Saving Easter – part five

Saving_EasterDoesn’t it say that it pleased God to crush Jesus? Wasn’t He stricken and smitten by God? We will look at these questions today in part five of this special Easter series.

We’ve been tackling some of our assumptions that we have about the atonement. My intention is not to be provocative but to help us take an honest look at some of the conflicts that our  popular theory of atonement have created..

It’s been my position that the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) theory that dominates Western Christianity has created serious conflicts our view of our heavenly Father–the Source of all Love. I simply offer this as an alternative view for your consideration.

Everyone agrees that Isaiah 53 is a prophetic description of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. There’s really no disagreement on most of the passage except for a couple of verses. We will focus on those verses because they seem to point to the PSA position and are often used as a proof-text that Jesus was punished by God for our sakes.

Isaiah 53:3-4

The first controversial part I want to look at is Isaiah 53:3-4. These verses, we are told, show that Jesus was stricken and smitten by God. I will use bold-type to highlight who’s doing what here:

“He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.” (NKJV)

I’ve highlighted that the idea that Jesus was being stricken and smitten by God was our perspective of what was happening, not necessarily what was actually happening.

We know from the gospel accounts about those who wondered why this One who claimed to be the Messiah didn’t come down off the cross to save Himself (Matt.27:42). They had the wrong perspective.

WE are the ones who turned our faces away from Him, we are the one who esteemed Him stricken by God. Ironically, as I’ve shown in my last post, we were the ones striking Him!

The irony of this reminds me of two toddlers playing in a sandbox. One bonks the other one on the head with a toy dump truck and then gets upset because the kid he hit is crying!

Hopefully, this one’s fairly easy to see without further explanation. These verses don’t prove that God was the one doing the bonking here at all.

Of course, if you’ve studied this passage, you will certainly now ask, “Well, what about verse 10?” Good question! Let’s look at it.

Isaiah 53:10

We briefly looked at the word “ransom” in part three and saw how the apostles and early church might’ve understood the word. We will take a similar approach here, turning again to the Septuagint (LXX). First, here’s a translation we’re familiar with (bold-type added):

 “But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (NASB)

The Hebrew word for “crush” is דָּכָא (dâkâ’): it means “to crush, be crushed, be contrite, broken.”

Pretty straight-forward, right? Again, not so fast. Let’s now look at how the apostle’s Bible (LXX) rendered this verse. I will use two different English LXX translations for comparison, highlighting the same words as in the Hebrew translation (bold-type added):

(L.C.L. Brenton) “The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke.
If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed”

(NETS) “And the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow.
If you give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived offspring.”

The Greek word that the Hebrew text rendered “crush” is καθαρίσαι (katharisai) in the LXX. This is where we get the English word, “cauterize” (like to cauterize a wound).

We find variations of the word katharisai in the New Testament. It means “to cleanse, render pure, purify.”

For instance, we find this same Greek word in Matthew 8:2 (bold-type added and words in brackets added):

“A leper came up to him, knelt down, and said, “Lord, if you are willing,
you can make me clean [katharisai | καθαρίσαι]

What a difference a word makes! What the Greek Septuagint is basically telling us is that it pleased the Father to heal Jesus of His wounds that we inflicted! As Jesus took our disease and healed us, the Father cleansed the Son of His Love.

Why is there such a difference in translations? One theory is that the Hebrew Masoretic text was put together through the interpretative lens of rabbinical scholars, almost a millennium after the Temple’s destruction and being driven out of Israel, who had long-since interpreted Isaiah 53 as describing Israel’s sufferings instead of being a Messianic prophecy. This is pure speculation but it would explain a lot. Of course, in our PSA-dominated world of scholars and translators, they would not be motivated to question this wording since it fits nicely with their assumptions. The Easter Orthodox Church never held these assumptions.

One last point. Even if we go with the Hebrew version of Isaiah 53:10, could it be that the Father was not doing the crushing but was pleased in what our crushing of Him would accomplish? The same Blood we spilled becomes our cleansing.

This would be like James telling us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” because it produces patience which has its perfect work (James 1:2-5). We don’t rejoice because of the trials, but in what enduring them produces.

No matter how we look at this, we cannot conclusively say that the Father was the one punishing Jesus. My interpretative “glasses” see a loving Father, healing His beloved Son of the wounds and strokes we put on Him. This is what love looks like in the Father’s embrace.

We will take a look at the word “propitiation” next time.

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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 36 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.
This entry was posted in Doctrine, Father Heart of God, Love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Saving Easter – part five

  1. Cindy Powell says:

    Love this one too. I was actually wondering about Isaiah 53 – funny how many assumptions we all make depending on the grid we are most comfortable with. More good food for thought and, as you say, an alternate view to consider. (A view that, in my opinion, seems to be much more in line with what I know to be His heart and character.) Good stuff 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Cindy. Much appreciated. Yes, everything we see in life is affected by our “glasses.” We all have them on. So we tend to see things the way we’re conditioned to see them. And it’s not so much that we make false doctrine but that we create conflict and confusion. We’re not as free to be loved by our heavenly Father as we could be. We keep our distance out of fear created by this conflict. This is why we must see all theology through Christ and not compartmentalize doctrines, which is where this conflict comes from. But I believe that seeing the Father as Love, through the lens of Jesus Christ, casts out all our orphan-hearted fear. That’s why it’s important to me.

