What was the main point of Jesus' suffering and sacrifice? What was in it for God?

Email Received:

You seem to indicate in some of your writings that God himself suffered when Jesus was on the cross. How do we know that Jesus was God, or even that he was the "son" of God? What was the main point of Jesus' suffering and sacrifice anyway? What was in it for God?

Ted's Response:

Sacrificing is doing something that we really do not want to do to gain something better, or not doing something that we do want to do to avoid something worse. It usually involves experiencing an inconvenience or difficulty now—or forgoing something we presently wish to have—to obtain certain benefits or advantages later, whether for ourselves or for others.

Making a sacrifice almost always requires enduring some pain, grief, or distress—or else abstaining from some temporary pleasure, contentment, or gratification—thereby resulting in long-term happiness, success, or victory. It is the nature of things not to wish to make a sacrifice, because it is instinctive to want short-term pleasure or to avoid immediate pain.

Most people sacrifice by working hard now so that they can have their necessities and the fulfillment of their desires later in life, without having to continue working. They toil now so that their kids can get a good education, enabling them to be able to obtain decent jobs to earn income to prepare for the future of themselves and their children. It is a cycle which, literally, is as old as time.

God Himself has made immeasurable sacrifices, much more than that which any of us can comprehend. His sacrifices are greater than all others, because the fulfillment, enjoyment, and gratification that He will obtain from His past, present, and future concessions are everlasting.

This is why: God's foremost eternal goal is to be able to commune, personally and intimately, with His greatest creation: humankind. The Bible is replete with examples of how He has done this throughout human history. Basically, God could have accomplished His goal one of two ways:

  1. He could have created a perfect realm, with all people being "yes-robots," where each person always would do God's will and bidding, without disagreement or failure.
  2. He could have created an imperfect realm, in which all people were "no-robots," where each of us would retain our own will to do as we please—which, by and large, would be out of the will of God.
Had God chosen option #1, it would have provided Him with immediate happiness and contentment. He would have surveyed His Creation and said, "It is perfect!" He could have savored and delighted in His flawless universe and in His faultless "yes-robots" on earth, priding Himself on a job not merely well-done but impeccable—but only for awhile.

After some period of time—which, inherently, would have been quite brief from God's standpoint, since He is eternal—the thrill and fascination of His immaculate Creation would have waned. The concept is similar to our having received something brand new, then becoming bored with it even before it begins to show any signs of wear, because it is predictable and no longer excites us.

God, though, is infinitely complex and multifarious. Presumably, He requires continual, ongoing involvement and stimulation, which static and unchanging "yes-robots" never could provide. Yes, God does want and expect submission to His eternal principles. But even more than that, He desires voluntary, unforced compliance from the individuals He has created. The essential key to the latter is love.

There exists true, unwavering Love among the members of the Trinity; but, in Scripture, there is no outright love of God by any creatures, other than by humans. If you choose to love someone, and if that love continues without end, then you will have ceaseless devotion, allegiance, and commitment toward that person. Such unadulterated love and adulation cannot take place, however, unless it is chosen. That is because compulsory, obligatory "love" is no love at all.

Without free will, no one could choose to love God, Who innately is good. However, without ever having been introduced to the knowledge of both good and evil (Genesis 3:22), nor having observed and experienced supreme examples of each, we never could have understood, nor comprehended, how unfathomably superior good is to evil. Had we known only good—which would have been the case if we had been created as lackluster "yes-robots"—it would have been impossible for us to know and appreciate just how good, loving, and compassionate God truly is.

Therefore, God chose option #2: assembling an imperfect Creation, containing an earth with human "no-robots" who, following their first act of disobedience, became aware of the knowledge of evil in addition to good. Of course, this inevitably caused sin and its penalty, death (Romans 6:23), to become part of the equation for mankind.

Unhappily, for God, this generated a very complex and sticky situation, where none of humanity, collectively imperfect, deserved entrance into the new, perfect Creation, which He eventually will fashion after this one has perished and passes away (Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:25-28; Hebrews 1:10-12; Revelation 20:11b, 21:1—see old and new Creations). There was only one way for this problem to be resolved: a colossal sacrifice.

"Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22b). The sacrificing of lambs, goats, and bulls, and other animals by the high priests in ancient Israel was not sufficient to atone for the people's sins (10:11). So to obtain what He wanted—"no-robots" who would choose to love and obey their Creator—God had to offer an ultimate and supreme sacrifice: Himself.

Was Jesus God? Yes, indeed He was. In fact, He was the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Only an infinite sacrifice, of God Himself, could have been enough to compensate for the countless sins of many billions of people throughout the ages. Ingeniously, God used the sacrifice of Himself not only as

  1. a means of atonement by which those people who would accept it could be saved from their sins, but also as
  2. a means by which He could experience the eternal happiness and joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2)—eternal unity and communion with human beings, the primary elements of His Creation.
Jesus Christ—God incarnate—suffered immense humiliation, suffering, and death by mocking, flogging, and crucifixion. Even the ancient prophet Isaiah described this, centuries before it took place:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. … Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. … For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. … Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer.... For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53:3a,4-7,8c,10a,12b).
Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice of Himself has taken away the sin of many, and He is coming again to bring eternal salvation for all who are anticipating His return (Hebrews 9:28). Through God's monumental sacrifice, multitudes of human "no-robots" in the world, who have experienced and observed the worst horrors of evil, as well as the greatest joys of goodness, understand how being with God throughout eternity—in the new Creation yet to come—will be incomprehensibly magnificent and wonderful. They voluntarily and willingly will give God the love, worship, and praise that He desires; and He, in turn, will bless them abundantly and without measure. And they all will commune together, face-to-face, forevermore.

All of this provides momentary discernment of one facet of God, which addresses the age-old question, Who is God? One of God's supreme attributes is His willingness to sacrifice to get what He wants. He has made the greatest self-sacrifices possible: humiliation and torture beyond understanding, as well as a death beyond comprehension. Furthermore, even in this present age, God is sacrificing His own happiness and contentment by painstakingly contending with mankind's rebellion and by grievously suffering the loss of many who refuse to come to Him. However, we do not need to be able to grasp these sacrifices fully—as no one really can—to recognize their application to us in our daily lives.

For us, here and now, we should perceive this as an example of how even simple sacrifices can provide both immediate and long-term benefits and rewards. As flesh-and-bones humans, our sacrifices primarily are physical (just as Jesus' suffering and sacrifice, via flogging and crucifixion, were physical). God even considers as sacrifices "small" things, such as praising Him, doing good, and sharing with others (Hebrews 13:15,16) when we could be doing other things.

Even abstaining from compulsions and addictions (such as overeating, alcohol and illicit drugs, and sex) is a sacrifice of the flesh. In these and in other ways, we "overcome." For those who do overcome, a host of rewards has been promised. To every faithful overcomer, Jesus has said that He will

  1. give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7b);
  2. provide protection from the "second death" (2:11b);
  3. give some of the hidden manna...[and] will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it (2:17bc);
  4. give authority over the nations...just as I have received authority from my Father (2:26,27b);
  5. give him the morning star (2:28);
  6. dress him ...in white...[and] never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels (3:5);
  7. make a pillar in the temple of my God,...write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God,...and...write on him my new name (3:12); and
  8. give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne (3:21).
These things, alone, should make us stop and think how important it is to overcome the temptations and urges of the flesh. Whenever the opportunity arises, let us sacrifice our temporary pleasures, desires, and gratifications of the flesh in lieu of what Jesus has to give us: EVERYTHING!

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