Jesus came to end religion as it was at the time. That’s not a bad thing. God was seen as something to be feared and pacified.
Most of the world has known human sacrifice at some point in its history. People all over would kill other humans as a way to make God like them, or to at least appease His wrath.
By the time of Abraham this was changing to animal sacrifice, but must not have been unheard of, because ol’ Abraham didn’t seem too surprised when God asked for it. The religion of the Israelites was one of the bloodiest. They had to dig a trench around the tabernacle for the blood to flow into. By the first century 90% of the economy of Jerusalem was in providing sacrificial animals, or carrying off the carcasses of the dead animals. To be a priest was to be a butcher.
All of this was to try and make God like them. The idea that God could like them for who they were without the spilling of blood had never occurred to them.
Ancient religion was an attempt to see that nothing new ever happened. They built great monuments to try and control God. You can see this with the Egyptians and their pyramids, the Mayans with their calendar, and the Babylonians with their ziggurats. People want their lives to be safe and controllable, and the best way to do that is to manipulate and control God.
Has anything changed today? We don’t kill people or animals for God anymore, but we still sacrifice to Him. We call it self-sacrifice more often than not. God will like me if I go without this, or if I say this many prayers He will do what I want. We are still trying to control and manipulate God.
All through the Bible you can see that God was not loved. He was feared. Have you noticed that anytime He or one of His angels appeared the first thing said was, “don’t be afraid!” It was never looked at in a good way. It was always who has to be punished, or who has to die, or something else horrible. Historically we have always feared God. I still hear about how we have to fear the Lord. Why? God is seen as having all the power and the only way people know how to deal with that is with and attempts at manipulation.
Jesus came to end all that. God knew the only way to change that was to change the power equation. God had to show us His own vulnerability and invite us into a world of equality with Him, where we are not His slaves, but His friends. That’s what Jesus is. Jesus came to change our minds about God. Most people still get it wrong and think that Jesus came to change God’s mind about us.
Be honest with yourself. Do you look at a crucifix and think to yourself, “wow, God, the master and creator of the universe allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross to show me how much He loves me,” or do you think something like this, “Damn if He nailed His own son to a cross in punishment for sin, what will He do to me if I don’t comply with Him?”
Do you see the difference?