Christus Victor (The Victory of Christ) – Part 2

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.—2 Corinthians 5:19Part 2

This week, I’d like to address what I consider to be the first facet of the Christus Victor paradigm. Remember from last week, this paradigm, rather than interpreting the Cross as somehow appeasing something within God, views the purpose of the Cross (and Jesus’ entire life) as “to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Notice the event of the Cross itself was according to God’s purpose or plan. Where this produces not a few philosophical questions that need answered under the “punishment” paradigm of viewing the Cross, the following text about the physical details of the Cross becoming increasingly meaningful when you realize that God’s purpose or plan was to defeat the Devil.

“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” (Acts 4:27,28)

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a Cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:22)

Again, notice the focus of intent in the following statement by Jesus regarding what God was up to in the death of Jesus:

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31)

The Accuser claim’s to possess the dominion (to be the ruler) of this world.

“And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:5,6)

This was done in the decisions made in the garden long, long ago. Satan’s work is two-fold: 1) Corrupt our picture of God so that 2) we rebel against that “God” and follow him instead. And it worked! (See Genesis 3:1-6) Notice the way the Apostles and Jesus put it:

“The whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1John 5:19)

“. . . the prince of this world . . .” (John 16:11)

“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me.” (John 14:30)

The work of the Devil is two-faceted and therefore so must be his defeat. Jesus’ entire life was spent with this sole endeavor: not to appease an angry God so that we could be let into heaven—no, no—but to defeat the Devil and it would climax in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission.” (Luke 13:32)

Jesus knew full well what He was doing:

“When a strong man [the Devil], fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger [Himself] attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.” (Luke 11:21,22)

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:52-53)

Remember the first work of Jesus was to destroy the lies, concerning the Father, the Accuser had spread throughout humanity and which lay at the foundation of our “rebellion.” Remember, our rebellion was not like the Accuser’s. Our rebellion against God was based on a belief in God being something that God is not. It is one thing to know God and then rebel. It is quite a different matter to be deceived about the character of God and rebel thinking those lies to be true. All of us have been deceived. And it was toward breaking the power of this deception that Jesus first turned.

“He [Satan] is a liar and the Father of lies.” (John 8:44; cf. Genesis 3:1-6)

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour. ‘Father, glorify Your name [character/who you really are].'” (John 12:27,28)

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You . . . This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do . . . I have manifested Your name [character / who you really are] . . .’” (John 17:1-6)

It was to manifest God’s glory that Jesus was first and foremost going to the Cross. God’s glory is simply His love put on display. And love would shine brightest hanging on a Roman Cross. But just what would the Cross reveal about God? Space here does not permit me to go into detail at length, but I would recommend going back and re-reading the eSight which began this discussion and the need for this current series of eSights dated January 31, 2012.

Remember, Jesus did not portray the Creditor in Luke 7 as going out and finding someone to pay the debtor’s debt in their stead. Rather, Jesus portrayed the Creditor as simply and frankly forgiving them their debt.

“And when they [two debtors] had nothing to pay, he [their creditor] frankly forgave them both” (Luke 7:42 KJV)

Some see the purpose of Jesus’ Cross as the means whereby Jesus could pay the Father for our sins. But a crude illustration of this kind of logic will suffice to show just one of the multiple philosophical questions this creates. Say you steal $1,000 from me. And my wife contacts you and assures you that she will take responsibility for what you have stolen. She assures you that she will pay me back the amount you stole. Then she takes our joint checking account, the account where she and I are financially “one,” and writes a check to me, in the amount of $1,000, places your name in the memo, and signs her name on the bottom of the check. She then rips the check out of the checkbook and hands it to me and says, “There. $1,000 repaid.” Because she and I are financially one, I still have not been “repaid” anything. I’m still out $1,000. Jesus said:

“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

We are not to look at Jesus as doing something to the Father, but rather, whatever we see Jesus doing, we are to see the Father doing that very thing IN Jesus.

