This is the final installment of my series that asks the faithful question, “Did God kill Jesus?” Last time we jettisoned the wooden literal take on Isaiah 53:10 for the following three reasons: it’s hermeneutically unsound; it ignores that a biblical literary device was employed (compression); it doesn’t take into account variations in translation sources. We’ve also seen in this series that justice is NOT served by executing an innocent so the guilty can be called righteous. This violates principles taught throughout Scripture.
Now we’re ready to look at the real perpetrators of this unjust execution. Again, I will refer to and borrow from my series, “Saving Easter” to save space and time.
If not God, then who?
Let me start with what I said in “Saving Easter-Part four.” Scripture is actually pretty straightforward about assessing the blame for Jesus unjust execution. 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 all killed Jesus.
This is why Jesus said to His Father, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:24). The “them” and “they” are us. What we should have no trouble understanding is that Jesus is asking the Father to forgive US for killing Him!
What was God doing then?
While it’s not the focus in this series, we need to briefly look at where God was and what He was actually doing when Christ was crucified. The Bible is very clear about this(bold type added):
that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them…” (2 Cor.5:19a NKJV)
I want you to notice two things here. First, God was IN Christ at the cross. He didn’t turn away or abandon His beloved Son for one split second, nor was He punishing Him. What was He doing then? He was reconciling US.
Reconciliation is the Greek word katallassō. It essentially means to bring into harmony. This is the only appropriate way we can use the word, atonement (at-one-ment), by the way.
Let’s get the roles straight here.
WE were the ones with the angry murderous hearts. We were the ones with the enmity (Rom.8:7; Eph.2:14-16). We were God’s children full of wrath, enemies in our minds (Rom.5:10; Eph.2:3; Col.1:21), separated from the Father’s love and life (John 17:3).
The Father—BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE—was IN His incarnate Son, allowing all our iniquities to be fused with the Divine Nature so we could be healed and brought back into perfect union with Him as Christ is in perfect union with Him (bold type added):
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. (Eph.2:4-6 NLT)
Think about this. When the leper and the woman with an issue of blood came into contact with Jesus, they were healed. This is an apt picture of the atonement.
As I mentioned in part one, Isaiah 53 was divinely interpreted by Matthew, not as punishment to placate an angry God, but as HEALING and DELIVERENCE because of a loving God (Matt.8:16-17). Jesus Himself described His crucifixion the following way (bold type added):
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:14-17 NKJV)
Of course, Jesus was alluding to an incident in Numbers 21 when the people were being bitten by serpents because of their own disobedience. Here’s what God told Moses to do:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. (Num.21:8-9 NKJV)
From Jesus own description of the purpose of the cross, we can clearly see it wasn’t about punishment but to heal us from our own foolishness!
The idea that God had to punish Jesus so we could be saved would’ve been totally foreign to the early church fathers. As I’ve shown before, this idea of retributive justice was a sixteenth-century innovation of Calvin, taking Anselm’s eleventh-century invention to a whole new level.
Why did I open up this theological can of worms?
Among all the atonement theories that the church has contemplated (there have been many), PSA is possibly the most damaging to our relationship with our heavenly Father. I’m convinced that part of the problem we have with understanding our relationship with God as a son or daughter is because we’ve been taught that Jesus stands between us and an angry Father. Is this love? Is this the good news that brings great joy or great fear?
Beloved, this is not a story about an angry, wrathful God who won’t be appeased unless He kills His Son. This is a story about the rich mercy and great love of a Father and His faithful Son. It’s a story about their glorious rescue mission to bring about the GREATEST FAMILY REUNION of the ages! It’s the story of the reconciliation and restoration of the object of God’s deepest affection—you and me.