Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him up to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 20-18-19).

Many years ago I studied the four gospels very carefully with one question in mind. Why did Jesus die? What do the gospel writers actually say about the reason for his dying? Being from a conservative background, I had always been taught that Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins, and that on the cross he suffered the wrath of God in our place. Although most of the Western world has been taught a variation on this theme, it is utter nonsense, if not blasphemy against the sheer oneness and love of the Father, Son and Spirit. The clear teaching of the gospels is that it was the human race, not the Father, who cursed Jesus. It was the Jews and the Gentiles, not the Holy Spirit, who abandoned him. We rejected Jesus. We condemned him. We poured our wrath upon him and made him a scapegoat. The astonishing fact is that instead of retaliating, which he could have easily done, Jesus deliberately submitted himself to our profoundly broken judgment. He, the Father’s Son and the anointed One, willfully bowed to suffer our disdain and contempt. We ridiculed him, mocked him and murdered him.

Either our bitter rejection and condemnation of Jesus caught the Father, Son and Spirit by surprise, or it was part of the reconciling plan all along. Jesus did not come to balance a legal ledger, but to reconcile us. He came to establish a real relationship with the human race in all of its sin and terrible brokenness. And how did Jesus establish a real relationship with us in our sin? First, he became one of us, a human being, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Second, he accepted and bore our darkened, abominable condemnation. Jesus did not die to suffer from his Father. Jesus died to meet us at our absolute worst, and dying in the arms of our scorn he did just that. Jesus bore our sin, not figuratively, but literally. We despised him, as Isaiah prophesied. We hated him and crucified him. As he accepted our derision and hatred, as he suffered our sin personally, as we beat him, spit upon him, cursed him and crucified him, he was meeting sinners in their dark, gnarled and twisted world—and he brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with him. This is real reconciliation.

Hallelujah. What astonishing and determined love.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Baxter,

This is precious information. And without this understanding, the traditions surrounding Christ’s death just reinforce the idea of a wrathful God who is ticked off at His Son, and us by extension. Been there; seen it; done it; have the t-shirt; know the song!

Anyway, the best to you always!


Ron said...

This is such a different way of my usual thinking I want to read it again and again because God is much more amazing when this truth is spoken. Ron

Mirit said...

I understand your reasoning that God is not filled with wrath against the human race. It seems like you are reacting to this only. Of course this is not the case. Hasn't the church gotten past this thinking? This is not what the cross was. Jesus died to satisfy universal justice.. He who sins will die.. Rather than all of us dying and being eternally separate from the father because of our sin, Jesus died for all - the innocent for the guilty. Saying that He died simply because of our own condemnation of Him leaves out the importance of His dying in our stead.. not because a wrathful God demanded it but because God submitted to His own law. And He looked for a way to pardon us.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mirit,
I was wondering, then, if universal law is the new god-head? Is it a power that exists unto itself out of the Trinity's being?

I was taught something similar, and I don't know if this is true for you, but on further research, I found that those speaking these things to me were actually speaking about one and the same Being: they saw a passive God/Father, and Universal Justice was actually HIS sly backhand.

Essentially, in my experience, it all came back to the one duelistic model of "God is For me - God is NOT For me".

Maybe this is a relevant thought, maybe not....????


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I would like to throw in my two cents on the issue brought up here. My feeling is that popular Christian thought likes to make God small. One way it does so is to manufacture the idea of “God’s great moral law” or “universal law.” This in turn makes God accountable to law, which makes law bigger than God and also subject to its wrath. So, we must have justice--even for God.

But this is not the reality of God. God created law and is not bound by it. Jesus’ exchange with the law types as recorded in Matthew 12:1-8 shows this. Curiously, this passage even shows that in some cases humans are not bound to law.

However, modern Christianity loves its law. So it quite easily misses seeing a righteousness that comes into play apart from law.

The best to you all always!

