Saving Easter – part four

Saving_EasterWhose wrath did Jesus take on the cross? We will look at this question today in my fourth installment of this series. You can read the first three parts here.

The purpose of this series is to offer an alternative look at the atonement and, hopefully, reconcile some of the conflicts we’ve created with our view of Jesus and the Father in the process.

Before I go further, I want refer to a series of posts I did at the end of last year that debunked some of the other myths we’ve believed about the Father and the atonement:

I’ve already make the point that salvation was not necessarily a payment to God but a rescue mission from God–to heal us from our deadly disease called sin and to deliver us from Satan’s prison camp. Jesus didn’t pay for our sins, He quite victoriously took them away. We’ve been looking at why this distinction matters.

But this begs the question, whose wrath did Jesus face? Obviously, He wasn’t just sick with a disease on the cross. He was horribly beaten beyond recognition and then suffered humiliation and death by crucifixion.  Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, gives us just a glimpse of this unimaginably cruel brutality.

Scripture is actually pretty straightforward about assessing the blame. First, Jesus Himself said that He would be betrayed into the hands of men (Matt.17:22-23), specifically, His own Jewish leaders, who would hand Him over to the Gentiles (Matt.20:18-19). Furthermore, Peter laid the blame on the Jews (Acts 2:22-23, 36). But we also know that even Peter himself denied Jesus three times and the rest of Jesus’ disciples fled.

Since Jews and Gentiles are pretty much everybody, we killed Jesus.

You may object by saying you weren’t there. Actually, you were there. Paul tells us that our sin nature was there, nailed to the cross with Him. Not only were we the executioners, we died with Christ almost 2,000 years ago! (See Rom.6:3-11) We will look at that aspect of the atonement in another post.

Paul also tells us that we were the ones who were alienated, making ourselves enemies of God in our minds, and that God reconciled us to Himself, not the other way around (Bold-type added):

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies
in your mind by wicked works,
yet now He has reconciled” (Col.1:21 NKJV)

“that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,
not imputing their trespasses to them,
and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor.5:19 NKJV)

Beloved of God, we were the ones who made God our enemy in our own darkened minds; we were the ones who needed reconciling. It was our furious anger–our poisonous hatred and wicked treachery and blind deception that the Father of Love sent Jesus to heal and reconcile to Himself.

What actually was the cup of suffering?

Another question we need to consider is, what was the cup of suffering that Jesus was destined to drink? (See Matt.26:39-42). He asked the Father if He would take it away twice in the Garden of Gethsemane before surrendering His will to the task.

A traditional view is that this cup is the Father’s wrath. However, notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Your cup,” He said, “this cup” (bold-type added):

“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying,
“O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,
nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt.26:39 NKJV)

We can easily disprove that this was the Father’s cup of wrath, as the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) tells us, by simply looking at Matthew 20:22-23. This is where the mother of John and James asked Jesus to have her sons sit on His left and right side in the kingdom (Bold-type added):

“But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask.
Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink,
and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
They said to Him, “We are able.”
So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup,
and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;
but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give,
but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Think about this for a moment. Jesus tells James and John that they will indeed drink the same cup He was about to drink. We can only conclude from this statement that either they were not saved because, according to PSA, Jesus took the full wrath of God for us on the cross, or…this particular cup is NOT the wrath of God but something else. I think we should go with the latter.

What is more consistent is that this “cup of suffering” was the full fury of man’s hatred and enmity with God, which Jesus said they would indeed face in their lifetime.

“They will put you out of the synagogues;
yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you
will think that he offers God service.
And these things they will do to you
because they have not known the Father nor Me.“ (John 16:2-3 NKJV)

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you,
and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” (Matt.24:9 NKJV)

We know that John’s brother, James, was killed by the sword (Acts 12:2). Tradition tells us John was boiled in oil and exiled on Patmos.

There are many other passages I could cite, but the point is, the cup that Jesus was to drink was the wrath of men, not God’s wrath. This cup of suffering is persecution in this world. The same cup of vitriolic hatred and rejection of God’s love that is held out to us to drink today. Why would we drink it? Because this is what love looks like.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus:
that if One died for all, then all died;
and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves,
but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Cor.5:14-15 NKJV)

Next time, we will take a closer look at Isaiah 53.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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7 Responses to Saving Easter – part four

  1. Cindy Powell says:

    “The cup that Jesus was to drink was the wrath of men, not God’s wrath. This cup of suffering is persecution in this world.” Yes – this makes so much sense. “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” I think this might be my favorite (so far).Thanks so much for talking the time will this series, Mel. Much good food for thought, Grace and peace to you!