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work.” (John 14:10 NIV)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

This changes everything about the Cross. Ponder for a moment what you know about the nature of forgiveness. If 100 people steal money from you and you choose to forgive every single last one of them, how many people would suffer? Just one. And who would it be? Would it be those who had stolen the money or would it be YOU the one who is forgiving them for the money they stole? “But why?” someone may ask. Because whenever you choose to not count what those 100 people have done to you against them—when you choose to forgive them—what you are really saying is that you will simply bear their theft so they can go free.

When you choose to forgive, you choose to pay the intrinsic cost of letting them off the hook. In this case, it would be the total amount stolen by all 100 people. Ponder for a moment the nature of what forgiveness really is. Forgiveness means refusing to make them pay for what they did. However, to refrain from lashing out at someone—when you want to do so with all your being—is agony. It is a form of suffering. You are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it, completely on yourself instead of taking it out on the other person. It hurts terribly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way: “Everyone who forgives someone bears the other’s sin.”

Now apply this to the following statement from the apostle Paul:

“God was in Christ [Christ was not doing something to the Father, nor was the Father doing something to Christ; rather the Father was actually in His Son in the events we see on the Cross] reconciling the world to Himself [Remember we were the ones who had rebelled against Him. We were the ones needing to be won back], not counting their trespasses against them [revealing that His heart toward them had always been one of Forgiveness]. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

Again:

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) (emphasis added)

Suspended between heaven and earth, Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). Jesus understood that being deceived is a valid basis for extending forgiveness. We do this for those around us every day, too. What Calvary reveals, in contrast to the lies of the Accuser, first, is that God is not the Tyrant demanding our punishment that He has been purported to be. In Fact, God has always been looking at the human race with eyes full of forgiveness. Let us note that God does not forgive us because of the Cross. He neither needed the Cross to move Him toward forgiveness nor did He need the Cross to allow Him to forgive us. No, God instead was at the Cross demonstrating His forgiveness.

We must also not limit God’s forgiveness to simply the event of the Cross. Rather, the Cross is a revelation to us of the forgiveness that has been in God’s heart toward us from the very inception of our rebellion. God’s attitude toward us has always been of forgiveness, for we did not know what we were doing. The revelation of God we get, when we allow the light of Calvary to dispel all of the lies of the Accuser, is that God looks like Jesus.

In Jesus, we do not see a God demanding the death of His enemies, but rather, we see a God dying at the hands of His enemies with a heart overflowing with forgiveness toward His enemies all the while. God is neither severe nor unforgiving. In Jesus, God is neither a harsh judge, nor an exacting creditor. The God in Jesus is a God of radical, indiscriminate, non-condemning, other-centered, self-sacrificial love. (I think I just heard the angels break forth in song.) If any of us are lost in the end, it will not be because we didn’t do enough to convince God to forgive us—it will be because we never believed how truly and genuinely, in the heart of God, we had been forgiven. “Believe not God is in your heart child, but rather that you’re in the heart of God.”

The Cross was not necessary for God to forgive us. Instead, the Cross was necessary to defeat and destroy the works of the Devil.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2.14)

Again, this is only what I consider to be the first facet of how Jesus was victorious (Christus Victor) over the Accuser. Remember, just revealing the truth to us would not be enough. Even if we did see our deception and repent, the Accuser would still (because we have “rebelled” against “God” and chosen to follow him) claim dominion over this world, including us.

“And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.'” (Luke 4:5,6)

“When a strong man [the Devil], fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger [Himself] attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.” (Luke 11:21,22)

It was to defeat the Devil in regard to this second facet that we turn next week.

Keep living in God’s radical self-sacrificial love. Remember we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Keep building the Kingdom.

I love you guys.

