Again, “We adore God Who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him” (Pope Francis, 6/21/14).
Among Christians the dominant interpretation of “who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins” is that by enduring an agonizing murder, Jesus, God’s Son, atones for our sins and saves us. But this still does not answer the question “Why the murder of Jesus had to be by crucifixion.”
If “Jesus saves” by being brutally murdered, why could He not just have been killed with the other Holy Innocents soon after His birth, and satisfy all that it means that “Jesus saves by the blood of His Cross?” by “being torn apart by violence? Or for that matter, why was not an abortion sufficient for Jesus to “save us” by His suffering and death? We know He existed in the womb because John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb “leapt” at His presence in the womb of Mary. One does not “leap” from coming into the presence of a mere piece of tissue. Indeed, if “suffering and dying for our salvation” is what is essential, why not accomplish the salvation of humanity by having an enraged, Joseph, who, along with his family, has been publicly dishonored and shamed by Mary’s supposed infidelity, murder her and the Child in her womb? If all the Son of God had to do to reconcile humanity with God and “save us” was to become a human being and then suffer and die, any of the above scenarios would have filled the bill for the redemption of humanity, for the expiation of our sins, would it not?
So why wasn’t the salvation of humanity accomplished by Jesus being tortured and murdered as a baby? In fact, if all Jesus had to do was “to give Himself up to death” to “save us”, then any form of death, e.g., death by old age, should have been adequate to accomplish the end for which He came into the world. A death via the violence of torture and murder would then be no better and no more efficacious than any other manner of death.
Is there anything essential in the saving act of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, which is not present in any of the torture and murder scenarios mentioned above or is not present by simply dying in bed from a ruptured appendix? If there is, why does it not universally take precedence in everyday Christian speech in the pews and in the pulpits, in the Creeds and in the Eucharistic Prayers over the stock phrase “He suffered and died for us and for our salvation?”
Please do give this some thought.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy