I Didn’t Kill Jesus

In recent years, this would have been a big week for me.  Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday.  For a few years, the town’s musicians, especially the high school students would do a Dixieland Jazz style concert on Saturday at our church.  And then there was Easter Sunday with a Sunrise Service, breakfast, Egg Hunt, and Sunday School.  Then we had the big worship service where attendance would be high and we’d wear our best clothes and play our best music and I’d give my best effort at preaching.

This year, I thought I’d quietly skip the whole thing. But I can’t.

To begin, Good Friday is problematic for me.  It has been for a while but I couldn’t articulate what agitated me. 

Tonight a few preachers will give graphic descriptions of Jesus’ physical suffering, turning it into a CSI episode.  I hasten to say, however, that most preachers will be more restrained in their presentation.  Nonetheless, people will weep, often tapping into recent, more personal grief.  Many will also tap into the general guilt and anxiety most of us carry within, and they’ll find themselves feeling personally responsible for Jesus’ suffering.

Our doctrine encourages that.   

I ignored my inner conflict and I played my part. Some years, I played the part of Jesus in church musicals and reenacted the crucifixion scenes.  Most years for Good Friday service, I’d have someone bang a hammer against metal to make people think of the nails driven in Jesus’ hands and feet. Or I’d have people come forward and hammer their own nails into a cross.  But my last group was too sensitive for that and it caused them too much pain. So I modified the ritual and had people come to the cross simply to touch it—that was powerful enough. 

Nowadays, I’ve become clearer in my objection to the “Atonement Model,” as some theologians call it. It’s the explanation that Jesus died on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.  This concept goes back to the priest Martin Luther. Before him was the monk Anselm, and earlier still was Bishop Augustine. Most of their thoughts are developed from Pauline passages of scriptures.  I understand how Paul, who reportedly murdered people for their faith, would be comforted by the thought that his sins were forgiven by the atoning sacrifice of Christ. 

But I have a problem with it.  If God required a blood sacrifice to mollify his rage… well, it isn’t forgiveness, is it?  I also have a problem with making everyone take responsibility for the actions of a murderous mob, some corrupt religious leaders, and two cowardly politicians of the day.  

I have done some bad things for which I take responsibility but I did not murder Jesus, and I won’t carry that burden anymore.  Nor will I put that burden on anyone else ever again.  I’m not telling any more children that it was their fault. I’m not telling decent people who work hard and do good things, that they should carry such a monumental burden of shame. 

I’m sorry that I did for so long. 

11 thoughts on “I Didn’t Kill Jesus

  1. He took that shame and guilt with Him on the cross. We carry it no more and therefore are able to enjoy the new creatures we have become sharing in the Resurrection. Blessings and peace to you.


  2. This must have been extremely difficult. I can feel the suffering that you must have endured to come to this. It takes a lot of personal exploration. You were only one of millions that preach this doctrine. Try not to carry to much guilt. (It can happen). I would like to believe that my apology would be accepted by anyone I had wronged or felt as though I had. So, for one of the thousands of people that have heard you preach, thank you for teaching me how to find the theological statement.


  3. Thought provoking, while we all must walk our own walk of faith, and we believe as often times we are taught. You cannot be faulted for sharing knowledge that you were infact taught. On this I still stand that “If God is a perfect being, then he doesnt make mistakes. Therefor one can infer that it is the human that makes mistakes, but only to bring us closer to God.” While I can agree that I didn't kill Jesus either, I can't say that I have ever felt guilt for his death, I have felt love from the many good people who try to walk in his path, including from you. My belief is that ultimately God is Love, and if we all love o er hate then we are all more like the one we strive to be like.


  4. Good for you, David. Enough is enough. I once saw a young girl answer the “altar call” and ask for prayers after a sermon on the grotesqueries of crucifixion.

    Paul was a very conflicted man who spent the rest of his life trying to atone for murdering Christians.

    The main problems with the atonement model: (1) It doesn't work. It offers relief from guilt and “freedom from sin,” but that almost never lasts. It's a quick fix that doesn't really fix anything. (2) It misses the point. People aren't really looking for atonement. They are looking for a flesh and blood human being to love them in spite of the sins they've confessed. Have you ever forgotten anyone who really loved you? THIS solution gives lasting healing. (3) The deeper meanings of the evils that led to Jesus's profound suffering get ignored.

    Perhaps these last three points are the intersection of love, destructive theology, and psychological insites I've been trying to find to start my own blog. In the meantime, please keep up your blog. All lies are destructive, but none more than spiritual lies. It's time to speak up candidly and fight them. These lies have made too many people sick for too long. –Mark


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