In the last post I talked about how Jesus “became our Sin” on the cross. Hopefully I at least introduced a new way of seeing what “becoming our Sin” really means. I tried to show how the power of Sin is the “Sin” that Paul is talking about. This “Sin” is our lost identity, our orphaned spirit, our perceived rejection and more. The power of Sin is the fallen Adam condition of hiding in the bushes. In that place of we act out selfishly and independently. We do whatever we need to do to survive. The darkness of the bushes is our blindness to who God really is. He really is Love and kindness and joy and goodness. He really is our amazing Father who we declare as Abba or Daddy. Before Jesus mankind had a fallen perspective of God. We were alienated in our minds and enemies in our hearts towards God. We may have worshiped Him and tried to follow His laws and tried to please Him out of fear of punishment, but Jesus shows us a different picture of our Father. He shows us a Father who cares for us and wants us to know our adoption in Him. He wants all of mankind to participate in His family that He created us for. Still we were so broken and dysfunctional in our thinking that we couldn’t trust or even believe in a God who would be that good.
So the cross is the bridge of trust. The incarnate God has joined Himself to mankind. The God-man had merged the creator with the created. In the incarnation is the revelation of the Word become flesh. The very nature and essence and wisdom and character…the glory of God was in Jesus. Jesus showed us the Father and we rejected Him. I hope you caught that last part. We rejected the revelation of God as our loving and kind and forgiving and non-violent and giving and merciful and patient and perfect Father. We rejected Him to death. In doing that we saw where the dysfunction was rooted. We saw where the thinking was broken. We saw where the separation resided. We saw where the rejection and hiding and orphaned thinking really resided…in us. We took our orphaned Sin power and projected it on our creator on a cross. We put our shame and guilt and condemnation and remorse and hatred and violence and justice and righteousness squarely in the face of Love Himself. We spit on the one who forgives…and He did. We vomited all our rejection power of Sin on Jesus and He took it. He took it to death. He didn’t retaliate or bring vengeance. Even after He was raised from the dead, He didn’t bring legion of angels or lightning bolts from heaven to repay us all for our killing Him. No, He saved us and redeemed us and reconciled us. He remained an incarnate human, joined to humanity and seated at the right hand of the Father. He took us with Him so we could know the Father.
He did all of that not because “He had too.” There was no cosmic penal code that had to be balanced. There was no Karmatic law of the universe that had to be satisfied. There was no yin for a yang. There was no payment required for forgiveness because that isn’t forgiveness but judicial payments. God’s forgiveness was and is free. God’s love was and is unconditional. God’s mercy was and is eternal. God’s grace was and is infinite. God’s purpose for the cross was one and only one thing…you. He was willing to take all our venom and let it kill Him for us to trust Him. He was willing to become everything we had become towards God for us to know that we cannot be rejected even at our lowest point. Jesus became the most rejected and humiliated and shamed and mocked person who ever lived so we would know there is no place we can go that He hasn’t been. We can be sure that our worst moment, our worst nightmare, our “cat in a bath” fight against Him will not affect His inclusion and acceptance of us. He proves that on the cross.
He goes to the depths of our worst nightmare so we can find Him there standing with us. We can never ever again see God as our enemy. It isn’t possible. He has proven there is nothing we can do that will deter His love. His intense desire for us is His wrath. His intense love for us is a cross. His intensity is Jesus rejected by mankind. Our unearthly assurance is Jesus on a cross, in a grave and raised again.
But what about verses like these:
1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation (the at-one-ment or mercy-seat) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)
1Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for (hyper-above and over and covering) our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (ESV)
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (KJV)
Hopefully after seeing the cross differently, verses like these make more sense. For an in-depth discussion about “propitiation” check out this post where I show this is a rich word that meant mercy-seat. The mercy-seat covered all our junk and is the mirror we look in when we see Jesus revealed in us from glory to glory. As for Christ needing to die for our Sins, can you see that of course He died for our Sins in that He took them away? He made them a non issue? If He didn’t die we could still find loopholes and not trust they were removed? Paul’s reference to “in accordance with the Scriptures” is really a stretch since there were no scriptures that said “and the messiah will come and die on a cross” but there were references like Isaiah 53 and Psalms 22. Check them out and you will see Jesus our savior taking all the beating from us on the cross and He forgives us all the way.
