Newsletter Subscribe
Australian Catholics Subscribe

The Crucifixion equation – questions and reflections

James O'Brien  |  27 March 2019

Read Mercy, maths and the Crucifixion in Australian Catholics and take part in the various reflections and activities.


  • Jim McDermott argues that the Christian understanding of salvation is too often reduced to a maths equation of ‘Jesus dies = we are saved’. Why does he find this unsatisfying?
  • The author argues that how we think about Jesus’ death reveals how we think about God. Why is so much at stake?
  • Reflect on McDermott’s question – ‘what kind of a God would be OK with human sacrifice?’
  • When we ‘start thinking in terms of love’, McDermott reflects, we believe a new story. What do you make of the story that God sought to become human when he ‘saw how hungry and confused and sad we were, and wanted to be the light that would shine in our darkness’? How does this account of Jesus becoming human inspire hope?
  • The author writes that faithfulness is ‘the key that unlocks the story of our salvation’. He describes Jesus never walking away from the people as the evidence that God has ‘a dogged unrelenting faithfulness to us’. How does this faithfulness save?
  • How does Jesus’ fidelity work as Good News when we too are ‘hungry for hope and kindness’?


  • Jim McDermott writes that in the ancient world ‘the Gods were believed to be appeased … through sacrifice’. Research with a partner what ‘ritual sacrifice’ is. What examples are there in ancient history and the Old Testament? Present your findings to the class.
  • Notice the sorts of words that come through in the second half of the article ’s ‘thinking in terms of love’: faithfulness, light, hope, love… and create a mind map as a class of more words that emerge from reflecting on Easter’s significance.
  • McDermott writes that Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection are ‘a package deal’. Prepare a plan for a marketing campaign inviting people to attend the church’s Easter liturgies. In it create a proposal for perhaps a video to be shown on TV or a social media campaign. Make use of the mind map prepared in the previous point to gather ideas for what you wish to emphasise.
  • McDermott writes that Jesus’ ‘commitment [to love] threatened both individuals great and small, and the overall religious and political systems, which marginalised some to “protect” the faith or state’. As a class, talk about who is marginalised in today’s ‘religious and political systems’. Create a list of groups made marginal today in society and or church. Form groups of three or four and workshop together what a ‘commitment to love’ (as shown in Jesus) would do for and with the particular group of people. Present your ideas to class.
  • Spiritual exercise derived from the article: Take time to prepare yourself, straight back, feet on the ground, closed eyes. Imagine God looking upon the world with all the people in it going about their days. See how the people are in need, ‘hungry and confused and sad’. Hear God desire to send light to the darkness, with love and help for the people. Now see in your mind’s eye how God is moved to send his Son to earth to live among us as a human being. Prayerfully read Luke 1:26-38 – the story of the annunciation in light of this exercise. Share with the person next to you how this was for you.


For younger students

‘Mercy, maths and the Crucifixion’ argues that the way we have commonly understood Jesus’ death is no longer helpful to us. Jim McDermott affirms that God’s love of us led to his becoming human in Jesus, and God’s faithfulness meant never running away from us, even unto death.

  • In groups of three read what Jesus said to the criminal beside him on the cross ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). Now draw the three crosses on the hill at Calvary, and make your drawing reflect on this Promise of Paradise. What images best show how near paradise is – include them in your drawing.
  • Spend time in quiet reflecting on who reveals their love to you in your daily life. Ask yourself ‘how does this person give me life? How do I feel called to respond?’




Request permissions to reuse this article

Interested in more? Sign up to our weekly Catholic Teacher and Parish Life e-newsletters for the faith formation resources you need.

Catholic Teacher sign-up

Parish Life sign-up

This website uses cookies to give you the best, most relevant experience.

Using this website means you are okay with this.

You can change your cookies settings at any time and find out more about them by following this link