Herb

Christus Victor (The Victory of Christ) – Part 1

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” — John 12.31Part 1

I have gotten so much positive feedback from last week’s eSight! I’m so humbled by the encouraging emails that have come in. Also, I’ve gotten a lot of really good and very thoughtful questions. Most of the questions, I have noticed, have one thing in common: they are rooted and grounded in Anselm’s paradigm of defining the Atonement by contrast to the paradigm I was writing from, hence the questions. Let me quickly and simply explain what I mean by this. Within Christianity today, there are actually three acceptable paradigms in which to interpret the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. The oldest paradigm, going all the way back to Jesus, the Apostles, and the first few centuries of Christianity, is the paradigm of Christus Victor. (Latin for Christ is “Victor”, I’ll explain what this is at the end of this eSight.) The second paradigm appeared in its fully developed form in 1097 in a book written by Anselm of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. It must be noted that, although he was a latecomer to the party (a thousand years after Christ and the Apostles), his views regarding the purpose of Christ’s atoning work would become the central belief in medieval Christianity and much of the theology of the Protestant Reformation. His teaching regarding the purpose of Christ’s death is the paradigm many Christians are raised in. Many mistakenly believe that Anselm’s way of interpreting the Cross is their only option and, in all fairness, Anselm’s views are not all bad. Many have come to a deep abiding love and appreciation for Christ and His Cross through Anselm’s paradigm. However, in an effort to be very honest as well, many have been driven to atheism by Anselm’s views, too. Anselm’s view came to be known as penal substitutionary atonement (I’ll explain this a little more in a moment). It is important to realize that Anselm’s theories are not the only acceptable Christian option when it comes to interpreting the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection. Finally, in the seventeenth century, a reformer named Hugo Grotius developed a view that interpreted Christ’s suffering as being for the purpose of God revealing to us the consequences of sin with the hope of inspiring holiness in living. The cross, according to Grotius, preserved God’s moral government. Therefore, this paradigm is called the moral government theory. Other views have existed in Christian history (such as Abelard’s moral influence theory) but these three (Christus Victor, penal substitutionary atonement, and the moral government theory) are acceptable ways of interpreting Jesus’ death and resurrection within Western Christianity today.

Again, most of the questions that came in to RHM last week were a result of trying to understand many of my statements from within Anselm’s penal substitution model rather than from within the paradigm I myself subscribe to, which is the early Christian Christus Victor model. I want to be clear: I do not think that those who subscribe to Anselm’s penal substitution model are any less in love with Jesus or any less committed to Him. I deeply believe that our fellowship with one another should be based, first and foremost, on our common love for Jesus and our commitment to love and serve Him and others. Doctrinal agreement is secondary and something we are all in the process of reaching. On a personal level, I have what I consider fundamental and philosophical questions concerning some of the presuppositions that Anselm’s views are based on. I vowed years ago never to teach or preach something if I did not, at the very minimum, first have, at the very minimum, my own questions answered concerning it. I feel most at home understanding the statements made by the New Testament authors (including Paul) when I read them from within the Christus Victor paradigm. However, many of you have sincerely shared that you are not familiar with this model, having been raised, much like I was, with Anselm’s theory as the only explanation available. Therefore, I’d like to spend this and the next two (maybe three) eSights sharing with you what the Christus Victor paradigm actually is and some of the truly revolutionary and heartwarming reasons that I feel it most eloquently brings forth the beauty of God’s character of love. I will be keeping this simple rather than involving the complexity that is usually associated with atonement theory comparisons. I also want to say that, although I will give careful consideration to an appeal to reason and intellectual honesty, these next few eSights will be addressing this topic from the point of view of why-it-matters, a “heart” level of discussion, rather than strictly the typical dry, cerebral, and intellectual one that puts many of us to sleep within the first few sentences. So buckle your seat belts; here is a brief introduction, to be continued next week.

First, Jesus saw Himself going to the cross primarily to confront the Devil. He saw His mission to destroy Satan and his works.

John 12.31 — Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

John 14.30 — I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me.

