Non-believer question I can't answer?

A non believer friend posed this question and I’m at a loss for an answer. A sacrifice means someone gives up something for another knowing it is gone forever. That is what makes it a sacrifice. Then why do we say Jesus sacrificed his life on the cross? Three days later he got it back. Where was the sacrifice? Thanks

I think there is a problem with his definition of sacrifice. A fast is a sacrifice, and yet you aren’t permanently hungry. You go through a period of hunger pains which you offer up to God as a prayer. Jesus went through a period of intense suffering and pain and death and offered it up to God for our salvation. No one said you can’t eventually get restored back to how you were before, the sacrifice is in what you undergo during the space of time you set for the sacrifice.

A sacrifice is when you give up something good for the sake of something greater. It Can involve a permanent loss, but not all sacrifices involve permanent losses. Except in one sense: it’s a permanent fact that Jesus made His sacrifice by dying for us. Just as it is a permanent fact that we make a sacrifice when we fast. But the fasting and the dying do not have to be permanent.

Nothing is (or was) impossible for Him.

The Latin words at the root of our word “sacrifice” mean “to make holy.” There’s a lot more to the concept than “giving something up.”

Much could be said about this.

Re the cross. If you could get your life back after 3 days, would you still have gone to the cross?

Sacrifice has many meanings. Mothers make a sacrifice when they get a drink for a child that’s in bed and she’s more tired than he is!

But let’s not belittle Jesus’ sacrifice.

Jesus came on earth for a purpose. To die to redeem us from sin. To buy us back from the power of satan.

Why was it necessary for Him to die?

Study the sacrificial system if you have never done it.
Reread the story of Abraham and Isaac. Genesis 22
Reread the story of the last curse God placed on Egypt. Exodus 12

So a sacrifice was necessary. Jesus was God, sacrificing Himself.

Think of it like this:

  1. What could Jesus have meant when He cried out from the cross My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? What could He have meant? Maybe at that moment all the past, present and future sins of all men, ever, fell on Him. How must that have felt for God to feel sin? The purest being, the purest light, suddenly oppressed by darkness and sin. (not that sin entered into Jesus - that’s heretical).

  2. Jesus was God in the realm of heaven, the creator of the universe, all was created by Him.

He became a HUMAN, so that He could redeem us from sin and allow us to go to heaven.

That’s a bit like a human becoming an ant to save them from falling off a cliff.

I’d say that’s some sacrifice, no?


Im a Christian personally, and do not misunderstand what Im saying, but Jesus suffering for a few days until he died on the cross was enough for ALL this to be accomplished? Im not trying to diminish the level of suffering he went thru, but I watched my grandmother suffer for decades before dying with a bone disease.

The great majority of time Jesus spent here on earth did not involve suffering at all, its only the time when he was arrested and eventually crucified that he truly suffered, which Im assuming was somewhere around 3-4 days, the fact that this short time was enough to take away all the sins from every person that would ever live…something just seems strange about that?

Hi Mikekle,

I know what you mean. We keep talking about sacrificing, sacrifice, suffering, etc.

Jesus’ sacrifice can’t be looked at in the same way that we sacrifice ourselves, say, for a child. It’s something much greater. In human terms I guess it’s difficult to understand. I doubt many of us really do. On another thread we’re talking about how God is a kind of mystery because we can’t really understand everything - only what has been revealed to us. And not everything has.

It’s not the type or kind or time of sacrifice Jesus put in. It’ that GOD sacrificed HIMSELF to save us, wretched man that we are! He didn’t have to do this but knew from the beginning of time that it would be necessary.

our SIN and sins would be so great that no HUMAN person could ever pay for it - or get back the marvelous grace we had before Adam fell into disobedience to God. Only God, Himself, could get us back to serving Him.

And how to do that? Think of it. If you have a mean father, you grow up not liking him too much, resenting him, not wanting to followi the rules he hands out to you.

But if you’re lucky enough to have a loving father you grow up loving him a lot, you listen to him and want to follow his rules and you wish to make him happy with you. (well, maybe not when you’re a teenager!).

So Jesus, who is God, died on a cross for you so you could get to heaven and His sacrifice makes you love Him so you want to serve Him.

Did you kinow that the gates of heaven were closed before Jesus’ death and resurrection?

Yeah. It’s a big concept. You don’t grasp it all at once. Take your time and study up on all this. It sounds like you really need to understand. Your grandmother suffered because we’re on this earth, we’re on satan’s turf, he’s the prince of the air. Nothing will be perfect here. Sin has entered into man and also nature. So we get sick, we suffer. But no amount of OUR suffering could pay for OUR sins because we’re not perfect creatures. Jesus was perfect, like that lamb you read about in Exodus.

Jesus didn’t have a sin nature like we do. He suffered specifically to erase this sin nature, or original sin or concupescense, from us so we could be pleasing to God Almighty.

It’s two different things. You may never understand it fully. Like the Trinity. We just have to accept some things on faith.


Thank you for this post, it has helped clear up a few things, I think the mistake I was making, was trying to compare the literal (human) suffering Jesus went thru while here, but its the ACT itself of him doing this for us, is what really matters, but even that begs the question, (especially considering heaven was closed before his resurrection), why would God intentionally create a race of beings and close the doors of heaven to them for a time period?

I realize though, we just cannot understand most of these things, just have to make sure our faith remains strong.

Thanks again, that was really a big help to me.

Two more qjuestions that would make a good thread.

The first question has to do with evil.
The second has to do with the pureness of God.

See you around!


Your friends’ question implies a protestant understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus, namely that Jesus was sacrificed to appease the wrath of God for all of the sins of mankind. Your friend points out that this sacrifice was temporary. I believe your insightful friend points out a flaw in the protestant understanding of the sacrifice.

