What an excellent question, and an opportunity to share with you some of The Urantia Book’s matchless teachings regarding Jesus’ mission and lifework.
In today’s world, and for centuries before this, the general understanding of the Christian churches regarding Jesus’ mission has been that Jesus came to earth to act as a sacrificial lamb – that his death on the cross was a necessary event in order for man to be ransomed from the “evil one—" saved by the shedding of innocent blood, much like the ancient rituals of slaughtering lambs, rams, goats and so forth at certain times of the year. This understanding has been predicated upon the belief in a God who is all-powerful, but also jealous and quite vengeful. And since information regarding the actual LIFE of Jesus in the Bible and elsewhere is so scanty, practically all of the emphasis has been placed on the facts of his terrible and shocking death on the cross – and his subsequent resurrection on Easter morning.
The children of God – human beings – have been portrayed as sinful and lost, and the only way that we can be redeemed is through the blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross. This is known as “the atonement doctrine.” The Urantia Book gives us a picture of God the Father which is far different from that of the Old Testament – a picture that is consistent with the actual teachings of Jesus, as revealed in Part IV of the book. Jesus showed us a loving father, a faithful upholder, and not a vengeful judge. And this was his mission: to reveal to humanity the loving nature of God, and to proclaim the good news that man is a child of God, and that salvation is to be had through faith. The shocking events of his death and resurrection so overshadowed his original message so as to practically obliterate it, substituting the doctrine of atonement.
Following are a few Urantia Book quotes which expand upon the atonement doctrine, its ancient beginnings, and its unfortunate repercussions:
It might help you to understand even better to let the words of Jesus speak here:
(63:6.4) Very early the Andonic peoples formed the habit of refraining from eating the flesh of the animal of tribal veneration. Presently, in order more suitably to impress the minds of their youths, they evolved a ceremony of reverence which was carried out about the body of one of these venerated animals; and still later on, this primitive performance developed into the more elaborate sacrificial ceremonies of their descendants. And this is the origin of sacrifices as a part of worship. This idea was elaborated by Moses in the Hebrew ritual and was preserved, in principle, by the Apostle Paul as the doctrine of atonement for sin by "the shedding of blood."
(2:6.5) Righteousness implies that God is the source of the moral law of the universe. Truth exhibits God as a revealer, as a teacher. But love gives and craves affection, seeks understanding fellowship such as exists between parent and child. Righteousness may be the divine thought, but love is a father's attitude. The erroneous supposition that the righteousness of God was irreconcilable with the selfless love of the heavenly Father, presupposed absence of unity in the nature of Deity and led directly to the elaboration of the atonement doctrine, which is a philosophic assault upon both the unity and the free-willness of God.
(149:2.3) 1. The effort to connect the gospel teaching directly onto the Jewish theology, as illustrated by the Christian doctrines of the atonement—the teaching that Jesus was the sacrificed Son who would satisfy the Father's stern justice and appease the divine wrath. These teachings originated in a praiseworthy effort to make the gospel of the kingdom more acceptable to disbelieving Jews. Though these efforts failed as far as winning the Jews was concerned, they did not fail to confuse and alienate many honest souls in all subsequent generations.
(4:5.4) The barbarous idea of appeasing an angry God, of propitiating an offended Lord, of winning the favor of Deity through sacrifices and penance and even by the shedding of blood, represents a religion wholly puerile and primitive, a philosophy unworthy of an enlightened age of science and truth. Such beliefs are utterly repulsive to the celestial beings and the divine rulers who serve and reign in the universes. It is an affront to God to believe, hold, or teach that innocent blood must be shed in order to win his favor or to divert the fictitious divine wrath.
(98:7.1) A Creator Son did not incarnate in the likeness of mortal flesh and bestow himself upon the humanity of Urantia to reconcile an angry God but rather to win all mankind to the recognition of the Father's love and to the realization of their sonship with God. After all, even the great advocate of the atonement doctrine realized something of this truth, for he declared that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself."
