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The resurrection may have been superfluous
by Graeme J. Davidson,
11 Apri, 2009

.If Jesus’ death brought about the new covenant and a new relationship with God, what was the point of the resurrection?

....Scurrilous rumours surrounded the first Christians. They had love feasts – nudge, nudge, wink, wink. They hugged and called each other “brother” and “sister” – was incest involved? But the most damning and persistent allegation was that this new-fangled religious sect engaged in cannibalism. Christians ate human flesh and drank human blood. Did they commit ritual murder? Maybe they killed children.
....Pliny, the Younger, a Roman governor in Asia Minor, was so concerned about Christians that he interrogated some to learn more. He didn’t believe it when they told him they ate “ordinary innocent food”. So he tortured a couple of female Christian slaves to get a confession and then wrote to Emperor Trajan in 112, “I discovered nothing else but a perverse and extravagant superstition”. Nevertheless, he said Christians deserved punishment for “stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy”. They wouldn’t curse Christ and worship the Roman gods.
....As for the love feasts: they were regular potluck get-togethers for church members. They sometimes attracted those who took advantage of other Christians’ generosity to gorge on the food and get drunk on the wine, which may have led non-believers to speculate that these potlucks were orgies.
Pliny was right about the ordinary innocent food. Yet, those of us who are Christians celebrate Jesus’ death by eating bread and wine that we say is his body and blood. Why?
....At the time of Jesus crucifixion, all religions in the Middle East used animal sacrifices to communicate with their gods. You can read about the Jewish customs in the first five books of the Old Testament. From our modern sanitised perspective the idea of all that ritual slaughter of bulls, goats and sheep, and sloshing their blood around the altar on which the carcases are burned to make a pleasing smell for God, is repugnant.
....Imagine our modern clergy having to pass exams on what animals are suitable for sacrifice, and how to kill, bleed and char-grill them. We’d definitely get a different breed of clergy. Now imagine Karori or Havelock North folk going to church to contact God through animal sacrifice to give thanks and ensure peace as well as make those important sin and guilt offerings to appease God for the many sins they’ve committed.
....It would certainly test the religious tolerance of neighbours who already have strong views about noisy church bells when they’re trying to sleep in on Sunday. They would now fear for the lives of their pets and the value of their properties as they endured the stench and flies from the religious abattoir on their block.
Yet, the ancient ritual barbeques and bloodletting ceremonies are crucial to understanding the significance of Easter.
....Christians saw in Jesus’ death the fulfilment of all Israelite sacrifices. He’s the peace offering, the thanksgiving offering, the sin and guilt offering. Jesus is the Lamb of God, slaughtered at Passover to commemorate how God killed the first-born of each Egyptian family but spared the life of the Israelites, enabling them to escape from Egypt, and he’s the Day of Atonement sacrifice who dies for the sin of all the people.
....But most importantly, Christians believe Jesus’ death is the sacrifice that brings in God’s new covenant, or New Testament, promised by the prophet Jeremiah.
When we sign a contract today, we scrawl our signature at the bottom of the document and initial each page. But a covenant with God, like the one where Moses received the 10 Commandments, is signed by the sacrificial death of an animal whose blood is sprinkled over believers. At his last meal with his disciples, Jesus told them that the bread they ate was his body and the wine they drank was his blood of the “new covenant”.
....If Jesus’ death brought about the new covenant and a new relationship with God, what was the point of the resurrection? It seems superfluous – a bonus to reinforce faith, but beyond requirements. For Christians, Good Friday brought about the new personal relationship with God, not Easter Sunday.




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