Luke 11.21,22 — When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

I want to be very clear here. I know the problems that this view produces for many of our post-modern, naturalistic thinkers in today’s society. As a follower of Jesus, I continue to revisit the historical evidence that I myself have come to base the intellectual foundation of my own faith in Jesus upon. And although I will be the first to agree that, yes, a belief in the devil or Satan has been grossly abused. Many accuse Christians of inventing the devil to absolve themselves of guilt (“the Devil made me do it.”) However, as a follower of Jesus, I cannot deny that Jesus Himself taught that there actually is an Enemy, and it was defeating this Enemy that His entire ministry was centered on and that His death and resurrection would climax in. This is the Christus Victor paradigm. The penal substitution model focuses exclusively on the theory that Jesus’ death was a payment of God’s penalty for sin (sin that I couldn’t help but participate in ? no one can go from birth to the grave without sinning at least once ? a situation I didn’t ask to be born into; a situation that I can’t save myself from, and yet a situation that somehow I am supposed to be punished for. If this doesn’t make sense to you, welcome to the club. This is my most significant question personally about what Anselm taught). The Christus Victor paradigm takes very seriously the claims and accusations of the “Accuser” and presents the death and resurrection of Jesus as God’s means of overthrowing both (Revelation 12.10). In Anselm’s view, the purpose of Jesus’ death was to appease God. In the Christus Victor paradigm, the purpose Jesus’ death and resurrection was to overthrow and destroy the work of the Devil. This is how the Apostles put it:

1 John 5.19 — We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Ephesians 6.12 — For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

1 John 3.8 — The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

Colossians 2.15 — And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Hebrews 2.14 — Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil.

This understanding of the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection goes all the way back to the beginning in the Genesis narrative:

Genesis 3.14, 15 — So the LORD God said to the serpent, “. . . He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This, again is the purpose, in Jesus’ and the Disciples’ view, of Jesus’ ministry:

Luke 13.10-15 — On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

Acts 10.38 — How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Again, this, in Jesus’ view, was the purpose of His death and resurrection:

Luke 13.32 — He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission.’”

THIS is the Christus Victor paradigm. Throughout the centuries, those who have held this view have always been united in the notion that this was the purpose of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. How Jesus was victorious over the enemy has not always met with such a unified understanding by those who hold this view. In my personal understanding, there are two ways in which Jesus destroyed the work of the Devil. On one hand, Jesus’ life and death centered on revealing the character of the Father in opposition to the lies that had been propagated concerning Him by the Enemy (the Accuser). One the other hand, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection also revealed something very significant about you and I that would defeat the accusations of the Enemy and his claims over us as well. With both hands, the accuser was disarmed and made a public spectacle of (Colossians 2:15). Both of these facets of defeating the accuser contain radically life-transforming insights into God’s radical, self-sacrificial, and other-centered love. Both of these leave the human heart in awe, saying, “Behold what manner of love the Father has for me.” Both of these facets awaken in the believer the deeply profound longing to “no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for us and rose again” (1 John 3.1; 2 Corinthians 5.14).

It is to the first of these two facets that we will turn our attention next week.

Remember this week that YOU are loved far more than you will ever fathom. In the light of God’s radical, indiscriminate, selfless, humble, and other-centered love, love like this.

Keep building the kingdom. I love you guys.

I’ll see you next week.

Herb

 

Forgiveness versus Payment (Part 2 of 2 – Appendix)

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted, But . . .” (Isaiah 53.3,4)I have a dear friend named Ian who sent me this tonight in response to today’s eSight article. It resonated with me on such a deep level that I though I would pass it on to you. This is a systematic chronology compiled by my friend. I pray it moves you as it did me.

