An essential part of Christian orthodoxy is the belief that Jesus died at a particular point in human history. But it is not that Jesus died that has caused Christians to grapple with their understanding of faith; it is why he died that creates the struggle.
For centuries Christian thinkers have wrestled with the concept of the atonement. How the death of Jesus would result in the reconciling of the world to God is no simple puzzle. Yet, this complex topic is often viewed through certain doctrinal filters that reduce the richness of the atonement into single concrete, culturally based images. The New Testament, however, offers multiple metaphors in describing the atoning work of God in Christ.
Returning to the stories of the earliest witnesses to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension--the ground zero of our faith--offers the opportunity to suspend, if only briefly, our doctrinal preferences and step into the shoes of those who saw Jesus die and later return to them as their resurrected Lord. In doing so, we open the possibility of seeing the atonement with fresh eyes, recognizing the broad reach of God's love and learning to communicate that love in new ways.