(103:4.4) Jesus swept away all of the ceremonials of sacrifice and atonement. He destroyed the basis of all this fictitious guilt and sense of isolation in the universe by declaring that man is a child of God; the creature-Creator relationship was placed on a child-parent basis. God becomes a loving Father to his mortal sons and daughters. All ceremonials not a legitimate part of such an intimate family relationship are forever abrogated.
(194:2.8) Jesus lived a life which is a revelation of man submitted to the Father's will, not an example for any man literally to attempt to follow. This life in the flesh, together with his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, presently became a new gospel of the ransom which had thus been paid in order to purchase man back from the clutch of the evil one—from the condemnation of an offended God. Nevertheless, even though the gospel did become greatly distorted, it remains a fact that this new message about Jesus carried along with it many of the fundamental truths and teachings of his earlier gospel of the kingdom. And, sooner or later, these concealed truths of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men will emerge to effectually transform the civilization of all mankind.
On the subject of the Father's love for mankind, Jesus said:
(165:3.8) "…I came into this world to reveal the Father to you and to lead you to the Father. The first I have done, but the last I may not do without your consent; the Father never compels any man to enter the kingdom. The invitation ever has been and always will be: Whosoever will, let him come and freely partake of the water of life."
(149:6.2) "…I have come to reveal the Father's love so that you will be attracted to the worship of the Eternal by the drawing of a son's affectionate recognition and reciprocation of the Father's profound and perfect love. I would deliver you from the bondage of driving yourselves through slavish fear to the irksome service of a jealous and wrathful King-God. I would instruct you in the Father-son relationship of God and man so that you may be joyfully led into that sublime and supernal free worship of a loving, just, and merciful Father-God.
With a little bit of reflection, one can see that the idea of the atonement is an idea which is not conducive to establishing a loving relationship with our Creator Father. Modern religions emphasize Jesus’ death and resurrection over his actual life, which in itself was a revelation of the Father’s love to all mankind – even to the inhabitants of the universe in which we live.
(142:2.2) "…I come in the flesh to reveal the Father in new glory and to show forth his love and mercy to all men on all worlds. As the gospel of this kingdom shall spread over the world with its message of good cheer and good will to all men, there will grow up improved and better relations among the families of all nations. As time passes, fathers and their children will love each other more, and thus will be brought about a better understanding of the love of the Father in heaven for his children on earth. Remember…that a good and true father not only loves his family as a whole—as a family—but he also truly loves and affectionately cares for each individual member."
So – one might ask “What about Jesus’ death on the cross? Is that not important? It is certainly important. The Urantia Book devotes much attention to the passion of Jesus, and the terrible events of that week. It was an unprecedented spectacle of cruelty and barbarity practiced on the Son of God. The cross is forever a symbol which we can embrace and use as an example of the creature’s desire to do the will of God.
This following section may be helpful for you to understand the importance – even without the atonement doctrine – of the Cross of Jesus.
You can see how important Jesus’ death on the cross is to our understanding of Jesus. Jesus did not have to die in this fashion. His mission of revealing the Father was completed before the terrible events of the Passion, but he chose to go through the agony and humiliation of death on the cross in order that he might complete his earth life the way all mortals do—by actually dying. The fact that his death was caused by wicked men was not God's plan. It was planned by men, but Jesus chose to accept his fate, rather than to escape the cross—which he could have done, had he so wished.
The Meaning of Jesus’ Death on the Cross
(188:4.1) Although Jesus did not die this death on the cross to atone for the racial guilt of mortal man nor to provide some sort of effective approach to an otherwise offended and unforgiving God; even though the Son of Man did not offer himself as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and to open the way for sinful man to obtain salvation; notwithstanding that these ideas of atonement and propitiation are erroneous, nonetheless, there are significances attached to this death of Jesus on the cross which should not be overlooked. It is a fact that Urantia has become known among other neighboring inhabited planets as the "World of the Cross."