The Systematic Rejection of Jesus Christ

Three Years Before His Death

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21)

Two Years Before His Death

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)

One Year Before His Death

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? they asked. Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor. (Matthew 13:53-57)

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. (Matthew 12:13-14)

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matthew 9:32-34)

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:22-24)

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. What do you want with us, Son of God? they shouted. Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34)

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:60-66)

Nine Months Before His Death

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matthew 16:21)

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matthew 17:22-23)

Six Months Before His Death

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. (John 7:1)

For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:5)

“Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?” “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?” (John 7:19-20)

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. (John 8:37)

As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. (John 8:40)

Two Months Before His Death

Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:17-19)

Last Week before death

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet. (Matthew 21:45-46)

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. (Matthew 22:15)

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 22:33-37)

3 Days before death

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people. (Matthew 26:1-5)

Then one of the Twelve the one called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-16)

21 Hours before death

And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” (Matthew 26:21-25)

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” “But after have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:31-46)

16 Hours before death

“But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:56)

9 Hours before death

Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood, he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:15-25)

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this Man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:12)

But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. (John 19:15)

5 Hours before death

Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, I am the Son of God” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. (Matthew 27:38-44)

Minutes before death

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

My friend Ian wrote,

“The soldiers were surprised to find him dead and pierced his side to make sure it was true (John 19:33, 34). The blood and water that came out indicated that his heart had physically ruptured from the emotional rejection and stress he experienced. Pilate was also surprised that Jesus was dead (Mk 15:44,45). Episodically, Jesus was valued by individuals and the crowds but eventually he was emotionally rejected by ALL. He died the loneliest death ever witnessed on the planet. His death was not the result of physical torture, extreme as it was, but emotional heart break or dark depression. It was not a mechanical execution like a lamb being sacrificed, but the total destruction of an emotional being by insecure sinners who were threatened by His love for them. ”

Now read the below two passages and I pray the lights turn on:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:2-4)

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:3-4)

“Dear Jesus, I’m so so sorry. I’m sorry for my continual denial and rejection of You. I’m in awe of how you never stopped loving me for one moment through it all. You’re only response was, ‘Father don’t hold it against him, for he doesn’t know what he is doing.’ I’m yours Jesus, you have won me on such a deep heart level. You have won my heart. YOU have won my heart” – Herb Montgomery

 

Forgiveness versus Payment (Part 2 of 2)

When a strong man, who is fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. Nevertheless, when a stronger individual attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor that the man trusted and divides up his plunder.—Luke 11.21,22

This week, I want to address some of the responses I received from the eSight a couple of weeks ago when I asked, “Did God punish our sins in Christ, or did He forgive our sins in Christ.”

First, I would like to address what a few people have shared regarding things in Isaiah 53 that they felt contradicted what I shared in the eSight. I would like to draw attention specifically to verses 3 and 4 of Isaiah 53 because they are the foundation upon which the rest of the chapter (even verse 10) is based and the lens through which we should interpret everything else that is said in the following verses.

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.” —Isaiah 53.3,4 (emphasis added)

Whatever we believe about the “punishment” of Jesus on the cross and however we interpret that “punishment”, our understanding must be influenced by the fact that the “punishment” so to speak, came from US, not God. This truly changes everything in Isaiah 53.

“But He was pierced through [by us] for our transgressions, He was crushed [by us] for our iniquities; The chastening [which we inflicted upon him] for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging [which we inflicted upon him] we are healed.” (Verse 5)

Someone might question how this could be. Remember, we are the ones who rebelled against God based on an inaccurate understanding of His character that we believed. This is how God designed to win us back.

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4.27, 28)

“People of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2.22, 23)

Notice this emphasis on and interpretation of Christ’s suffering or “punishment” in these verses. First, it was what WE did to him. Christ suffered that which was inflicted upon Him by our hands. Second, this was God’s will, purpose or plan (a mystery hidden from ages and generations. See Colossians 1) But why was it God’s will for Jesus to suffer at our hands? Remember, Jesus purpose was to destroy the work of the devil. Jesus purpose was to reveal to us the truth of God’s character of radical, other centered, self sacrificial love. (See John 12:27,28 cf. 1 John 3.8) How was this to be done? It was all to be seen in how Jesus would respond to being crucified by us. How would God respond to man’s ultimate sin and rebellion? We would endeavor to murder God Himself in human flesh, and how would God respond?

He would turn the other cheek.

