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2,000 Year Update: Do We Still Need Jesus?

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  • God’s Historical Grief
  • What Was God’s Plan?
  • The Heart of a Parent
  • Coming Home

Trekking through the Italian village of San Giorgio, I was welcomed by colorful houses against the backdrop of roving mountains, smells of gnocchi and wine wafting through kitchen windows where laundry hung, and red-tiled roofs sheltering a cross and a hanging Christ all along the cobblestoned way.

Some of these crosses were a gruesome sight, with Jesus’s open wounds festering, his face in utter agony. In some, creatures even pecked at him. The contrast was almost spooky—this beautiful, quaint scenery sprinkled with graphic homages to a dying man. I respected the deep reverence for Jesus that was so vivid in this small Catholic town, but I wondered why he was depicted in such a suffering, sometimes frightful, light—why his death was more iconic than his life. An unsettling feeling came over me, and I stopped to think, “Why is Jesus’s death so celebrated anyway?”

When people talk about Jesus’s death today, it’s often with an automatic reverence. “Let’s give thanks to our Lord and Savior, who died for our sins and forgave us all.” But do we ever stop and think about how God feels about Jesus, then and now? I wondered if, to God, these last thousands of years were just a speck in the history of the universe, with the death of Jesus and the sad condition of humanity today still very close to His heart. While Christianity has been able to find the silver lining to Jesus’s death over the generations, what does God see? Isn’t there still violence, death, abuse and misuse of love in the world? Do we still need Jesus? Are we really saved from sin?

God’s Historical Grief

Father Moon asks a controversial question:

“People say that Jesus came to die. Was his death indeed predestined by God, or was it an event brought on by circumstance?” (World Scripture, 507)

Could Jesus’s life have been destined for more than the cross?

One of the greatest insights of the Divine Principle is that God is our parent, our Heavenly Father and Mother, with a passionate heart of love for His and Her children. God is the Parent of all of humankind in history, but we lost connection with God from the start as a repercussion of the Fall. Father Moon taught that Jesus came to set it right and re-establish a connection with our Creator, and his work is unfinished because still today, most of us can’t seem to feel or recognize God’s love for us. Imagine that you were a parent whose child ignored you, rejecting all your hugs, kisses and well wishes? How would it feel? Probably worse than awful, right?

For centuries, the world has associated God with the utmost power and greatness: Like a king on His throne, He rules the world. But even Jesus considered God to be as close as a parent.

“Abba, Father,” he prayed, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)

This made me wonder: Why would God create Jesus, his beloved and devoted son, just so he could die? And so brutally? Did God hope that Jesus’s death would be glorified—and so graphically—centuries later? I felt there was a disconnect.

What Was God’s Plan?

“After preparing humanity for four thousand years to receive the Messiah, his death was not in God’s original plan,” revealed Father Moon. “Satan was the one who dragged Jesus to the cross and killed him. … There is no Christianity at the place of Jesus’s cross. Christianity began on the Day of Pentecost.” (World Scripture, 513)

Jesus shared a lot of wisdom in his 33 years on earth, but imagine what kind of plan God had for him in his family life. If he had had five kids, for instance, would he have been crucified as easily? What if he has had a wife? Would she have sparked debates and opened his mind to new ideas? Perhaps she would’ve inspired Jesus to teach about marriage, or been the comforting rock after a grueling day of mission work. What if Jesus had built a church? What would it have been like? What would his ministry have been like with a bustling extended family? With grandchildren bouncing on his lap? What if God was trying not only to teach us a larger, deeper and more epic truth, but also to show us a whole new lifestyle, a way of loving and connecting, and Jesus never got the chance to show it? How much closer to God could we be if we all knew how to do it as a family rather than by ourselves?

I believe Jesus came to bring about a great spiritual awakening and a whole new understanding of what it was to relate to God. Jesus was God’s child and wanted to prove to the rest of the world that so are we. He wasn’t just saving us from sin—he was saving us from a future without our Heavenly Parent. Jesus revolutionized our hearts and opened up a consciousness of love to help us get back to God.