This last verse I want to pause on for a moment. Death for the Jew was different from the way we see it. The concept of death had morphed over a thousand years or so but the central theme was “death was not a good thing.” Life for the Israelite was a now life, this life, good life, full life, complete life, whole life, not sick life, accepted life, in covenant life, life in community and life in family. When they “sinned” the law required that they give up all that good stuff they associated with “life.” Death was being put out of the temple, put out of the community, put out of the land of promise and more. Death was not just what happens when we stop breathing but what happens when we stop living. So when Paul says the wages of Sin are death He means that our living is impacted by our “sinning” to such an extent that it isn’t living anymore. Life becomes death. And of course eventually we all die literally.
This is where it gets interesting. The Jewish concept of literal death was pretty gloomy. Sheol was not a great place. It wasn’t a place of punishment but it was a place of “not living.” Living and life was everything to them so to be without it was not a good thing. There was the hope of being in Abraham’s bosom but even that was a mystical concept left for big thinkers. For the regular folks life was the focus not the afterlife. Later the second temple Jews (after Babylon) began to explore the concepts of resurrection and afterlife. Their theories included stuff like Gehenna as the restorative “hell” that burned away any remaining “sin” or “uncleanness” after literal death. It was very much like the purgatory concept we see in some religions today. Still there was this hope that even our “lifeless bodies” (a bad thing) would find “resurrection life” at some point. If it took some time in Gehenna, so be it. At least it was better than a lifeless eternity in Sheol.
OK, way too much background but all of that to say…Jesus dies so we can KNOW we will not be left in a lifeless state in Sheol or Hades (He took the keys!!). Just like when Jesus meets us in our Sin and rejection and perceived enmity, He meets us in our death. We will all literally die. I don’t mean to shock you but you will not live forever in the body that you are currently living in. I hope you know that. So even in our death we can’t be separated from God. Jesus makes it clear that He meets us in our death. Not only that but when we “give up our lives to have His life” in this life we are joining His life now. What?
All right, I know I just lost everyone but let me say there is a mystery to all of this. In a very practical way we can see our Sin on the cross and know we are OK with Him because He didn’t nuke us when we killed Him. In a very practical way we can have faith that if Jesus is raised from the dead then all of us will be raised from the dead. He is the proof and since we have unearthly assurance of our acceptance in Him (based on the cross discussion) then we know we will be raised again…someday.
There is a very powerful supernatural part of this story that we don’t understand and are lying to ourselves if we think we do understand it. In a mystical way we can “die to ourselves” now and “live His life” now. That is what happens when we give up our right to be “right” in the good-bad paradigm. When we trust God for everything and quite trying to save ourselves, we die to our effort and live in His finished work. When we let go of our doctrines and dogmas and religions, we can find faith in relationship with a real, living, vibrant and loving God. When we stop trying to “know God through the scriptures” we can know God in the life of Jesus and find our eternal life in knowing Him practically and experientially and actually.
We live the vicarious, substitutionary life of Christ. We live in union with Jesus and share His emotions and will and sight and understanding and wisdom. We have the mind of Christ. He speaks to us and teaches us and comforts us and gives us understanding through the Holy Spirit. She is constantly revealing Jesus to us and the Father-Son relationship. We are living the triune life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have to “die” to join them. We have to give up our human wisdom and delusions of causality and human reason to embrace the wisdom of the divine. We have to give up our legal lists and need for balance to embrace the infinitely unbalanced Love of a God who would die on a cross to show His children how much He loves them. Yeah, that is why the cross.