Christ in the Crucible
The Lesson Study Guide presents this statement for Wednesday December 26:
Clearly, something much more was happening here than just the death, however unfairly, of an innocent man. According to Scripture, God's wrath against sin, our sin, was poured out upon Jesus. Jesus on the cross suffered not sinful humanity's unjust wrath but a righteous God's righteous indignation against sin, the sins of the whole world. As such, Jesus suffered something deeper, darker, and more painful than any human being could ever know or experience.
The statement is based not upon the texts they had just asked their readers to look up. Matt. 27:45, Matt. 27:51, 52, Mark 15:38 For none of those say anything about God’s wrath poured out upon Jesus. In fact you will not find even one New Testament verse which says that God poured out His wrath upon Jesus, none that even say that Jesus paid a penalty for sin in fact. Which when you think about it makes perfect since because as John Chapter 1 indicates Jesus is God. It would make little sense to pour your wrath out upon yourself. Even if you did inflict injury upon yourself what would be the point. The medieval monks practiced flagellation as a means of penance. The practice apparently grew out of the administration of floggings to erring monks. But is that really the kind of penance that God wants? Certainly that is not what any New Testament authors recommend.
So what does God gain if we assume he is not cutting off His nose to spite His face as the phrase goes, indicating that one disadvantages themselves in order to do harm to an adversary. Who is the adversary here? Certainly not Christ yet that appears to be who receives the wrath if the above quote is to be believed. What if sin is the adversary? Can you hurt sin? Does sin feel pain or remorse or anything? No, sin is not an individual that can feel, think or act; sin is the attitude of the sinner. In fact sin is not something that can be moved from here to there or from then to now, let alone from all people from all time to one person at one time in the past. The only way that this could work is if sin actually had some physical or mystical reality (though that would not work for sin yet uncommitted). It is rather like in a quantum theory one could say that when one sinned it spun off and formed its own universe. But it is a doubtful proposition and just as a multiverse was unknown in the New Testament times it is also doubtful that anyone thought of sin as an actual substance that existed apart from the thinking individual whose sin produced a thought or action.
Christ in the crucible is not about Jesus suffering under the wrath of God. It was not the wrath of God that placed Jesus on the cross it was the actions…sinful actions of human beings who rejected their creator. As Acts says: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (NIV) Eight texts in the New Testament assert it was humans who killed Jesus, and not one indicates that God killed Christ (Matt. 16:21; Luke 24:20; Acts 2:23, 3:13, 5:30, 7:52, 10:39; 1 Thess. 2:14-15). In fact as a sacrifice, God is presenting Christ as the sacrifice (Romans ), something God offers us not something to satisfy God’s indignation against sin. The sacrifice of atonement, at-one-ment and that means reconciliation. God reaching out to man because justice in God’s view is not something based upon punishment but upon returning man back to harmony, a positive relationship with God.
We are in the crucible of our own making and our God came down to that crucible polluted and cruel though it is to show us that He loves us and wants us to have a loving, trusting, friendship with God. Not as an angry God or a God who punishes the innocent to free the guilty, but as a God who loves supremely, who is eager to forgive and who will do what He promises even to raising us to life just as Christ was raised from death inflicted by people who rejected their own creator.
This is the message of Christmas.