It is simply not the case that an adequate understanding of the execution of Jesus can be developed that does not, at the same time, pay attention to the characteristic features of his life as reflected in the accounts of the Gospels. Indeed, what is sometimes called the “mystery of the cross” is often the consequence of severing this connection, so that the death of Christ seems to come out of nowhere. Because it seems so arbitrary and unmotivated, it then becomes necessary to provide Christ’s death with arcane explanations unrelated to history and experience. Perhaps it was for this reason that the Gospels were written – to anchor the death (and resurrection) of Christ in the history and experience of Jesus and those with whom he was remembered to have interacted. Without this anchoring, the death of the Messiah could become an arcane and esoteric “fact” without connection to the life and experience of those who were drawn to his message and his story.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr., Transforming Atonement: A Political Theology of the Cross, 16-17