I’m not saying anything new if I say that generations of believers in every god have “given things” to their god. The gift was whatever could be afforded and was around at the time. As herdsmen, doves, lambs, sheep, goats and the occasional ox were the standard in Biblical Israel.
The sacrifice encourages a god to be friendly with you and to prove you are sincere, it costs money or, at least, reduces your herd. It’s like having an honoured guest whom you treat well, spending more than you normally would, in the hopes of getting a favour later.
What can a god give you that you should make a sacrifice? In OT times it was basically a better life – milk and honey, fruitful fig trees, many wives and sons plus no leprosy, blindness, palsy, deafness or lameness.
Why would he not do that anyway? Well, basically because you have sinned or your parents, unto 10 generations, have sinned. So the sacrifices went to (i) have him forget your sins and those you inherited. And sins caused bad things to happen to you.Isa:43:25: I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
(ii) remember that you were alivePsalms:13:1: How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
So we see that God forgives sins; so why did He need Jesus to forgive sins?
Before that, though, how seriously did the Jews take sacrifices? Well there is a lot of Deuteronomy and Leviticus given over to it, Genesis has several important mentions of it, Jeremiah uses it when converting the Jews to monotheism. But the three main stories are Abraham and Isaac, Jephthah’s daughter and the dramatic human sacrifice to the god Chemosh that caused the Jewish army to flee.2Ki:3:26: And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.
2Ki:3:27: Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.
Given this deadly seriousness with which the Jews saw any
sacrifice, Ne:10:36: Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
and the horror with which they saw human sacrifice (above) added to which was Jesus’s claim, spoken twice:M't:10:5: These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
M't:10:6: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
M't:10:7: And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
andM't:15:24: But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then we see the mythical Jesus as a man who understood Jewish culture and Judaism deeply and from the start:Lu:2:46: And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
Lu:2:47: And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
He must have been acutely aware
that people felt that they might be good but were occasionally bad, and that their parents might have upset God. (Jewish guilt). He dismisses inherited sin inJoh:9:2: And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Joh:9:3: Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
It’s as simple as that - all that is left is your own sin and your own sin did not mean that you would be disabled or made ill - You were good so you can go to heaven; that's the only reason.
Now the idea of a sacrifice was that you decided on the purposes of the sacrifice. It was usually for appreciation of God and the propitiation of sins. You would decide which sins.
So He (who is God) decides that there will be a sacrifice – the most dramatic sacrifice -> a human sacrifice -> himself. So it was that Jesus decided what sins His sacrifice would absolve. There was no need for any proof or argument, if someone said, “I’ll be sacrificing a sheep on Tuesday because I hit Ashbag of Tyre. I feel bad and need forgiveness just in case I drop dead.” everyone would say, “Fine! Can I come along?” No one said, “How does that work?”
Back to the question: So we see that God forgives sins; so why did He need Jesus to forgive sins?
He didn’t - it had nothing to do with him.
The folk-hero Jesus was inspired into getting rid of the feeling amongst some Jews that sacrifices were expensive, the priests live on the fat of the land and did nothing other than make life awkward for people, that somehow their parents had damned them and it was God’s capricious will, accessible only through the Temple and at a price, that could forgive their sins.
Jesus had thus ruined the business model of a moneymaking scheme that had lasted 2,000 years – people could speak to Him directly and He would fix things – He was (alleged to be) God’s firstling of the flock
– He was at God’s right hand. Heaven would no longer be a distant dream, it was real and he’d be back to take people there. And this time, it was personal!
He was going to sacrifice himself as proof of all this. And to anyone who believed Him (or believed in him) this was going to happen – it had to – there had been a sacrifice. Proof, if proof were needed!
So if it were not real, why did Jesus let himself get sacrificed. I honestly believe that he was taken in by his own rhetoric - he started to believe what he was saying and painted himself into a corner, shrugged his shoulders and died like any other lunatic fringe sect leader.
Strange that it didn’t catch on in Israel.