening in Rev just as it happens on the cross. In other words, I see him allowing evil to do it’s worst so that it can be seen for what it is so that people will return to the wise, sacrifical love of God.

      The other issue that falls of the wagon is resurrection, most Christians know it’s important but don’t really see it’s relevance, or just confuse it with going to Heaven. There is a reason that Paul makes such a big deal about resurrection and I think we need to start looking at the cross in the light of resurrection to better understand what happens at the cross.


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