Friday, April 03, 2015

The Blood of Easter

Easter has been a big part of my life ever since I was a little boy, coming from a Christian family and regularly attending church for most of 5 decades.  Ironically, I don't think I was ever truly a Believer until I converted from Atheism to Christianity when I was 29, but that's another story...

One question that has always perplexed me has to do with a fundamental component of orthodox Christian theology:

Why was a BLOOD sacrifice necessary to assuage God's wrath?  Seems kind of barbaric, crude, and gruesome, doesn't it?  Think about it:  This was God (who is, in every way, FAR far superior to Mankind, as for example, Man is to ants) saying to humans, "I'm mad at you.  So take that lamb over there and slit its throat... Let its warm blood spurt all over the place, especially all over that rugged stone altar I instructed you to build... I want to see blood everywhere... Then fling the animal's slaughtered carcass on top of the altar and burn the entire mess.  Then I'll be satisfied."

There's no escaping the outright Gore that is integral to the Christian Gospel (you've seen "Passion of the Christ", right?), but I would expect that the far less modern, agrarian and desert cultures of the Old Testament (and right up to the 18th century, for much of the West) were much more comfortable with those types of scenarios than we might be...

Indeed, some Christian thinkers see the direct reflection of a deeply organic aspect of Christianity in the very flesh and blood of humans and animals, along with the earth and plants and flowers and trees, and the oceans and streams...   So it should come as no surprise, really, that the heart of the Gospel has, well, BLOOD in it.

Another clue comes right out of Leviticus 17, where God twice tells Moses, "The Life of the Creature is in its Blood."  In order to get the Life out of the lamb, its blood had to be poured out.  So it is the giving up of a Life, by bleeding to death, that God wanted.  But why?  Why does DEATH, in this context, "satisfy" God, or provide atonement for us??

And then today it hit me:  Because we can't do it ourselves.

Here, then, is a better version of the thought experiment, above:
"Look, I made you out of dirt and I put my LIFE into you and made you a Soul.  But you've taken your Being and abused and desecrated it, making it a thing ugly and defiled.  You've essentially ruined it.  Give it back to me.  It's mine."

But giving our (literal) lives back to God would, of course, mean Death.  Extinction.  The formal Obliteration of the original point of Creation at all:  God reflecting Love back to Himself via the Free Will choices of sentient Human Beings.

So God's unfolding Plan was that a sacrificial Life -- lambs and goats, in Moses' time, and the Lamb, once and for all, for the world, forever, in Jesus -- would satisfy God's demand.  He would accept that as a substitute.  That Life, coming out of that Blood, would atone for us.  It would be a Life given up as a substitute for our own.

That's what Good Friday is about.

But there's more:  Down into DEATH, to satisfy God's just demands.  And then UP into LIFE again, so that a NEW KIND of Life could be worked out inside us.  Life out of death, and yes, covered with Blood, but utterly saturated with Love.

That's what Easter is about.

No comments: