The scenario below illustrates why the execution of Jesus by the Romans is not quite the great sacrifice Christians say it is, and why Jewish believers see the whole fetishization of the sacrifice both strange and abhorrent:
There is a great empire ruled absolutely by a man named El. In this empire, every person has an obligation to pay a sum of $100 to the empire, and this sum must be paid at one time, in full, on the person's 30th birthday. If the sum is not paid at that time, the person will be sent permanently to jail for hard labor.This scenario captures what I think are essential difficulties with the doctrine of sacrifice that Jesus personifies for Christians.
The people of the empire are very poor, and $100 dollars is more than most anyone is able to pay by themselves. You are one of the inhabitants of the empire, you are far short of the required $100, and your 30th birthday is fast approaching.
But then: the son of the king pays your full $100 for you. You don't know the son. You didn't ask him to make your payment, and you had no idea that he existed, let alone that he would make this payment on your behalf. In fact, you didn't even know it was permissible for someone to make your payment for you. Nevertheless, you are now square with the empire.
There is a catch, however. The son later says that he made your $100 dollar payment at the request of his father the king. Now the king and the son demand that you vote for the son to be prime minister in the upcoming election. Your vote is the price of the son's having paid your obligation. If you refuse to vote for him, then you will be sent permanently to jail for hard labor.
You discover that the son has paid the obligations of many others, too. All are imposed with the same condition. Cast your vote in favor of the son or go to jail. Everyone who learns that her or his obligation has been paid by the son must choose.
Representatives of the son come to your door frequently. They ask you whether you will vote for the son or not. So far you have delayed them, but you must make a decision soon.
- Where does the obligation come from and on what authority?
- How can it be that the son pays someone else's obligation without asking permission from that person?
- By what right does the son coerce allegiance?
- Isn't validation of the son, as opposed to straight gratitude for his having made a payment, superfluous? Why does he need to be recognized?
For someone from a Jewish background, like myself, it's hard to convey how strange the sacrifice of Jesus appears. To me, Christianity takes a complete left turn from Judaism and makes God a very different being than in Jewish doctrine.
More importantly, the sacrifice of Jesus is not really a sacrifice but a buy out. It kicks people from being ransomed to God to being ransomed to Jesus, and it does so without people's knowledge. In both the Jewish and Christian world orders, people are chattel. The only question is who you think is your master, El or his son.