I grew up being taught that God was a holy God who could not allow sin to exist in His presence, and had no choice but to eternally punish sin. This is the reason we needed an intercessor, to protect us from this holy God. It is also why we needed hell. A place for those who chose to stay in sin, as they could not exist in the presence of this holy God.
As I read the gospel accounts, I find a conflict. First of all, Jesus is God incarnate. He walked as God in the form of a man. And he spent the bulk of his time around sinners. How does this match up to a God who cannot allow sin in His presence. Jesus didn’t avoid sinfulness, but rather it was drawn to him. He didn’t hide from sinners, but sought them out.
Then I read the story of the prodigal son. Based on my early understanding of God, the father should have been repulsed by his sinful son upon his return home. His sinfulness should have caused the father to hide his face. But this is not the sight we see. Instead we see a father who runs to his sinful son, embraces him, weeps with him, and welcomes him home. Then he proceeds to throw a party for his sinful son.
In light of this, maybe Jesus didn’t come to protect us from a father intent on punishing us for our sinfulness, but rather He came to point us to a father who desires to redeem us from our brokenness. Maybe we have a redeemer and a restorer of things that are broken and destroyed, rather than just salvation from a wrathful God.