He would love His enemies.

He would reveal that God’s response to our over all rebellion was the same as His response to it at this very moment, “Forgive them, for they never have understood what they were really doing.” (Genesis 3:1-5; Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-38; Luke 23:34) Remember, this was all for the purpose of bringing us back to God from our transgression and rebellion. Isaiah 53:

“All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity [rebellion] of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted [by us], Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” (Verses 6 and 7)

God visibly and universally responded to our rebellion and displayed the grand principle that we see in Proverbs 15.1:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath.”

This is exactly how Peter interpreted Isaiah 53:

But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO

COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.—1 Peter 2:21-25

I cannot locate any writer in the New Testament who interprets Isaiah 53 in the way that modern Christianity interprets it. It might be in the writings of the New Testament’s authors, but I simply cannot find it.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”—Colossians 1.21,22 (emphasis added)

“And in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” —Ephesians 2.16 (emphasis added)

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. [Not punishing us in Christ, but by dropping the charges against us in Christ] And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” —2 Corinthians 5.18-20 (emphasis added)

I would be much less reticent to embrace the idea that God vented HIS wrath against Jesus in our stead on the cross if I could find a New Testament author who placed the same emphasis and importance on it as I see being done today. The wrath of God is a clear concept in the New Testament that is taught, but nowhere do I find the cross explained by the apostles as primarily being an event wherein God vented His wrath against Jesus in my place, rather than against me. Do a quick search for the word “wrath”, and you will see immediately what I am saying. If being a recipient of God’s wrath in our stead is the primary way we are to view the historical event of the cross, I find it odd that the apostles never clearly say it.

Ok if you are still with me at this stage, I’m impressed! If you are barely hanging on, you can skip to the last paragraph of this eSight. If you are a die hard and you want some more history on why there are so many different views of what the Cross was all about, keep reading!

Here is a little bit of history on the subject:

Within Christianity, since the eleventh century, there has been a dispute over what the reconciliation of the cross means and how it was achieved. The early church emphasized how Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated Satan and, consequently, set humankind free from his oppressive rule. This view is commonly referred to as the Christus Victor (Latin for “Christ the Victor”) view of the atonement. Whereas no Christian ever denied that Christ’s death and resurrection defeated Satan, this understanding of the atonement became less prominent after the early Middle Ages. Today, I praise God for the fact that we are seeing a resurgence of and interest in this view once again as portraying the primary significance of the atonement in the New Testament. This was the understanding of the early church.

In the eleventh century (1,000 years after the crucifixion), Anselm of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk and philosopher, offered the view that Jesus’ death resulted in “satisfaction” between God and humanity by paying the penalty for humanity’s sin. This view is usually referred to as the satisfaction view of the atonement. As the term was used in Anselm’s day, “satisfaction” did not refer to a subjective emotion. Rather, it referred to the reparation that was due to someone after he or she had been wronged. In Anselm’s view, humanity owed God infinite reparation because sin against God is an infinite crime. Therefore, either humanity would have to pay for its wrongs by suffering eternal hell, or God Himself would have to pay for the wrongs. God did the latter by becoming a man and dying on the cross. Only those who reject God’s sacrifice now need to suffer eternally. Although the influence of Anselm’s satisfaction theory is apparent among some today, few Christian scholars currently embrace it on its own as an adequate way to express the Bible’s view of Jesus’ death.

Then, in the twelfth century, Peter Abelard, a French philosopher, theologian, and preeminent logician, brought a new dimension to the atonement based on some of the writings of Augustine. He argued that the primary significance of Jesus’ life and death is that they serve as examples of how we should live. The perfect love Jesus expressed, especially in his willingness to die for others, is a model for us to emulate. This view of the atonement is sometimes called the subjective view of the atonement or moral influence theory. To be fair to Augustine, his beliefs were a hybrid of the previously emphasized Christus Victor and what later became moral influence theory. Whereas all concede that Jesus’ life and death are models for us and that they should evoke obedient love toward God, few Christians identify this as the primary significance of the atonement.