  2. Kathleen says:

    Mel, How do these thoughts reconcile with Romans 5:9-10, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” and Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.” In these verses we see what we are given a glimpse of in Jeremiah 25:15-38- the cup of wrath given from the hand of God- that instead Jesus satisfied the legal demands of death for our sins, taking the cup of wrath from God’s hand so that we could be raised to new life in Christ able to stand before our righteous Father made holy by the blood of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:10 “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”)
    The implication of Jesus taking the cup of wrath from the Father’s hand is further emphasized in Hebrews 10:31- “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. Without the covering of Jesus’ blood, His taking impact of the wrath of God for our sins upon Himself, paying the price once and for all, the hands of the Father are to be greatly feared.
    Kathleen

    • Mel Wild says:

      You pose some great questions, Kathleen. 🙂 I will probably need to publish a separate post on God’s wrath to adequately answer your questions, which I will do when I get more time.

      At this point my question to you would be this. How, then, can the cup of suffering that Jesus accepted be the wrath of God if He Himself said that James and John would drink from the same cup? (See my points about Matt.20:22-23 above).

  3. Kathleen says:

    Mel, Thank you for graciously addressing my thoughts on these issues. My answer to your question regarding Jesus telling the mother of James and John that they would drink from the same cup as He is based on the verses before the mother’s question. “And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way He said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and He will be raised on the third day.’ Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee…” (Mt 20:17-23) Here Jesus has just described the suffering that He about to endure. He tells his disciples that they will have to drink of the same cup of suffering. This cup of suffering is different from the cup of God’s wrath- which was taken once and for all by Christ. If Jesus’ cup on the cross was the cup of suffering, then it was not nailed to the cross, Jesus did not “Finish” anything since we all still drink of the cup of suffering.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Kathleen. Again, what you’re saying doesn’t disagree with what I’m saying. Actually, that was my point. Your conclusions, based on what you’re saying, may be different than mine. I don’t necessarily see two different cups here. In other words, there wasn’t a cup of the Scribes and Pharisees’ wrath apart from the cup Jesus experienced at the crucifixion. It’s the same wrath, if you will, being meted out by man (both by Jews and Romans, or Gentiles). This is what Jesus said in Matt.20:18-19. I don’t think it’s God’s wrath that Jesus is asking His Father to take away. It was suffering the full fury of man’s hatred whose source is our sin; the same fury the disciples would face. The Father was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself out of love (2 Cor.5:19; John 3:16-17), not to condemn the world but to save us (which means heal, restore, rescue, etc.) from this toxic poison that separated us from Him (not the other way around).

      The work that was finished on the Cross was not persecution but putting Adam’s sin nature to death, which is behind our enmity with God. We were freed from this “body of sin” and raised with Him (Rom.6:6-7). Of course, we receive this reality by faith. The other dimension of this is that our sins (the fruit of sin) were cleansed and we were healed by His stripes. His blood is the antidote that cleanses us! But those stripes most definitely came from us. We brutally wounded Him, and God allowed this suffering “in the hands of sinful men” in order to reconcile us to Himself, not the other way around (2 Cor.5:19). God’s heart didn’t need changing, ours did! But what was finished on the cross is not the same thing as persecution by those who refuse the goodness of God. Of course, that won’t be finished until Jesus returns. Jesus tells us this in John 16:33. But we overcome in Him.

      Actually, there is a wrath of God that is still revealed against all unrighteousness today (Rom.1:18), so Jesus obviously didn’t finish God’s wrath on the cross, but I think we misunderstand what God’s wrath actually means, which I will try to explain at another time. 🙂

      Thanks again, Kathleen. These are important questions that we need to wrestle with and get straight in our own minds. I’m sure I’m not adequately describing my position. But I know this one thing. There is nothing that explicitly states that Jesus was taking the full wrath of God on the cross. That has to be inferred based on a particular paradigm. It’s not to say that it’s impossible, it just can’t be proven by Scripture. This is why these positions on the atonement are called theories.

      I’m probably wrong in several areas. But I cannot reconcile what I was taught in the light of a God who is love. Not to mention, it makes the Godhead terribly conflicted. Paul said we were the enemy of God in our own minds (Col.1:21). God needed to reconcile us with Himself so that we could be restored as His sons and daughters, living in His embrace. This was His predestined purpose from the beginning (Eph.1:4-5).

  4. Pingback: Did God kill Jesus? Part three | In My Father's House

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