Jesus’ sacrifice . . . what sacrifice? by Lee Salisbury

By Lee Salisbury

Suppose there was a penniless, homeless man begging for money. Then a wealthy person, knowing the poor man’s condition, sold everything he owned and gave it all to the beggar.

Wouldn’t we all say, “Wow! What a sacrifice!”? Doesn’t such a sacrifice bring tears to our eyes?

However, what if the rich man made an arrangement before he sold all his assets? The rich man, being of considerable influence, coerced his friend who runs the lottery to rig it so that the rich man would win. And, indeed, the rich man won the $500 million lottery.

Now, knowing the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, what do you think of the rich man’s sacrifice? Do you really think he would have sacrificed all his wealth without the foreknowledge that guaranteed his lottery winnings? Should he be venerated and admired for his sacrifice so another could be rich? Was his act really a genuine sacrifice, or was it just a clever ploy to capture our admiration and praise while winning the greater prize of $500 million?

Have you ever heard of any other sacrifice story that parallels this quality of sacrifice? Of course you have!

We’ve all read or heard the story of Jesus of Nazareth and his death on the cross, sacrificing himself for all the sinners of the world. Jesus walked throughout Judea doing good, healing the sick and casting out demons, and so the jealous scribes and Pharisees connived a scheme against Jesus. He was brought before the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate, who held a phony trial based on trumped-up charges. Jesus was spat upon, whipped and beaten. A crown of thorns was impaled upon his head. The ungrateful Jews yelled “Crucify him, crucify him!” They brutally nailed Jesus to a cross. As he hung there, a spear was thrust into his ribs. They gave Jesus vinegar and mocked him. Finally, Jesus died.
Again, we’d be prone to say, “Wow! What a sacrifice!” But was this really a genuine sacrifice, or was there some behind-the-scenes manipulation whereby Jesus not only had foreknowledge of his crucifixion and death, but was guaranteed a resurrection and ascension to heaven? Jesus must have thought so, because he, along with numerous scriptures, foretold these events well in advance.

For example, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Jesus foretold these events on several occasions!

This Messianic prophesy — “For thou will not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither will thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10) — clearly meant Jesus would not “see corruption” (i. e., not die with the same consequence as a normal human).

Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” According to the supposedly inerrant word of God, Jesus’ death was planned by the Godhead’s Trinity Committee “before the foundation of the world.”

Such a deal! Who wouldn’t accept a few hours of pain and suffering in exchange for the promised resurrection to rule and reign for eternity at God’s right hand? Jesus’ reward makes the rich man’s $500 million lottery winnings look like chump change.

If Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God had been a genuine sacrifice, wouldn’t he have experienced permanent death like the sacrificial lambs that foreshadowed him? Wouldn’t he have died and gone to hell for eternity, just like the sinners for whom he was the sacrifice?

Sacrifice? What sacrifice? Jesus did not meet any requirements for a genuine substitutionary sacrifice.

Even assuming the bible is the inerrant word of God and the Jesus story is historically factual, Jesus did not sacrifice his life. Instead, Jesus selfishly kept his life, side-stepping the corruption of hell and permanent death. The morning after the crucifixion, the bible says the grave was empty. What happened to “after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31)? Jesus’ time being dead was amazingly brief, maybe a couple of hours. After some appearances with his disciples, on the Day of Pentecost, he ascended to heaven. As in the earlier story, Jesus’ alleged sacrifice won him the lottery exactly as planned and was guaranteed well in advance by the omnipotent triune God, of which Jesus was a divine member.

There is no dispute that Jesus’ sacrificial crucifixion is the centerpiece of Christian theology. That story is so sacred to believers, one dares not question its validity. Unfortunately, those so desperate for an imagined life after death cannot reason sufficiently to ask the most fundamental question: Apart from a couple of painful hours on Friday, did Jesus really sacrifice anything?

Like Jesus’ failed second coming, Christianity’s theological centerpiece is simply and demonstratively false. It might more accurately be called the “sacrificial cruci-fiction.” As in every religion, Christianity’s savior-god and the promise of life after death is devoid of integrity. Its success depends solely on human fear and gullibility that we humans sadly possess in great abundance.

For 20 years, FFRF member Lee Salisbury was a fervent Christian, spending four years as a bible school teacher and 10 years as founding pastor of a non-denominational church in St. Paul, Minn. After taking a sabbatical in 1986, Lee’s slow and painful deconversion process began.

Freedom From Religion Foundation