Friday, April 6, 2012

Who Rejected Jesus?

“Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). 

“For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3). 

“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...” (Matthew 20:18).

The inherent legalism of the Western Church trains our eyes to see Jesus’ suffering as the judgment of God upon our sin, and virtually blinds us to the more obvious point that Jesus suffered from the wickedness of humanity. It was the human race, not the Father, who rejected his beloved Son and killed him.  The wrath poured out on Calvary’s hill did not originate in the Father’s heart, but in ours.  The humiliation that Jesus bore, the torment that he suffered, was not divine but human. We mocked him; we detested him; we judged him. We ridiculed him, tortured him, and turned our face from him. It was not the Father or the Holy Spirit who abandoned Jesus and banished him to the abyss of shame; it was the human race. We cursed him.

Either the Father, Son, and Spirit were caught off guard by our corporate rejection of Jesus, or there is a redemptive genius at work here that is too beautiful for words. Was the Jewish and Roman rejection of Jesus not foreseen by the triune God? Was the Father surprised when we killed the solution? Was Jesus bewildered and the Holy Spirit shocked when things went south and the crowds turned against him? No, of course not. The animosity of the human race towards the Father’s Son was anticipated, and indeed counted on, and literally incorporated (See Acts 2:23) as the critical part in bringing about our real relationship. Here is amazing grace. In breathtaking love, the Lord’s way of relationship and reconciliation involves the shocking acceptance of our cruelty. The Incarnation involves the inconceivable submission of the Trinity to our bizarre darkness and its bitter judgment.

And the point of such shocking grace is to find us, to meet us, to relate to us and to embrace us as we really are as broken, deceived, wounded, terror-filled, and rebellious creatures.  Here is the heart of the grace of the blessed Trinity.  Jesus bowed to suffer from our loathsome enmity.  He took a dagger to the heart.  He willfully and astonishingly submitted himself to us in our profound darkness—and we damned him—and in submitting himself to us he embraced us at our very worst. 

What does this mean?  It means that Jesus took our treachery, our betrayal, our murder and turned them into the way of his Father’s embrace and into the Holy Spirit’s anointing.  We killed him.  Jesus is saying to us on Good Friday: “I can take your murder, and I can let it happen, and in so doing I am accepting you as you are, and I am bringing my relationship with my Father, and my anointing with the Holy Spirit into your murderous darkness.  I use your murder to be the way I bring you into real relationship with my Father and the Holy Spirit. 

Our contribution to our adoption was to pour our wrath out upon Jesus.  And on this day we did.  Jesus took it, and drew us in all our anger and brokenness and sin into his Father’s arms.  Shocking, stunning, beautiful grace. It is not ‘dark’ Friday, but ‘good’ Friday.


Bones said...

How 'good' to spend some time pondering this grace and love! Thanks, Baxter, for sharing your reflections!

Unknown said...

This has to be one of THE most misunderstood points of theology. I'm not sure why the pagan notion of the wrathful Father punishing the innocent Son still persists. I end up pressing against it every time I talk with atheists. Thank you for laying it out clearly here.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the western church and I have never been taught that The Father hated his son. I have understood Jesus to be the propitiation that that satisfies the justice of God. The trinity decided that the son would pay the debt before creation. If Christ did not satisfy the justice of God by receiving our punishment, what did he do? Is death not the the natural out working of sin as designed by God? I just want to understand what you are saying. I can understand that we are culpable for his agony but one central doctrIne seems to be God (the judge) Passing sentence and Christ taking it in Our place. Thoughts??

Jarmas said...

To Anon. (April 8, 7:32pm)

Steve McVey answers your thoughts with some great insight:

I felt the same way you did and it was this, that totally changed my perception of divine justice.

Anonymous said...

Read Baxter a bit more widely and you'll understand what he's saying. The anglican church I've grown up in does teach that, at the moment he cried My God My God why have you forsaken me, that this means the Father looked at the Son bearing our sin and hated him, because he hates sin. And that's why Jesus cried out as a forsaken one. Yet Baxter teaches, and I agree with, that Jesus was not forsaken by God, but was as the man suffering on the cross, momentarily feeling forsaken. Which led him to Psalm 22, which he then prayed on the cross and which ends in the triumph of "it is finished" - Jesus' final words on the cross, and the final words of Psalm 22. The wages of sin is death, not because God has decreed that humans who do one little thing contrary to the law are scum deserving of death, but because sin is a choice to reject God and in rejecting God we reject life. All God's purpose, from day 1, has been is to save us from that choice, not condemn us because of it.
Warren of Sydney

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the helpful comments. I guess I have heard teaching that atleast implied penal substitution. I guess I see the atonement as God destroying sin and death not punishing Jesus. I guess Kruger is not dismissing the necessity of substitution but only rejects it as penal substitution. This makes sense in the context of II Corinthians 5:21. Jesus becoming sin so it could be crucified and take nullify the logical outworkings of our own sins is ultimately death. I can see that he died to receive our consequences.

