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Christian Biblical Studies
— 1 Tim. 2: 5, 6 —
AT JESUS’ TRIUMPHAL entry into Jerusalem, the disciples perhaps imagined that the kingdom of heaven, preached by the Lord, was at hand. Surely now the Lord had won over the haters and put to flight those who previously had sought to kill him. Besides, there was an element of inevitability about his reception. Hadn’t Jesus indicated as much when the Pharisees had insisted he tell the crowds to shut up, and he told them that if the multitude did not proclaim him, the stones themselves would have to cry out? (Luke 19: 39, 40)
Had the disciples reflected deeply on what Jesus said to them during their conversations with him as they tramped along the highways and byways of Palestine, they might have understood why his kingdom could not come at that particular time. Sure enough, the euphoria of the multitude evaporated like morning mist; the same people who cheered him, soon jeered him, pressing a reluctant Pilate to sentence him to death.
‘Here is the man!’ Pilate had exclaimed, when he put the now bruised and battered Jesus on display before the gawking rabble assembled on the Stone Pavement. Perhaps it was a last attempt to stir their compassion or save himself some trouble with Rome. ‘I find no basis for a charge against him.’ (John 19: 4, 5, 13, 14.)
‘Here is the man.’ So the Greek text reads. Pilate here proclaims that most singular of truths: Jesus is no ordinary person. And as the inanimate stones were obliged in the absence of human voice to hail the entry of Messiah into Jerusalem, so this tough officer of Rome was compelled, though without personal comprehension, to advertise the uniqueness of the One he was about to send to the cross. ‘Here is your king’. As if to say, ‘he’s yours’, do what you want with him.
From these observations we learn that God sometimes chooses to relay truth through unwitting, unwilling and ungodly agencies. For had not even Caiaphas, high priest in Israel that year, already prophesied against his will that Jesus must die in order that all Israel might be saved? (John 11: 49-53). Out of the mouth of babes or out of the mouths of the perverse, God can always get his point across.
The death of Jesus the Christ is the most pivotal event of all time — past, present, future. When he died, nothing would or could ever be the same again. Even his resurrection, three days on, magnifies the premier significance of his dying. Like the fire from heaven which proved the acceptability of the burnt-offering on the altar of the tabernacle, Christ’s resurrection was God’s affirmation to him that he had died successfully (Lev. 9: 23, 24; Acts 17: 31).
Christ died in demonstration of the truth of the accusation levelled at him by the Jews: ‘he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God’ (John 19: 7). Yes, in this regard, they who had wilfully refused to understand him on previous occasions, here vaguely grasped the import of what he had told them. Yes, only the Son of God could die to redeem mankind. Only he, begotten of and dearly loved by the Father, the son of the right hand, could accomplish that most high and holy mission proclaimed in John 3: 16: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’
Christ Jesus is the central figure of the prophecies and types from Genesis to Revelation, for all seasons of history, even before the creation of the world. The Old and New Testaments are therefore Christ-centred. As the chief spokesman for God, Christ is the Logos (the Word), embodying the qualities and attributes of the Father, and he is the Truth and the Way, the living essence of the gospel. Only Christ can bring the plans of God to fruition, and so he and his achievements are spoken of as synonymous and in the superlative.
And St. Paul teaches us that the man Jesus is the counterpart of the man Adam (Rom. 5: 19):
[J]ust as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.
and again (1 Cor. 15: 22):
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
This simple assertion, that Adam and Jesus are equivalents, defines the ransom-sacrifice paid by Jesus through his death, a legal transaction based on the principle of a ‘life for a life’. This doctrine has been poorly analysed and glossed over by most theologists. But this singular doctrine is like the keystone of an arch: it bears the weight of all other biblical teachings, and locks the whole the whole together. Nonetheless, it is usually set aside — ‘rejected’ — as the solution to various doctrinal contradictions, in part because it complicates the teaching of the Trinity, regarded by many believers as the ‘make or break’ doctrine, the one that determines who is, and who is not, a Christian.
Without a correct understanding of the ransom-price, it is hard to reconcile or understand the place of all the other doctrines in the arch of faith. It is the basis for understanding how God can remain just, yet justify the sinner; why evil is permitted; the fate of the dead; the true relationship of the Father to the Son; the restoration of fallen humanity to perfection; how election and free grace are compatible — in short, it harmonises the apparent contradictions which stumble many believers and non-believers.
‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.’ — 2 Cor. 4: 6
April 2015. Author asserts all usual rights.
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