In the sixteenth century, John Calvin and Martin Luther advocated for a view of the atonement that was somewhat different from all of these. Their view was a reaction to Abelard’s teachings in favor of a view that looked more like the Benedictine monk Anselm’s view. Although their view differed in some areas from Anselm’s view, Calvin and Luther believed that Jesus bore the punishment that humanity deserved. Only in this way, they argued, could humanity be reconciled to an all-holy God. Although it was similar to Anselm’s view, this view stressed that Jesus actually bore the sin of humanity and took the punishment that humanity deserved. Once again, this view failed to capture the emphasis and interpretation that the early church gave to the Cross of Calvary. This view is called the penal substitution view of the atonement or the substitutionary view of the atonement. This is the view that is most frequently embraced by evangelical Christians in North America.

In the seventeenth century, a reformer named Hugo Grotius found the penal substitution view to be objectionable for a number of reasons. He argued that Jesus did not literally take on the sin of the world and suffer God’s punishment on behalf of humanity. Grotius taught that God does not have a quota of judgment that has to be poured out on someone, namely His Son, in order for Him to love and forgive sinners. That is, God does not consider people to be holy because of what Jesus did. He actually wants us to live holy lives. This is the central reason for the cross. According to Grotius, Jesus did suffer the wrath of God as a demonstration of God’s wrath against sin. This act was done to teach humanity about the consequences of sin and to inspire us to engage in holy living. Therefore, the cross preserves God’s moral government of the world. As a result, this view is called the moral government view of the atonement. It, too, has gained support among some scholars.

I detest labels because once someone label’s you they feel they can simply write you off now, as if you had nothing left to say. But if I were to allow myself to be labeled, I would have say that I feel most at home in the Christus Victor view. I see Paul saying that Christ defeated Satan in the cosmic, heavenly controversy over God’s character of radical, self- sacrificial, other-centered love through forgiving our sin in Christ, rather than through punishing our sin in Christ.

“He forgave us for all of our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And thereby disarming the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” —Colossians 2.13-15

“When a strong man, who is fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. Nevertheless, when a stronger individual attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor that the man trusted and divides up his plunder.”—Luke 11.21,22

I am not dogmatic about any of this though. I am open to discussion and more than willing to allow each of us to disagree. All of the views mentioned above are currently held by individuals who have expressed love for Jesus and are committed to following and serving Him. What I shared in the eSight two weeks ago was my view as opposed to Anselm’s view, to which most Christians today subscribe with regard to how they interpret the atonement. (Unintentionally I believe, through traditionally based means, and based on a what I consider to be misinformed definitions of terms). Anselm’s theology was a late development within Christianity; it was not the view held by the early Church. This is a historical fact agreed upon by all, rather than a personal opinion held only by me. Anselm’s views were also the product of a picture of God that was rooted and grounded in the Middle Ages era of Christianity, which I strongly oppose. I love each of you dearly, including the few of you who disagree with me. We must remember that the topic we are discussing is multifaceted. Arguments have raged within Christianity for centuries over these very issues. I am happy to speak with anyone about this matter. We might not settle it in the present; we might have to use extreme tolerance of each other’s views. However, when I consider that the atonement will be our study throughout eternity, I am quite content to say that all of us, including myself, know nothing as we yet will. I am happy to walk beside each of you for whatever distance time and circumstances permit in our “eternal” study of this topic in the here and now.

Keep living in God’s indiscriminate love for all (Matthew 5.44,45) and keep building the kingdom.

I love you guys, and I will see you next week.