From a Catholic point of view however, Jesus is showing us the path to holiness so that we can each reconcile ourselves with God. Jesus’ sacrifice is a model. We must each take up our cross. His model is far more far reaching and profound, but we each can make our own sacrifice, participate in and be joined with Jesus’ sacrifice. The fact that Jesus was raised shows that this self pouring of love back to the Father saves us from death and in no way makes his sacrifice any less, in fact shows the result of that sacrifice.

Are you saying Catholics don’t understand Christ’s sacrifice in the same way protestants do?

At every Mass we remember Jesus’ sacrifice.

Yes I am. Although there are many protestant interpretations that are all over the map, the mainstream interpretations are indeed focused on the sacrifice of Jesus as a way to appease the wrath of God for the sins of mankind - a one time event that is complete. Some protestants take offense when we say that we can join our sacrifices to Jesus’ since they think that makes it seem incomplete.

But the fullness of the Catholic faith shows us that God is merciful and does not require punishment and death to appease him. Instead God shows us that with an act of self-sacrificing love and love for the Father, sins are forgiven and death itself is destroyed.

Yes we remember Jesus’ sacrifice and we also participate in it. Something that some protestants might misunderstand.

Many of them do not. Calvin conceptualized Jesus’ sacrifice as necessary to satisfy the “wrath of God”.

[quote=frankenfurter]“Your friends’ question implies a protestant understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus, namely that Jesus was sacrificed** to appease the wrath of God for all of the sins of mankind.** Your friend points out that this sacrifice was temporary. I believe your insightful friend points out a flaw in the protestant understanding of the sacrifice.”


Many of them have also been erroneously taught that His sacrifice was 'substitutionary", meaning that he took our place. This is often conflated with “God the father turned His back on Jesus while He was on the cross” because He was carrying our sins.

God created us out of love, and did not want mankind to live eternally without Him. He closed the gates until, in the fullness of time, His Own Son could provide the perfect sacrifice to restore us to fellowship with Him.

I’ll say this and then I’m pretty done here since everyone could come to understand their faith in whatever manner they wish.

Death on a Friday Afternoon
John Newhouse

Jesus’ last 7 words fromthe cross.

My God My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Theologians have battled with this since the beginning. What exactly did Jesus mean?

It could very well have meant that He felt the distance of God since he HAD taken on the sins of the world and God could not be in the presence of sin. This is NOT the same as some, I’ll call them sects, that understand this to mean that sin penetrated Jesus. Two different concepts. He could have been quoting Psalm 22 - how could we know for sure?

As far as appeasing a wrathful God. Exactly WHY did God accept Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s? Why are sacrifices even necessary? Do we not say that God is a loving God but He is also a just God? Why would He be just? Do you suppose God is only loving and has no wrath? Is God of the O.T. different from the God of the N.T.? God said I am the same, yesterday, today and forever. Do you believe God is NOT upset with us? Why did Jesus even ever have to die? Can’t we just love God and be nice people?

I sometimes think we take a concept of some sect, attribute it to all protestants, and feel somewhat obligated to then disagree with all protestantism when in fact we have a lot in common.

If someone would explain properly to them what it means to “join our sacrifice” they would understand since they also believe in “offering up to the Lord” our daily troubles. It’s the same idea but using different words. As is much in spiritual matters.

Also, they believe we “resacrifice all over again” Jesus at every Mass because they don’t understand the nuance that it is a MEMORIAL. Jesus is timeless and today it’s as if we were standing at the cross 2,000 yrs ago. Another nuance.

So I’m not going to debate nuances or anything else for that matter. Not the debating type. Anyone interested can buy many books and read many articles and come to their own conclusion.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what one beleives as long as they believe in Christ.


According to Fr Mitch Pacwa (EWTN apoloigist and bible scholar) Jesus was quoting Psalm 22.

Also according to Catholic Answers Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 (

Look in a classical music book of piano songs. When the songs were not numbered yet or had names, the index shows the opening line. From that you look it up as number 2, etc. This notion of quoting the opening line is so ingrained in oral cultures that we have to adjust our way of thinking to relate to it.

I can’t find any Catholic sources that do not agree with this interpretation.

Jesus was saying to the Jews present (who knew the reference) that HE is the one described in the Psalm. They all knew exactly what he meant. So should we.

I like Fr. Mitch.

I did say it could have been Psalm 22.

So what was the sacrifcial system all about? If Jesus JUST came here to teach us to be nice, He was kind of like Buddha. No need for the cross…

Are you saying He was just a good example for us?


The English phrase “in sacrifice” in Greek would be “en thusia”. The English word “enthusiasm” comes directly from the Greek, it means “in sacrifice”. The concept of “enthusiasm” conjures up the idea of “love” and “passion”. For some reason “sacrifice” does not contain these ideas of “love” and “passion” it conjures up the idea of “transaction” of “cost” of “exchange”. That conception of “sacrifice” as “transactional” has only found its place in English as a consequence of protestant reformation courtroom theology. It was never meant to be that definition.

Before I was Catholic I would use the argument that since Jesus Christ died for us, it would imply that He would never live again, and we would never die again, however since Jesus Christ rose from the dead and we die, therefore the logical conclusion is that Jesus Christ did not die for us. That is entirely the same argument as your non-believing friend but it is without using the word “sacrifice”.

Gosh Darryl B

I hope I’m misunderstanding you.

Are you saying Jesus did NOT die for us?
What do you mean by “he would never live again”?

The concept of sacrifice is all those things you listed:
Transaction - to pay for
Exchange - in place of us

Redemption - to buy back
Liberate - to free from

Do you not agree?


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