J. Richard Parker

Mirit said...

thanks Amy and Richard! thoughts! yay! .. So then, why would a reasonable creator make a LAW and then decide just to chuck it? it means nothing? I would think not. He's intelligent after all. Another way to look at it is that God set forth a way of life for all of His creation. and then.. We blew it big time. Yet, because of His amazing love (which we don't even come close to), He wants to save us the consequences of His own law (which HE thinks is valuable, or why would He set it up in the first place?) There is not a wrathful God looking for punishment, but rather a grieving Father/Godhead trying to find a way to fulfill His law (which is valuable to Him) WHILE trying to save the ones He loves.. (doesn't real life show us this in numerous examples?) So, this amazing God decides that HE will take our place.. HE will satisfy His law and the consequences, even though WE are the guilty ones. and so He takes the punishment that WE deserve. It's not some mystical.. the law becomes a godhead.. it does not exist apart from Him, HE set it up in the first place :-) Is there a righteousness apart from what HE set up? If so, what is it? Does He simply ignore HIs ideas/law? I think that a lot of this conversation is reacting to the church.. a hypocritical bunch of folks who laid some heavy stuff on some of you. Yet, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. God is Good! He is intelligent! He created the universe and He established what is true and morally good! WE screwed it up through our own selfishness, and through His amazing goodness (selah), He made a moral choice to find a way to pardon us. And His pardon was His death. What an amazing God, Father, elder brother. I'm lost for words..

Bobbit said...

Sir Baxter and Lady Mirit,

You both seem so non combative in your views. That is refreshing. Might I hear both of your thoughts on why the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom on that fateful day in light of both of your views on why Jesus died? I've been trying to reconcile the truths surrounding the mercy seat behind the veil and the rending of it the day Jesus died with both of your clearly differing theologies. Look forward to hearing BOTH of you.

Thanks a Bunch.

Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog and read through it and was wondering how, according to Baxter's theology, is it that a person gets to heaven? I've been told that I was a sinner from birth and that I needed to ask God to forgive my sin and repent of my sin. From what I understand, unless I sincerely do this that I will go to Hell. Does Baxter teach that there is a hell and if so who goes there?

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

You can go to the FAQ section of the perichoresis website, and hear the answers to this question and others. Also, check out jesus and the undoing of Adam and some of the essays.
Go back and read through Baxter's previous blogs as well to help with this great question. Thanks, Perichoresis

Anonymous said...

Following on from Mirit, Amy and Richard:

For me,the Law is a guide to show me how hopeless I am - especially when I find I can't keep it. It directs me to that person who fulfills it by changing my heart, so that I no longer even get angry - let alone murder. I no longer even covet my mates wife - let alone perform the act.

How does he do that?

The law still stands but it is much much smaller - almost insignificant now.

He also afflicts my heart (presumably to get my attention) and he whispers other laws, commandments, precepts, judgements, statutes in my ear. They are like wings to a bird. They destroy the works of the devil in my heart.

How does he do that?


Anonymous said...

Hi there!

To me, the law is part of a choice we must make. This choice is between being righteous and having God’s approval through law or being righteous and having God’s approval through Jesus Christ in us, the hope of glory.

The former (law) is holy, righteous, and good. But it can’t bring righteousness, and it can’t win God’s approval in the practical sense because we can’t do law. Furthermore, there can’t possibly be enough laws to deal with all of life’s vagaries. So, all law does for us is bring us into condemnation and thus place us under God’s wrath.

The latter choice (Jesus Christ) easily gains us righteousness (His righteousness) and thus wins God’s approval even in our less than perfect human state. Furthermore, Jesus knows how to walk through this messy life in all of its vagaries. So, Jesus gets the job done for us 100%--past, present, and future.

But we struggle to make the latter choice as it seems preposterous to our natural minds. Yet this is the choice such folks as Paul and John exhort us to make.

The best to you always!

J. Richard Parker

Brett said...

Mirit said, "it does not exist apart from Him, HE set it up in the first place :-) Is there a righteousness apart from what HE set up? If so, what is it? Does He simply ignore HIs ideas/law?"

I think that the righteousness that exists apart from the law is the Trinity itself, and the relationship it is in itself. The law could be a small peek into the fullness of that relationship, but it is not what that relationship is based on. You can't base the eternal God on a created Law. If anything, its the other way around.

Does God submit himself to the Law? I don't think that's even a relevant question. If God established a law then there was a time before its establishment that God existed. I do think that he established it based on the fruit that would come out of it if followed to the T. And from it we get glimpses of what righteousness is.

Without the law Israel probably would have destroyed itself. That could be the main reason why it was established... because he loves his children so much that he made the law to protect them.

So, where I'm at right now is, Righteousness is the Trinity and the righteousness of the law seems like only a shadow of what Jesus came to fulfill. To take it at that seems like something less than what Jesus came to do.

Hope something coherent came through there. Thanks.