Herb

 

Jesus and the GLBT

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. Luke 9.51-56This week I want to share some thoughts on the above passage that I believe are becoming more and more relevant to us as followers of Jesus in our current cultural climate. There are a few points I’d like to focus on as a foundation for this week’s eSight. James and John viewed the Samaritans as sinners or outsiders. The Samaritans were in a state of rejecting Jesus in this story and thereby provoked James’ and John’s response. James and John had an Old Testament story of God reigning down fire on the Samaritans as justification for their feelings toward the Samaritans and also as a basis for how they, too, should treat them. (See 2 Kings 1, where God rains down fire on the Samaritans through Elijah.) Here’s the kicker though. They were Biblical in assessing the Samaritans as objects of God’s wrath, but even while being Biblical, they were dead wrong about how God felt toward Samaritans. Jesus rebukes them, and says, “You don’t know what spirit you are of.” Their spirit toward the Samaritans didn’t reflect God’s attitude toward them at all. James and John’s attitude toward and treatment of the Samaritans, was more like that of the Accuser than it was God’s. They had an Old Testament story that they used to decide how they thought God felt toward the Samaritans but God Incarnate was standing right in front of them revealing that He felt very differently than they assumed He did. God had not come to this world to destroy people’s lives, but to save them. As His followers they were not to seek to consign people’s lives to destruction, but rather through humble servant love seek to save people’s lives as well.

But how does this all apply to us today? Here is my point, but I want to warn you ahead of time to, regardless of whether you agree with me or not, please just first hear me out. In love, please first listen before you judge what I’m saying.

Today when it comes to gays and lesbians, are we mimicking more the spirit of James and John or that of Jesus? Yes, we too have an Old Testament example of God raining fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah (See Genesis 18, 19; see also Ezekiel 16) that we use as a basis for assuming how God feels toward the LGBT community. We too have an Old Testament justification and basis for our feelings toward and treatment of a group of people we have judged as sinners and outsiders. But are we making the same mistake as James and John today? In deciding how we relate to homosexuals, are we too giving greater weight to an Old Testament story than we are giving to the life, work, and ministry of Jesus?

This week, I’m not debating what is or what is not sin. I’m not debating why Sodom was destroyed or not. These topics at this stage are irrelevant. Regardless of how we define sin, the greater question is what is the example Jesus set before us in relating to others regardless of how we morally evaluate them, whoever they may be? The Pharisees possessed a holiness that repelled sinners. Those judged as “sinners” or “outsiders” in Christ’s day steered clear of the Pharisees for fear of being judged. Jesus had a kind of holiness that attracted sinners, the outsiders, the marginalized.

We have to let the following question confront us. Today, are those we have judged as being “sinners” and “outsiders” being drawn to us because of our radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered, humble, servant love? Or are they to a large degree (praise God for the few exceptions) steering clear of us too? May we collapse our defenses and allow the Spirit to impress on us the conviction that we, in our treatment of those who may be of a different orientation, we have unintentionally but very clearly nonetheless, imbibed more the spirit of the Pharisees, more the spirit of James and John, more the spirit of the Accuser, than we have the spirit of Jesus and thus God. As followers of Jesus, we are not to seek to consign people’s lives to destruction, but rather through humble servant love seek to save people’s lives instead.

What am I trying to say this week? In short, stop using Sodom and Gomorrah as a justification for our treatment of gays and lesbians. Just stop. We don’t know what spirit we are of when we do this. It brought about rebuke for James and John, and it places us in a position to be rebuked by Jesus and the Father, too.

Life and people are complicated. Compassion should be given freely and not earned. We have no right to judge anyone, but to pass judgment before we have even stopped to hear their story, is demonically ugly. Everyone has a story and, before we condemn, we must stop and listen. And lastly, you don’t have to legitimize somebody’s lifestyle to love that person, to be brother or sister to that person, and to stand up for that person.

As a follower of Jesus, to those of you who belong to the LGBT community, who receive our emails regularly, I’m so sorry for where I have not been Jesus to you.

This week, I choose to look at those around me, regardless of gender, race or even orientation, ask myself how Jesus would reach out to them, and then ask myself, “Do I want to follow Jesus?” Who’s with me?

Keep living in love, and keep building the Kingdom.

Thank you for listening.

I love you guys,

Herb