Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 46: The Resurrection, part 1: Jesus’ Innocence
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 46: The Resurrection, part 1: Jesus’ Innocence

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

The resurrection is a central event in Christianity. From a Girardian perspective, one important aspect of the Resurrection is that it unequivocally revealed the scapegoating mechanism as victimization of the innocent.

The Roman authorities were convinced that Jesus was a troublemaker who threatened the peace; the Jewish authorities charged that he had blasphemed against the faith; and the mob, angered that he had failed to liberate them from the Roman yoke, cried “Crucify him!” Those involved in Jesus’ crucifixion, believing that he deserved an ignominious, painful death, would not have expected him to be resurrected and to join God in heaven. The Bible, in relating Jesus’ resurrection, sends a clear message that the Roman and Jewish authorities and the mob were wrong about Jesus. He was innocent, and they participated in his murder. They had become caught up in the mimetic accusation that leads to scapegoating violence. While they called for his execution, the resurrection demonstrated that Jesus, justified in God’s eyes, was a victim of scapegoating.

The Bible describes Jesus as without sin, like the Suffering Servant. (See part 22.) However, I complete innocence is not required for justification, which is fortunate for us sinners. While on the cross, one criminal admitted his sins to Jesus, acknowledged Jesus’ innocence, and proclaimed his faith in God. Jesus said that this criminal will join Jesus in Paradise. I think this man’s story illustrates a subtle but important point. Usually, those who are punished are guilty of something, but they are rarely guilty of as much as people attribute to them. Scapegoating most often involves excessive blame, and this serves to shift much of the blame from the punishers to the punished. The thief, for example, did steal. But, those who punish the thief may contribute to the crime by denying the thief genuine opportunities for an honest living, oppressively taxing the thief in order to line their own pockets, etc. The thief with contrition and faith may be far more worthy of justification than the “honest” people who profit from unjust laws.

Getting back to Jesus’ innocence, people were starting to sense that Jesus had been unjustly killed even before the resurrection. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ last words were “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (24:46) Luke continues, “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (24:47) (Matthew and Mark quote the centurion saying, “Surely, this man is the Son of God.”) Luke’s Gospel then relates that the mob similarly recognized that an innocent man had been killed: “And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.” (24:48)

This point is driven home further by Thomas, who had difficulty believing that Jesus had risen from the dead. It was not the act of rising from the dead that caused Thomas’ doubt. People at that time generally believed in resurrection of the dead, and Thomas was surely aware that Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from death. What was remarkable was that an executed man, who was deemed guilty of crimes by the people and the authorities, was raised. This could only make sense to Thomas, and to anyone else at that time, if Jesus had actually been innocent.

I see the resurrection story as critical to realizing the realm of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” Faith in the resurrection may help alleviate the universal fear of death, which is a principal source of human violence and destructiveness. (See parts 25 and 26.) We will turn to this topic next week.

Go on to: Part 47. The Resurrection, part 2: Death
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