Meaning of Jesus

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Upon the release of his, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, the scholar Reza Aslan gave a talk to a local group of people. One of the points he made was that if Jesus was God, then all of his suffering was far less meaningful. He literally says, “If Jesus is God and he dies/suffers, you say: ‘So what? He’s God.'”

I suppose with this logic, a man who is a king can be subjected to more pain than a peasant simply because one would feel less sorry for the king? This type of partiality is exactly what justice seeks to avoid: the status of a man or being does not reduce or increase his punishment.

Aslan reasonably misunderstands (or simply doesn’t know) that Jesus as a man had emptied his powers (Philippians 2:7-8) – something completely possible for the infinite (God) to relate to the finite (man), if one understands the applications of Set Theory. Not that it matters whether Jesus was human or not – an offense is just as repugnant regardless of the recipient’s treshhold for pain. God is hardly to be disrespected more simply because “He’s God” and “knows how to deal with it.” This and the self-centeredness of (the immoral) man makes it hardly surprising that God describes Himself as “a jealous god” in the Bible.

But I think that out of the ashes of Aslan’s misdirected objection (to Jesus’ deity), a much more subtle question and point can arise. Proper sacrifice naturally produces meaning. If I give up my free time to help a friend with something, I’m accomplishing something which no amount of leisure can do for me. Of course, this isn’t the only way for something to have significance. Discoveries and inventions are another good example, which don’t necessarily involve sacrifice.

But since Jesus is God in Christian theology, is his example as powerful as had he been merely a limited (ultimately), “lowly” human being? After all, the former is a prestigious, bound-to-win scenario, and the latter would be a “true” achievement.

I think this ignores a very important perspective. Jesus gave up a lot to humiliate himself in many ways (not having his power; being put to a shameful death; being rejected as Messiah). I don’t think an ordinary person would be putting as much on the line, or be as caring as that (especially if we take his fallen nature into account!). True, it’s not like he can (he can’t choose to be God and then “unchoose” or give it up). But given the fact that we’re all sinners whose sins had no logical justification (by definition), I don’t think such a person could exist.

Even if we assume such a person could exist for the sake of argument, then both this “regular” human and Jesus are giving up just as much as they had or would have had. What I mean by this is that the man who only makes $10 a day and donates $1 has donated just as much as the one who gives $100 and makes $1000 (arguably more, but that’s beside the point – one can adjust the variables). This is Jesus’ point in Luke 21:1-4, which can be seen in wisdom across all cultures and times (a parallel exists in a 1600’s Chinese wisdom book to a young woman). And Jesus already paid the “$100.” So even if the “regular” human would do the same, this doesn’t cast any shadows upon Jesus’ example at all! The fallacy with Aslan’s reasoning is ultimately that he unconsciously or not, presumes out of bias that Jesus wouldn’t have done the same had he not been God. And that only attempts to play on our emotions: “He’s God and hasn’t made a “bigger” sacrifice by being a non-divine human who does this – as if that even has any significance either” – something which I think he proved he would by the fact that he was a powerless human who emptied himself and did this nonetheless.


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