Yeshua was quite outspoken on the exact mechanism by which people’s sins are forgiven. And it has nothing to do with the “sacrifice” of anything living.
The mechanism Yeshua taught for the forgiveness of sins is simple, very specific, and very Jewish. He taught the self-liberation from spiritual bondage to the consequences of our sins, by releasing others from the consequences of their sins against us. The forgiveness of sins resides solely with the responsibility of the individual person and is not the product of any external intervention.
Yeshua’s name in Hebrew literally means “God saves” and is stated as such in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 1:20-21: But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus (Yeshua, Joshua), for he will save (liberate) his people from their sins.
Yeshua begins his ministry of liberation with the reading of Isaiah 58 in his local synagogue.
Isaiah 58:6-7: Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
The salvific power that Yeshua offers us today is found in his teachings. We have already considered Yeshua’s negative opinion on the value of Jewish blood sacrifices in a previous post. The liberation that Yeshua offered was not political freedom from Rome, nor political or military victory over any other oppressors. Yeshua clearly separates the spiritual from the “political and military” with his response to the question about taxes in the Gospel of Mark. What Yeshua offered was spiritual liberation from sin, the self-created consequences of sin, and the existential condition of God’s seeming absence from the world.
Mark 12:14-17: And they came and said to him, Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not? But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it. And they brought one. And he said to them, Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to him, Caesar’s. Jesus said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
Yeshua taught the practice of Shalach, the spiritual science of forgiveness and non-retaliation. The Aramaic word Shalach as used by Yeshua means liberation or release from the consequences of sin. In modern day English translations of the New Testament it is translated as forgiveness. Please note that the “sin” we are discussing here is personal sin accrued from our actions as mortal human beings. This is the sin that separates us from God. It is not the “original sin” that was invented by Augustine of Hippo as a response to several Christian heresies the church was opposed to at the time. People are born mortal, fallible, ignorant, and prone to poor judgment; but they are not born “fallen”. People learn how to sin on their own, it is not an inherited trait. God pronounced man “very good” in Genesis.
A person who intentionally harms another creates an injustice that sets up a destructive existential imbalance in nature that is beyond their control to amend. In other words, you can’t un-rape or un-kill somebody. Sin generates hub, an Aramaic word meaning the same as karma. Hub implies necessary consequences similar to Newton’s third law where every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It’s like a bullet shot straight up in the air that eventually stops and falls back onto the shooter, but with the same force and muzzle velocity.
The ancient Semitic Philosophy of Justice, Lex Tailones (the law of retaliation) states “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and is the practice of justice without mercy (or grace if you like). Yeshua’s Shalach is to “forgive” someone who sins, offends, or commits injustices against you, thereby releasing that person from the inevitable natural consequences that will rebound back upon them. In other words, it breaks the cycle of “what goes around, comes around”. This is Yeshua’s science of non-retaliation. God’s justice is tempered by mercy and compassion. One must honor the Way of God, not the ways of men and the world of politics. This is the higher law that the Kingdom of God is called towards.
It should be noted that the victim is the only one who has the spiritual power to end the ancient cycle of retaliation. With Shalach the cycle of karmic retaliation is put on hold and the bondage of sin is loosened for both victim and offender. By releasing an enemy from the consequences of his injustice against you, two people are liberated from sin. Desire for vengeance becomes a self-destructive poison in the heart of the victim, but compassionate desire for the liberation of all beings from bondage to evil is healing. The concept of Shalach is deeply embedded into the Lord’s Prayer as seen in Yeshua’s commentary on the prayer in Matthew.
Matthew 6:14-15: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
And from the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 6:27-32: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
Luke 6:37-38: Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
How can you practice Shalach? Forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. For Yeshua, forgiveness of others is a Halakic imperative. (Halakha is the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from both the Written and Oral Torah.)
Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came up and said to him, Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Members of Yeshua’s Kingdom of God are required to forgive in order to gain forgiveness for themselves. It is a sign of the Bar-Enash, the Son of Man Messiah. So how do you release your enemies truly and sincerely from your heart??
- Cultivate inner strength by first trying to understand the offenders point of view, pressures,weaknesses, negative influences, and ignorance of your point of view.
- Cultivate interior fairness and impartiality: “Love your enemies” means to have compassion (Hesed) on them. It doesn’t mean you have to like them, pal around with them, or invite them to play cards! It does mean that you must deal fairly, faithfully, and honorably with them. It also means not to gossip and spread false rumors about them.
- Cultivate right intentions: Real forgiveness can be based only on your own sincere compassion and understanding for others. This is derived for Yeshua’s comment on the greatest commandment, to love God and your neighbor as yourself. It is a “sacrificial offering” from the human soul, not just an external ritual or hollow words from the lips.
These points would be very familiar to any Buddhist, they are the essence of the dharma teaching on the mechanism for practicing loving kindness and compassion. The Christ and the Buddha are spiritual brothers in their teachings. But that’s another post!!
OK, I can hear the question forming in your head right now. “But what about truly evil people like Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong Un, Islamic terrorists, Christian terrorists….. the list is a long one!! Yeshua was certainly aware of the differences between “personal enemies” and “mortal enemies” and differentiated between the two as far as forgiveness was concerned.
Personal enemies are people like family, friends. neighbors, people we meet in day to day life, and the like. When Yeshua’s own villagers tried to stone him to death, he merely parted the crown and walked away; thereby, averting a confrontation. He did not retaliate in kind. These were not mortal enemies.
Mortal enemies are evil that can’t be reasoned with, the true sociopath unable to even recognize compassion. Yeshua aggressively attacked and destroyed all “evil spirits” and yet he prayed forgiveness for the soldiers who crucified him (again not mortal enemies). While Yeshua did not retaliate in kind against mortal enemies, he did attack and destroy the evil forces and mechanisms that motivated them. He was a Spiritual Warrior against the invisible forces of evil.
A recent example of this would be when Syria used chemical weapons against non-combatants. This is a mortal enemy and the US responded, not in kind, but with an attack against the infrastructure and the capacity to do evil. Warning was even given before the attack.
Ephesians 6:12: For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Romans 12:19-21: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This actually worked as a US foreign policy after World War II with the Marshall Plan. Thus forgiveness is a kind of spiritual martial art or science of defense, not offense. It reflects an attack back upon the psychic attackers and defeats them in a subtle, powerful, and all-consuming spiritual power of good.
So Yeshua did indeed free us from the bondage of our sins. But he did it by his teachings and our faith in acting on his teachings.
By Jeffrey L. Taylor