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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Was Jesus subversive?

Considering the 'other' reason Jesus died on the cross

There is an aspect to Jesus’ death that has been overlooked, or silenced even, because of the traditional emphasis on atonement. We focus on the sacrificial aspect of the cross: God sent Jesus to die for us so we can be forgiven.

subversive But in recent years the word subversive emerges in the discussion in theological literature about Jesus’ ministry. Questions abound:

• Why was Jesus executed as a criminal?

• Was there a legitimate reason for the Roman government to consider him a danger, a threat to national security?

• Did Jesus know the risks he was taking in his speech and actions?

• Was Jesus subversive?
Still, in most of our congregations the hymns we sing, the prayers we pray and the sermons we hear during Lent and into Holy Week lift up the death of Jesus as something he didn’t deserve. He was innocent of all charges brought against him. He died so we might be saved. He paid the ransom. God was pleased with Jesus’ sacrifice. “Worthy is Christ, the lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God,” we sing in our Evangelical Lutheran Worship communion liturgy.


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