The Heart of a Parent

Imagine that God is so close, experiencing the exact same things that you are, going through the rough and dry times as well as the celebrations. What if He can understand you better than anyone else on earth, because His heart feels the same as yours? In times when you fight with those you love, feel betrayed or become a parent—what if God is right there? What if God, too, feels lonely and incomplete because of the lack of connection with His children? What if God has been royally pained rather than royally proclaimed throughout history?

I think, above anything else, Jesus sought to fully experience the raw heart of God—the depth of His pain and the magnitude of His love for the world. Perhaps what he found was simply the vulnerable heart of a parent. Father Moon said, “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, abandoned the crown and lowered himself to the bottom of the misery of humanity. The Bible explains very little about Jesus’s life, but he was the one who wept the most; he poured out tears. Jesus came with the mind of a parent and the heart of the True Parents. He examined everything from the viewpoint of a parent.”

What if we, too, could fully recognize how much pain occupies God’s heart? Couldn’t we then empathize and build a relationship with Him as Jesus did? As Washington Irving beautifully expressed: “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”

Coming Home

Many of us feel the need to reconnect to God on a regular basis. Studies show that 90 percent of Americans have a spiritual moment with God every day, half of them praying several times a day. Prayer is one of the oldest, varied, most practiced and most beneficial ways of clearing our mind and establishing a connection with God. We see it time and time again: When someone hits rock bottom or finds themselves in a life-or-death situation, their first instinct is to pray. What if we could heighten that instinct? I’ll bet, like our mom’s daily inquiries over “How was school?,” God, too, wants to hear from us in times of joy—even mundanity—too, not just when we feel a desperate need for Him.

Perhaps the most important thing we can do to get to know God is to connect to Him through our relationships—with our parents, our spouse, our friends and siblings and children. Just think of the myriad ways we relate and love in each of those relationships—each one allows us to grow our heart in every direction and fully empathize with our Heavenly Parent.

When I set foot in that Italian village, I was trying to find God. Little did I know I’d find Him in pain, suffering and grief—these days, the inevitable side effects of love, family and hope. As I meandered down those cobblestoned roads, I stopped and looked up at one cross in particular. There Jesus hung, looking pained, sad and almost lifelike. His eyes seemed to look right into mine. I wondered, if he was here today, would he find this sight spooky, too? Would the cross make him sad? Would he think about the family he never had? Or what would have happened, had his own children continued his work? Though I’m just a passerby in a foreign land, my journey made me consider what could have been, and also what was. It compelled me to remember the sheer depth of Jesus’s life, love and sorrow, and how God might still be yearning for all of us to come home.

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  • Mark Clevenger

    Dear sister Tanya,

    Thank you for your heartfelt comments about Jesus’ passion.

    Thank you for creating this beautiful series. Great work!

    I hope you don’t mind me throwing my two cents in by asking a few thought provoking questions to start a conversation I hope. Sorry if they seem rhetorical.

    Wouldn’t Jesus have died anyway, eventually?

    Death is a big life event for everyone, right?

    Wouldn’t it be the responsibility of a messiah to be a model of how to do die well, also?

    Didn’t almost all of God’s children die a suffering and painful death (without the aid of modern medicine) in first century Judea? Hadn’t they always?

    Doesn’t God grieve over all His/Her children’s suffering and death?

    Can a messiah really ever put an end to that kind of physical pain, suffering and death, that we all share in common?

    In all four Gospel stories Jesus suffers, but doesn’t quite die, right?

    “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.”—Job 13:15

    Along with being aware of “God’s Historical Grief,” can we also say that God may be very grateful, happy and proud of Jesus, for being a pioneer of dying well, and a victor over the death we all experience?

