Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

Demanded by Us

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

While the Gospels clearly and consistently reveal that the death of Jesus was at the hands of men to please and appease religious and political rulers and satisfy an angry mob, many religious leaders today see the death of Jesus on the cross as a sacrifice which pleased and satisfied God. But this interpretation sides with the religious and political leaders who called for the death of Jesus. Many religious leaders then and now believed that God wanted Jesus to die, and that peace would come only through His death. The more modern Christian theologians who argue for this view teach that while the blood of bulls and goats could only temporarily cover our sin, the death of Jesus was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which God needed and demanded as the complete payment for sin. This way of thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus does not undermine the sacrificial system, but supports and buttresses it as never before.

The best way (and the most ancient way) of understanding the death of Jesus on the cross, however, is to see it not as something demanded or required by God in order to extend forgiveness of sins to humanity, but instead as something demanded and required by humans as a way to reinforce the great lie which we have lived beneath since the beginning of the world. The great lie is that God is angry at us because of sin, and when bad things happen in life, it is because God is angry at us, and so the best way to deal with sin and an angry God is to find the “sinner” in our community and kill him or her in the name of God. Then God will be pleased that we have taken care of sin and will bless us once again.

Jesus was viewed by the people of His day as a sinner and blasphemer who needed to be condemned, accused, and executed in accordance with the will of God. But it was not God’s will. No execution or sacred violence is ever God’s will. How do we know? The death of Jesus revealed this truth to us. The death of Jesus did not reveal that God wants death, but that we want it. His death reveals our vile hearts and violent ways, while at the same time revealing the heart of God as always forgiving and only loving. The death of Jesus called us to the one thing God has always wanted for us, which is to live as He lives, with nothing but love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness extended toward others.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 150-151

The Subversive Heart of Revelation

Friday, March 27th, 2020

But Revelation pulls an amazing surprise. In place of the lion that we expect, comes a Lamb: “Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6). It is a complete reversal. Actually the Greek word John uses is not just “lamb,” but the diminutive form, a word like “lambkin,” “lamby,” or “little lamb” (arnion in Greek) — “Fluffy,” as Pastor Daniel Erlander calls it. The only other place this word arnion is used in the New Testament is where Jesus says he is sending his disciples out into the world “as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). No other apocalypse ever pictures the divine hero as a Lamb — Revelation is unique among apocalyptic writings in this image. The depiction of Jesus as a Lamb shows him in the most vulnerable way possible, as a victim who is slaughtered but standing — that is, crucified, but risen to life.

Reminiscent of the servant-lamb of Isaiah 53, who “is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep to the shearers is silent,” the Lamb of Revelation became the victor not by militaristic power and slaughter but rather by being slaughtered. From beginning to end, Revelation’s vision of the Lamb teaches a “theology of the cross,” of God’s power made manifest in weakness, similar to Paul’s theology of the cross in First Corinthians. Lamb theology is the whole message of Revelation. Evil is defeated not by overwhelming force or violence but by the Lamb’s suffering love on the cross. The victim becomes the victor.

Lamb theology is what true victory or true nike is. For we, too, are “victors” or followers of the Lamb on whom the term nike or conquering is bestowed. This is one of the amazing features of the book. Much of Revelation can sound so violent, but we have to look at the subversive heart of the book — the redefinition of victory and “conquering” — to understand how Revelation subverts violence itself. Just like the Lamb, God’s people are called to conquer not by fighting but by remaining faithful, by testifying to God’s victory in self-giving love.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 110-111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 27, 2020

Loving Like Christ

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

With this experience with Christ, we discover we too can love lavishly, and that love covers a multitude of sins in the world. We discover that the more we forgive others, the more love fills our hearts and crowds out old hurts and resentments. More and more sin’s power over us is repealed and the power of love is displayed. While it is sometimes unwise to drop all boundaries with someone who may hurt us again, lavish love allows us to forgive a person from a distance so that we no longer feel anger or contempt or repetitively re-experience our wound on the movie screen in our mind. Jesus’ call to forgive overcomes the injury and helps us heal. Love lavishly and we are not tempted to use words of contempt or spread unkind stories about another person. This call to constant love is not a dreamer’s verse. It is a description of what it means to follow Christ and live out the lavish love he told his disciples would be the basis and norm of their new life.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

