Jesus Died For Your Sins (with commentary)

By: Dean Tersigni
2016-11-11

Has anyone ever told you, "Jesus died for your sins?" Do you want to know what that means? Read on!

What Is Sacrifice?

This statement means that Jesus made a sacrifice for you, but before we can understand why people believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, we must first understand what a religious sacrifice is, and it starts with animals. The Ancient Greeks are the oldest known culture to practice animal sacrifice, but it is the Jewish Torah, written over a thousand years later, that first describes the process in exqusite detail. I was never taught this in my church, but when you read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, you're actually reading the Torah. There, God describes several different ways for how the Jews must sacrifice animals to him. The process usually begins by slitting the throat of a healthy young animal, like a lamb, kid, or calf, collecting its blood, and then smearing it on altar where the carcass will be burned, sometimes entirely, or sometimes partially so the priests could feast on the rest.

But what was the purpose of animal sacrifice? In the scriptures, God describes several reasons for sacrificing animals, including offering him gratitude, cleansing women of menstruation (seriously), and, most important to this article, criminal punishment. To the Jews, the best way to atone for a crime was through bloodshed, often your own. Many crimes in the Torah are punishable by death, including:

But what about minor rule-breaking? In a culture of nomadic herders, livestock is wealth, and purposely killing a healthy young animal is a monetary loss. The Jews had a much more mystical understanding of the whole process, but ultimately, animal sacrifice was tantamount to paying a fine. This form of jurisprudence was employed according to the rules of the Torah for centuries by the Jews, and God enjoyed the sweet aroma of the burning carcasses.

Jesus: The Ultimate Sacrifice

As the story goes, a small branch of Jews followed a man claiming to be a prophet of God, and, after he was executed by the Romans, their sect expanded into what we now call Christianity, and with this new religion came a radically different interpretation of the Jewish writings. You're probably already familiar with Christian theology, but to quickly recap, ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, humans have been born with a sinful nature. Because of this, humans are prone to do evil, and no evil deed should go unpunished. In Christianity, punishment ultimately takes the form of being separated from God for an eternity in Hell where you're stuck without Netflix or even basic cable. Christians believe that the animal sacrifices Jews used to atone for their sins weren't enough to absolve them, so, in order to allow people to be forgiven, as well as permanently end animal sacrifice, God sent Jesus to act as a perfect sinless willing martyr. Various denominations disagree on the minutia, but most agree with this general interpretation which is why so many repeat the aphorism, "Jesus died for you sins." His sacrifice, much like the sacrifice of a lamb, makes it possible for your sins to truly be forgiven.

The Morality of Sacrifice

To help illustrate how this works, imagine the following story. One day, Alice came home from school to find both of her parents stabbed to death on the floor. A neighbor heard her screams and called the police. Luckily, there was plenty of evidence to lead them to a man with a bloody knife and the wallet and purse of Alice's parents. The man was arrested, taken to court, and found guilty of the murders. Just as the judge was about to sentence the killer to life in prison, a young man stood up in the courtroom and introduced himself as the murderer's son, Joshua. He explained that he couldn't live knowing that the father he dearly loved would be behind bars, and begged the judge to put him in prison for life instead. The judge, moved by the man's devotion to his father, agreed to let the murderer go free and put Joshua in prison instead saying, what difference does it make who receives punishment, as long as someone does?

Of course, you probably noticed in this story that justice was not served. A criminal is not absolved of his crimes just because an innocent person is willing to accept his punishment. And yet, this is precisely what is implied with the claim, "Jesus died for your sins." The reality is, if you wrong someone, it doesn't matter how many lambs you slaughter, you're still responsible for making things right with the person you wronged; torturing an innocent person solves nothing.

Christian Guilt

People should feel guilty when they do bad things to other people, and they should try to make things right, but one thing they should never feel guilty about is the death of Jesus. For your whole life, you've probably been told that "Jesus died for your sins," and this may have made you feel like the bad things you've done somehow caused an innocent man to be tortured to death, but that's not true, and you shouldn't feel guilty for it. Saying, "Jesus died for your sins," is like saying, "Joshua went to prison so a murderer could go free." Always remember that the only person who is responsible for you is you.

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