Holy Week 2013: Martyrdom or Atonement?

Good Friday
John19: 16-18

Good Friday is a day to ponder the difference between martyrdom and atonement.

I once overheard an interesting conversation.  The first person was emphasizing the message of the Gospel that “Jesus died for you.”

The second person responded, “A lot of people have died for me.”  He went on to name the military personnel who have died on battle fields, some of whom were his family members and friends.

The second person is right—a lot of people have died for us—-more than we will ever know.  Men and women over the centuries have died for us so that both freedom and faith could be available to us.  We should never fail to give thanks for their sacrifices.

But this leaves us to ask, “What is the difference between martyrdom and atonement?”

Simply this—martyrdom provides the protection and/or preservation of something.  But only atonement provides forgiveness.  No soldier or saint has ever died so that I could be forgiven of my sins.  But that’s exactly why Jesus died.

And then someone will say, “Well, for someone to be able to atone for my sins, that person would have to be more than human.  No human being could ever provide atonement.  Only God can forgive my sins.”

Welcome to Good Friday!

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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