I have never been able to understand the idea that Jesus was a sacrifice demanded by God in order to reconcile humanity with the Triune God. What I have come to affirm and see in my study in history and in the Bible is what is traditionally known as "Ransom theory".
Ransom is the most ancient of theories to understand the atoning death of Jesus. The idea that humanity is held captive by Satan and Jesus exchanges his life for ours as a "ransom" to Satan is something that I once thought ridiculous because I do not believe in a traditional Satan. In fact for years I did not think Satan existed at all. But much has changed for me.
By my readings of Scripture, Wink, Girard, Lewis, evolutionary psychologists, sociology, and how crowds function, I have come to affirm that humanity, while good, is easily and quickly wrapped up in forces beyond our awareness and control. We are constantly manipulated by marketers all the time to convince us that we need a product or service. As I look out into the world, I acknowledge that we are also susceptible to another manipulation - finding victims to blame for our problems or troubles in society.
Don't like the government - blame the president (whoever it is).
Don't think the oil spill is your problem - blame BP, or the government or American's dependence on fossil fuels.
Don't like Health Care - blame doctors, insurance companies, overweight people, government, etc.
Don't like a religion - then demonize the founder or the adherents
In the infamous song by the creators of South Park the movie:
"Times have changed, our kids are geting worse. They won't obey their parents, they just wanna fart and curse!
Should we blame the government, or blame society? Or should we blame the images on TV?
Blame Canada, Blame Canada!"
Call it a universal truth if you like - we all blame something/someone for the problems of the world. And the thing is, when we participate in this blaming activity, we always believe that we are correct and in the right to do so. We blame those people and things which we believe to be a fault. And these things must be at fault because we are blaming them.
Jesus willingly submitted to this cycle in order to expose it. He became the scourge of the crowd and united the crowd in shouts of “crucify”. During his trial, Jesus did not try to save himself or defend himself – he remained silent through most of the trial. He was not trying to save his life, but rather expose the cycle of Satan in order that humanity might see it. When he hung on the cross, Jesus looked like any other victim at that point - the unanimous crowd identified him as the “root” of the problem/scandal/tension.
At that moment, with the resurrection and the arrival of the Holy Spirit, humanity began to see this cycle of violence and stand up for the innocent victims of the world. At this point humanity was freed from the firm captivity of Satan – we had an alternate way to deal with tension in society. Rather than blaming and finding scapegoats, God through Jesus by the Spirit showed us the truly lasting way to peace is not through violence and scapegoating, but through forgiveness and mercy.
It is for these reasons that I do not think Jesus could have been a sacrifice ordained by God. If God ordained the sacrifice of Jesus in order to resolve the tension between God and humanity then God would be no other than duped by the cycle of violence of Satan. Rather, God through Jesus willingly enters into the cycle of violence in order to expose and eradicate the domination of Satan’s hold on humanity. If you want some scripture, I invite you to read the Gospels, especially John.