      And I agree, this lens fits what I experientially know about the BEST Father we could ever possibly have. It worked for the whole church for over a thousand years; it’s worked in the Eastern church for 2,000 years. Works for me too! 🙂

  2. Lance says:

    OMG…can you say OMG on a Jesus blog? OMG I guess so. Mel, really? What was Jesus wearing when He gave you this one? Did He send you an e-mail or write it on the sky? What an awesome revelation. I am still wiping the tears. Love you bro. You are amazing.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Haha… 🙂 OMG is the biblical response to the overwhelming, lavish, over-the-top, crazy love of the most amazing Papa of all! I didn’t see what Jesus was wearing through my own tears of joy! To say He’s a good Father is just woefully inadequate. After all, this is the same goodness that made Moses’ face blind people! Living in us! Ahhhhh!!!

      That’s why when people say He’s an angry god who must be appeased, I am just stunned…speechless…I mean, really??? I don’t know that god. They must be looking in the mirror. I only know this loving Father who “can love me more in a moment than others can in a lifetime.”

      Love you too, bro! Thanks for your over-the-top comments. Much appreciated.

  3. bullroarin says:

    This is amazing Mel. Just shows the importance of words and reading those words in context…it changes everything I’ve learned over the past thirty odd years. I’m enjoying this new ray of sonshine!
    Thanks Mel for sharing. 🙂
    ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Dave, and join the club! I’ve had to unlearn practically everything I’ve learned for about as long! A few years ago, I felt like God was leading me into a deeper study of the atonement. Something was troubling me deep in my soul about our whole concept because it didn’t line up with how Jesus revealed the Father nor with my own experience with the Father’s love. So I started to study church history and read what the early church fathers and Eastern scholars had said about it, comparing that to what Scripture actually says about it. I was stunned. No wonder I felt so conflicted! But, praise God, He’s waking up His sons and daughter to His love now. Yes, let the Son shine! 🙂 Blessings to you.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Mel,
    But what about Isaiah 53:5? “He was pierced FOR (not BY) our transgressions, He was crushed FOR our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Could the preceding verses that talk about how we paid no mind to Jesus only show our unworthiness in what He did? 4-“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” and then followed by “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” And 1 Peter 2:23-25 repeats: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd an Overseer of your souls.” This view does not show the Father as unloving, but as merciful and just at the same time. To say that the Creator had to absorb the wrath of the created to save the created by the Creator then healing Himself doesn’t fit Scripturally.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Kathleen, I am honestly puzzled by your comments. I don’t think I’m disagreeing with what you’re saying about Isaiah 53:5. Sin does have a penalty that Jesus took upon Himself, but this penalty was not a payment to God. The Father wasn’t killing Jesus; our sin killed Him. That’s exactly what it’s saying in Isaiah 53. Let me explain.

      Sin produces death. For Jesus to take our sin away means that He would have to die. Not as a payment, but in order to remove it. In this sense, it is substitutionary, but not in a retributive sense. God is not some pagan deity needing to be appeased or else. He is trying to heal us by taking it for us. This is what Isaiah is saying here, and what the word “save” (sozo) actually means.

      It would be more like the Surgeon General warning cigarette smokers that smoking will kill you. He certainly doesn’t mean that HE will kill you. No, the result of smoking is that you will die of a respiratory disease. This is analogous of what God told Adam in the Garden, but this disease is spiritual. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil will result in death. This was a warning from a loving Father who didn’t want to see His son die, it was not a threat.

      Jesus didn’t die on the cross to change God, but to change us. It wasn’t God’s wrath that was finished on the cross of Christ, it was us! We were finished, we died with Christ and were raised with Him. Jesus nailed our sin nature to the cross, while fulfilling the Law (handwriting against us) and restoring us to Himself in union with Christ in God.

      As I said to your other comment in part four, if what was finished on the cross was God’s wrath, then we’re teaching universalism. There could not possibly be any wrath remaining for anyone, otherwise nothing was actually finished. Paul could not still say that God’s wrath is revealed against ungodliness in Romans 1:18. But even so, as I said in my other comments, we misunderstand the nature of this wrath. That requires a different discussion altogether.
      Hope this makes sense. 🙂 Blessings.

  5. paulfg says:

    Mel I tried to stick with this, I really did. But as my eyes read and my brain moaned and my heart sighed.

    I am “theoried out”.

    🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      LOL! Well then, let’s move away from theories to what we know is true. The Father loves you; Jesus loves you. Jesus came so that you could be with God forever. 🙂

  6. Love these studies and, yes, one word makes a huge difference. Thanks for this beautiful perspective, Mel. “And the Lord desires to cleanse him” makes so much more sense. And now, so does, “It is finished.”

  7. nancyteague says:

    Mel, thanks for the wonderful insight on ‘katharisai’ – to cauterize! What a seismic shift that makes to realize the loving Father was healing Jesus’ wounds that we inflicted – which ultimately led to our healing.Oh my!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, it is a seismic shift. And it’s stunning to begin to see the love expressed between the the Father and the Son and then to think we’ve been placed inside this Love fest! WOW!

  8. Pingback: By His Wounds | alancetotheheart

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

  10. Pingback: The Cross: God’s restorative justice on display | In My Father's House

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