Jesus desired to live a full mortal life in the flesh on Urantia. Death is, ordinarily, a part of life. Death is the last act in the mortal drama. In your well-meant efforts to escape the superstitious errors of the false interpretation of the meaning of the death on the cross, you should be careful not to make the great mistake of failing to perceive the true significance and the genuine import of the Master's death.
Mortal man was never the property of the archdeceivers. Jesus did not die to ransom man from the clutch of the apostate rulers and fallen princes of the spheres. The Father in heaven never conceived of such crass injustice as damning a mortal soul because of the evil-doing of his ancestors. Neither was the Master's death on the cross a sacrifice which consisted in an effort to pay God a debt which the race of mankind had come to owe him. p2016:9 188:4.4 Before Jesus lived on earth, you might possibly have been justified in believing in such a God, but not since the Master lived and died among your fellow mortals. Moses taught the dignity and justice of a Creator God; but Jesus portrayed the love and mercy of a heavenly Father.
The animal nature—the tendency toward evil-doing—may be hereditary, but sin is not transmitted from parent to child. Sin is the act of conscious and deliberate rebellion against the Father's will and the Sons' laws by an individual will creature.
Jesus lived and died for a whole universe, not just for the races of this one world. While the mortals of the realms had salvation even before Jesus lived and died on Urantia, it is nevertheless a fact that his bestowal on this world greatly illuminated the way of salvation; his death did much to make forever plain the certainty of mortal survival after death in the flesh.
Though it is hardly proper to speak of Jesus as a sacrificer, a ransomer, or a redeemer, it is wholly correct to refer to him as a savior. He forever made the way of salvation (survival) more clear and certain; he did better and more surely show the way of salvation for all the mortals of all the worlds of the universe of Nebadon.
When once you grasp the idea of God as a true and loving Father, the only concept which Jesus ever taught, you must forthwith, in all consistency, utterly abandon all those primitive notions about God as an offended monarch, a stern and all-powerful ruler whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing and to see that they are adequately punished, unless some being almost equal to himself should volunteer to suffer for them, to die as a substitute and in their stead. The whole idea of ransom and atonement is incompatible with the concept of God as it was taught and exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. The infinite love of God is not secondary to anything in the divine nature.
All this concept of atonement and sacrificial salvation is rooted and grounded in selfishness. Jesus taught that service to one's fellows is the highest concept of the brotherhood of spirit believers. Salvation should be taken for granted by those who believe in the fatherhood of God. The believer's chief concern should not be the selfish desire for personal salvation but rather the unselfish urge to love and, therefore, serve one's fellows even as Jesus loved and served mortal men.
Neither do genuine believers trouble themselves so much about the future punishment of sin. The real believer is only concerned about present separation from God. True, wise fathers may chasten their sons, but they do all this in love and for corrective purposes. They do not punish in anger, neither do they chastise in retribution.
Even if God were the stern and legal monarch of a universe in which justice ruled supreme, he certainly would not be satisfied with the childish scheme of substituting an innocent sufferer for a guilty offender.
The great thing about the death of Jesus, as it is related to the enrichment of human experience and the enlargement of the way of salvation, is not the fact of his death but rather the superb manner and the matchless spirit in which he met death.
This entire idea of the ransom of the atonement places salvation upon a plane of unreality; such a concept is purely philosophic. Human salvation is real; it is based on two realities which may be grasped by the creature's faith and thereby become incorporated into individual human experience: the fact of the fatherhood of God and its correlated truth, the brotherhood of man. It is true, after all, that you are to be "forgiven your debts, even as you forgive your debtors."
I strongly recommend that you read through PartIV of The Urantia Book, and see for yourself the magnificent unfolding of the Master's life and death. Also, please feel free to explore the many offerings on Truthbook.com regarding Jesus. A few that you might look at are: Jesus Light of the World flash, Who Was Jesus? flash, Illustrated Great Jesus Stories, and Jesus in The Urantia Book. You will find a wealth of information regarding Jesus, his life, and his mission. Thanks again for this very important question, and I hope this reply has been helpful to you.