Radical Solidarity

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation — symbolized by its finality in the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. Without a doubt, Jesus perfectly exemplified this seeing, and thus passed it on to the rest of history. This is how we are to imitate Christ, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. In fact, these “lost sheep” found out they were not lost to him at all, and tended to become his best followers.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Walls of Division Have Fallen

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

For Paul in particular, the marvel of Christ’s lordship is that all walls of division between persons and peoples, and finally between all creatures, have fallen, and that ultimately, when creation is restored by Christ, God will be all in all.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 89

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 17, 2020

One of Us

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

By His life and example, Jesus shows that there is no human mediator between God and man, and that God has not separated Himself from mankind because of our sin, but has instead become one of us, sharing in our pain and releasing us from our shame. This teaching got Jesus in a lot of trouble with the religious leaders of His day, because they (rightly) understood that what He was saying was undermining the entire sacrificial system that supported the temple and the priestly class. Strangely, many religious leaders today side with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in saying that the religious buildings, clergy, and sacrifices are all required by God. Of course, the religious leaders who argue this today believe that they are following the teachings of Jesus, but they twist the words and actions of Jesus to make it sound like they are in agreement with Him.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 149-150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 14, 2020

Hope Amid the Horror

Friday, March 6th, 2020

More than five hundred years before Jesus’ death on the cross, Second Isaiah proclaimed that the God who created heaven and earth was redeeming and saving Israel and forgiving their sin out of the infinite depths of divine compassion. This God is forever faithful and does not need anyone to die in order to be merciful. It is strange to contemplate how Christian preaching in the tradition of the satisfaction theory seems to assume that some seismic shift suddenly changed the divine character, so that Jesus’ death was necessary to win favor for sinners. One hears that he came to die, and without the cross we would not be saved, as if at some point the flow of divine mercy were shut down, needing Jesus’ death to start it up again. As we will discover, however, rather than making a necessary gift to placate divine honor, Jesus’ brutal death enacts the solidarity of the gracious and merciful God with all who die and especially with victims of injustice, opening hope for resurrection amid the horror.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 50

Photo: March 6, 2015, South Riding, Virginia

Victory Redefined

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Revelation carefully redefines the word “conquer” to make clear that the Lamb and his followers conquer only by their testimony and faithfulness — not by making war or killing. War is something done against God’s people by evil beasts and by Rome, not something that God’s saints or the Lamb practice in this book. Two verses of Revelation do indeed refer to Jesus as “making war” — Revelation 2:16 and 19:11 — but the way he makes war is crucial. Jesus makes war not with a sword of battle but “by the sword of his mouth.” The word is Jesus’ only weapon — this is a reversal as unexpected as the substitution of a lamb for a lion. These reversals undercut violence by emphasizing Jesus’ testimony and the word of God….

Thus, the message of the book of Revelation becomes a reframing of the whole concept of victory, giving victory first to the Lamb and then to us. Nowhere in Revelation do God’s people “wage war.” What they do is “conquer” or “become victors” (the same word in Greek) — and they do that by the Lamb’s own blood and by their courageous testimony, not through Armageddon or war. In contrast to Rome’s theology that defined Victory as military conquest, Revelation develops a counter-theology of the nonviolent victory (nike) of Jesus, God’s slain Lamb, in which “evil is overcome by suffering love,” not by superior power.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 121-122

Photo: South Riding, Virginia 2/22/2015

Christ in Everything

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, January 1997

A Substitute

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

While it is true, according to the New Testament, that Jesus is our substitute, the important point in the New Testament is that Jesus did not die “in our place to appease God,” but rather died “in the place of all the sacrificial victims we have killed in the name of God.” Jesus did not die because God needed or demanded a human sacrifice. God did not substitute Jesus in our place. No, Jesus died because we humans demanded a human sacrifice, and God allowed us to kill His own Son so that we might finally see what we were doing when we killed others in God’s name. Jesus did die as a substitute, but He was a substitute for all sacrificial victims of the world. He died to reveal the truth about sacrifice. What truth? The truth that God does not desire sacrifice; we humans do. Jesus died to reveal how we kill others in God’s name and to reveal that the sacrificial inclination comes from within our own hearts, not from the heart of God. Jesus died to reveal these truths to us so that we will put an end to the making and killing of all sacrificial victims.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 144-145

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999