Timothy Parker said...

So the revelation of God is the reconciliation of man to God, wrought both by the Father and the Son. It is wrong therefore to cause a split to occur in our minds between the Father and the Son. Both the Father and the Son are equally merciful and approachable.

Thom Friedrich said...

Psalm 22:24 tells us that "he (God the Father) has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help." For me this makes the situation plain. The Father's love for the Son is eternally steadfast... Our foolish misunderstandings in no way negate that.

francois said...

Col 2:14 His body nailed to the cross hung there as the document of mankind’s guilt; in dying our death he deleted the detailed hand-written record of Adam’s fall. Every stain that sin left on our conscience was fully blotted out. (The word, exaleipho, comes from ek, out of, and aleipho, with a, as a particle of union, and liparos, to grease, to leave a stain; guilt was like a grease stain upon the conscience of fallen man. The word, cheirographon, translates as hand-written. The word, dogma, comes from dokeo, a thought pattern; thus thought patterns engraved by human experience of constant failure to do what the law required. In his personal handwriting man endorsed his own death sentence. The hands of fallen man struck the body of Jesus with the blows of their religious hatred and fury when they nailed his bloodied body to the tree; they did not realize that in the mystery of God’s economy Jesus was the scapegoat of the entire human race! Isa 53:4, 5
The Mirror

Anonymous said...

Jesus had to be tempted in all things. Wouldn't that include the feeling of God's abandonment? Would our Saviour fail this greatest test? "...tempted in all things, yet without sin." He passed the test that Adam failed. God still loved Adam after he had sinned; it was Adam that had been robbed of faith in his father's love.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Anonymous said...

Please help me with a quandary. I am a strong believer in the nature of God being love. And I get the fact that we can't make Jesus out to be the one that saves us from an angry God: their natures must be consistent. Where I get confused is with the wrath of God - the Father. I just read every reference to "wrath" in OT and NT, and there are many. God Himself refers to Himself as wrathful and burning with anger.

As perfect revelation of the Father, do we ever see Jesus in this light, except with the money changers, perhaps? How can we not get confused in our theology with all this wrath and anger in both Testaments? I can follow your post and love every word...but I still see this dichotomy. Or do we just say that wrath is an expression of love...

Anonymous said...


Yes, we can say that wrath is an expression of love, but what are we saying?

I think that God is much more than just someone who does loving things, or who has a law that requires love. No, his very nature is love. He cannot think, or act in any manner that isn't a manifestation of love.

We recoil from the word wrath, because we think of selfish, vengance, or childish loss of control. Consider all the biblical passages that describe love and put God in the place of love. Love, (God), doesn't keep a list of wrongs...think about that. But, this God is wrathful. Something doesn't add up here. Could it be that our definition of wrath is not really what it should be?

If God's wrath is a natural response for someone of great love, then what could that be? Could it be the emotional, wrenching, passionate reaction of a parent to the foolish actions of an uninformed child who refuses to see the wisdom and love offered him/her? Could a loving parent not have very strong feelings when dealing with one so loved?

The difference between loving wrath and our wrath, is that God did what needed to be done, for our good, for our salvation. He took our sickness into himself. He took our abuse. He took the full results that our sin would have dealt to us, leaving us enough consequences to let us learn of reality.

How can he really be "mad" at us when he is the one who set up the whole situation? Who let the serpent into the garden in the first place? No, it's just that this grand dream of his requires all who participate, to endure the pain of childbirth. There is no way to have us in his circle without suffering. Still it is given to some now to trust him.

"This is eternal life, that they may know you..."


robianov said...

Have been reading with fascination a lot of Baxter's stuff and other material about Trinitarian theology for a while now, as well as listening to Dr Bruce Wauchope's Perichorisis lectures on the Gospel and Mental health. I have had 30 years in traditional evangelical churches and I too have been wrestling with the issues about the wrath of God.

I can see the point of an aspect of wrath being the "NO" to all that would alienate us from His love, but I have a problem with many scriptures (not just OT) that suggest that God's anger burns not just against the sin, but also against the sinner, and that punishment for sin is a real issue.

eg Deut 29.19-21
2 Samuel 6.7
Matt 10.28
2 Corinth 5.10-11
Heb 10.26-31
2 Thess 1.7-10

Also in Isaiah 53.10 there seems a clear statement of
punishment falling on the suffering servant from within the Godhead.

I have read "Jesus and the undoing of Adam" twice now and found much that has expanded my vision of the Gospel. However Baxter's discussion of the legal interpretation of the Gospel (p45-48) seems to set up a false antithesis between the Trinitarian position and a straw man parody of the Penal Substitution position which to my mind makes this a disappointingly weak point of the discussion.

I would really welcome your help with these issues as I appreciate the implications of a false view of God not only on one's own life but also how one communicates the Gospel to others.

I am just concerned that in embracing Baxter's view, that there is a danger of denying certain aspects of God's nature which seem very clear in scripture and this could have equally important ramifications.