    On the “cross” Jesus, himself, sang God a song in the Gospels:

    “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … “—Psalm 22:1

    The DP view of the messiah as a model for marriage makes sense and all, but when it comes to doing the heavy lifting for the sake of God’s heart, isn’t our suffering death the big one?

    Marriages can come and go (even for prophets and messiahs), but we only die once, right?

    As Unificationists, can we “glorify” Jesus’s courage to love and sing, in the face betrayal, abandonment (even by God), suffering, and death?

    Respectfully

  • Mark Clevenger

    Dear sister Tanya,

    Thank you again for this series. I like your comment; “show us a whole new lifestyle, a way of loving and connecting.” Amen!

    Nothing like the present moment, as they say.

    I agree with Father Moon’s notion that Christianity began later, after the life and death of Jesus. Jesus was Jew. A very good Jew. In the Jewish tradition boys become adults in the community at age 13. From what I’ve read, the average lifespan for a man in first century Judea was about 30 years old. Marriages were usually arranged by the parents beforehand.

    I think it’s safe to say there was something very unusual going on with Jesus’ marital status in the gospels given the culture and times he lived in.

    In one sense I think we can say he was married. He was married to his extended family of disciples and the women who supported him financially. That seems to be part of why he was so controversial at the time. They lived traveled and slept together as itinerant preachers and teachers.

    In the end though, his whole “family” understood him less and less, and abandoned him.

    At the very end God (“Heavenly Parents”) abandoned him. What’s up with that? (Something profound I think.)

    My question is, would those same challenges have presented themselves, whether Jesus was 30 and single, or 90 with 5 (or 14) kids?

    Respectfully

  • Sandy

    Dear Sister Tanya and Brother Mark,

    I have been interested in reading your articles and engaging
    in the conversation. I would like to answer some of your questions and ask some
    questions that I myself have. After reading a lot about the Unification Church,
    I was glad to know that the Bible is a reference and a Holy Book that the Unification
    Church believes in, therefore, I will take some of the verses it contains to
    answer your questions.

    Sister Tanya’s Questions:

    1- Why is Jesus’s death so celebrated anyway?

    Answer: Because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only
    reason why a person can have eternal life. Man sinned. (Romans 3:23 for all
    have sinned and fall short of the glory of God) and (Romans 6:23 for the wages
    of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.)
    Due to our sin, we deserve spiritual and physical death, but because Jesus who
    is sinless died on the cross, He held our sins. As a result, we became sinless
    in front of God (He sees the debt paid through Christ’s work on the cross.) and
    thus we can have eternal life rather than eternal death.

    2- While Christianity has been able to find the silver
    lining to Jesus’s death over the generations, what does God see? Isn’t there
    still violence, death, abuse and misuse of love in the world?

    Answer: You are right. There is still violence, death, abuse
    and misuse of love in the world, BUT there is hope in Jesus Christ that we can
    have a wonderful life despite all the evil in the world. God sees His son JESUS
    and He is PLEASED with Him. In fact before Jesus went to the cross He talked to
    God and said (Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet
    not my will, but yours be done.) If God wasn’t pleased and saw Jesus’s death as
    unimportant, He wouldn’t let Jesus die.

    3- Do we still need Jesus?

    Answer: YES! He is our only hope of eternal life. When God
    looks at me, He doesn’t see my sins because the price has been paid by Jesus.
    Therefore, I have the ticket to enter Heaven’s gates.

    4- Are we really saved from sin?

    Answer: You are so right to ask such a question. How can we
    make sure our sins are forgiven? In fact, you are not the first one to ask such
    a question, the Pharisees asked the same questions 2000 yeasr ago. Check this
    out in your Holy Book: (Mark 2 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the
    paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law
    were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like
    that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately
    Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts,
    and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to
    say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take
    your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority
    on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take
    your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view
    of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never
    seen anything like this!” )

    Brother Mark’s questions:

    1- Wouldn’t Jesus have died anyway, eventually?

