Friday, June 16, 2017
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON THE CROSS
One thing I have found very fascinating in N.T. Wright’s newest book, “The Day The Revolution Began” is the exploration on what is meant by “forgiveness of sins” in the context of the story of Israel.
Throughout the Old Testament scriptures, we read over and over again how God established His people in a “Promised Land” only to have them rebel against Him – or sin – and then being exiled as punishment.
This is the consistent picture throughout the Bible story: God blesses His people – They sin – He exiles them from this good land – They repent of their sins – He restores them to their land.
This pattern is first established in Genesis chapters one and two. God creates a beautiful world, places His wonderful creatures in a garden, they sin and are exiled from the garden.
The rest of Israel’s story is simply this same narrative repeated over and over again with slight variations.
So, if we keep this in mind, then “forgiveness of sins” means the end of exile and the opportunity to return once again to the good land where the people are once again living under the rule and reign of God.
Jesus, the Messiah, arrives on the scene and proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand and the gates are wide open to anyone who wants to return to the “good land” provided by the King Himself.
Because of the death of Christ, we are no longer exiled from God or His “good land” [Kingdom] but freely encouraged to return home, once and for all.
Wright also makes another interesting point later on in his book about how Jesus was falsely accused and crucified for “our sins”. He was not a violent revolutionary, although the people of Israel certainly wanted Him to be. In fact, this violent rebellion was in their hearts – not in His heart. Yet, Jesus suffers the penalty for their sin of violent rebellion, which under Roman law was crucifixion.
Think about that: The people’s sin was that they wanted a violent rebellion against Rome. Jesus did not want this. The penalty for violent rebellion against Rome was crucifixion. The people were eager for this rebellion and in their hearts this desire for violence against Rome was equal to actually committing the sin.
Remember Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount about how looking at a woman with lust was equal to actual adultery? The same principle is in effect here: The people wanted a violent rebellion and the wages of that sin was crucifixion on a Roman cross. But who suffered the punishment for that sin? Was it the people whose hearts were crying out for armed rebellion? No. It was Jesus, the Messiah who came urging them all to love their enemies, bless those who persecuted them and walk the extra mile whenever a Roman soldier handed them their pack to carry.
In this way, Jesus died "for their sins". Their sin was a desire for rebellion. Their penalty was crucifixion, but Jesus took their place on that cross and suffered their fate.
This act of love indicated that their sins were forgiven and that now their exile was over. They could now return home and live once more in the “good land” of the Kingdom of God where Jesus would be their King.
This is Good News. The exile is over. We are free to return home, forever. Our Abba is throwing wide the gates of His Kingdom and welcoming any and all to come and live in his “good land”.
“Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand!” – Jesus, Messiah.