    Answer: No. Why? Because Jesus is sinless. Whoever sins has
    death as a punishment. Jesus never sinned. Therefore, He is immortal. When
    Jesus held our sins, he became sinful and thus died. However He has divine
    power which made him resurrect spiritually and physically. I am saying
    physically because Jesus ate fish after he resurrected. No one can eat food
    unless He has body and flesh.

    2- Death is a big life event for everyone, right?

    Answer: Not for Jesus. For us of course, but since we have
    hope in Jesus Christ we are not scared of dying. We have eternal life with God J

    3- Wouldn’t it be the responsibility of a messiah to be a
    model of how to die well, also?

    Answer: Not really. A messiah means savior. A savior’s
    responsibility is to save his people. Who cares how? His duty is to save not to
    show the ideal death.

    4- Didn’t almost all of God’s children die a suffering and
    painful death (without the aid of modern medicine) in first century Judea?
    Hadn’t they always?

    Answer: I didn’t quite understand this question so excuse me
    if I miss the point in my answer. However, yes they did. After all, back to the
    point I have stated several times now. We have hope for a great future for God
    and we want people to know that they have a hope too. Therefore, we don’t mind
    dying while delivering the message.

    5- Doesn’t God grieve over all His /Her children’s suffering
    and death?

    Answer: Of course He does. God loves His children, that’s
    why he suffers and grieves, BUT God loves Jesus too and despite that He
    accepted that Jesus goes to the cross. Why? Because there was a greater cause
    which is to save all of humanity. That’s why Jesus accepts that His children
    die while they are seeking the great cause which is to tell other people that
    they can have salvation. In fact death is not a big deal for those who believe
    in Jesus. It is an elevator between earth and heaven. One last thing, God gives
    His children comfort in the midst of chaos and strength in the midst of
    suffering.

    6- Can a messiah really ever put an end to that kind of
    physical pain, suffering and death that we all share in common?

    Answer: Yes. He is already. He has done it in the past and
    is still doing it today. We have hundreds of people being saved from cancer,
    paralyze, and many other sicknesses. He is also healing spiritually like He did
    with me. He also healed my fiancé from a knee surgery and now my fiancé can
    play football pain-free J

    God bless you. PS: I do not open this website a lot so in
    case of any further questions or discussion I would like to be notified through
    email: sandybelles1994@gmail.com
    and I would love to talk more about any further discussions. Thank you!

    • Mark Clevenger

      Dear sister Sandy

      You make very interesting points. I’m moved by your remarks. Thank you for responding and joining the discussion.

      Respectfully

    • Mark Clevenger

      Dear sister Sandy

      A question that comes to mind for me, when reading your much appreciated comments, is; what is “salvation”? What does it mean to be “saved”?

      You mentioned that; “We have hundreds of people being saved from cancer, paralyze, and many other sicknesses.” Doesn’t some painful sickness eventually take every single person in the end?

      I care for my 91 year old mother. She is a lifelong Southern Baptist. If you asked her she’d say “growing old isn’t easy” and pain free.

      Tanya made a very good point. Jesus did “mind” having to go the way of the cross. He couldn’t take the pain and suffering of his own crucifixion away. He suffered a lot in the gospel story.

      What is “salvation”?

      Respectfully

      PS

      Tanya, I was so looking forward to the other parts of this series! Thank you though!

  • Mark Clevenger

    I loved your very meaningful comment; “I was trying to find God. Little did I know I’d find Him in pain, suffering and grief—these days, the inevitable side effects of love, family and hope.”

    What I find insightful is the mysterious way the story in the Gospel of Mark ends. Mark was the first gospel and it originally ended at Mark 18:5-8.

    “And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe … And he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed.'”

    Quite a positive image.

    The cross wasn’t the end of the story, just an experience Jesus went through, kinda like we all go through.

    Seems to me, “if he were here today,” I think Jesus would say, “yeah, I had to adopt a lot of kids, but it was cool,” don’t you?

    But, then again, he is here, right?

    Thank you for this series of articles. Great work!

    Respectfully