'Biblical Theology'. : ‘How can we put this story in it’s proper time and place?’
And so I want to make a brief distinction tonight him and introduce you to words that you might totally hate but the first one is what is called biblical theology. - ‘How can we put this story in it’s proper time and place?’ Biblical theology is a lot about time and place and understanding the Bible through the lens of what was happening in a culture at the time. And I think it's really cool and important, and that's where we spend most of this series.
'Systematic theology': “What does this mean?”
And I want to take a bit of a break from that tonight, it simply because I feel like we need to when we're talking about the crucifixion of Jesus to say more than just what was happening culturally, but also to say why it's important and what it means. So this is a message that would be called "Systematic theology” which is a horrible phrase, and I'm sure you wish you hadn't come, but what systematic theology is is it's not just talking about time and place, it’s seeking to answer this question: “What does this mean?”. What does the crucifixion of Jesus mean? What does the resurrection of Jesus mean?
Tonight: Systematic - Crucifixion & Resurrection
So that's what we're going to do tonight. We're going to talk about the crucifixion and the resurrection, but we're not gonna talk about it in a way of understanding what was happening culturally because I think we have done enough of that. I could tell you what was going on between Jesus and Rome and the political reasons and the religious reasons of why he was crucified, but I think the majority of you who have been around for any amount of time here probably already know that, and so we're going to do something different.
Here's the question: What does the crucifixion mean? And why should it matter to me?
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. (Matthew 27:45)
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Matthew 27:46)
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50)
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (Matthew 28:1)
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. (Matthew 28:2)
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. (Matthew 28:5)
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:6)
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. (Matthew 28:8)
Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:9)
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)
So this is a familiar story, so we don’t need to spend a ton of time on it.
But I do want to introduce you to the idea of an atonement theory. This is one of the places where Christians really get mad at each other when they have disagreements on what the crucifixion of Jesus means.
The first and probably most popular is called the penal substitutionary view of the atonement.
Comes from the reformed Christian tradition.
“Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalized) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins.”
The next is also pretty popular and it's called the Christos Victor view of the atonement.
Comes from the early church fathers.
“The work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil."
I'm not wanting to really get into the weeds of any of that, I think there's truth in multiple atonement theories. And I also just want remind you that that's what they are there series and so they're man-made ways of understanding what the atonement means.
Well I think we should all agree that the person who has the most authority to say what the crucifixion means would be Jesus himself.
All that to say there's a couple really interesting verses in the Gospel of John where Jesus comes and essentially explains what the crucifixion accomplished. And I don’t think that these scriptures get as much recognition as they deserve. Because I think it’s pretty important to have Jesus tell us why he died.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. (John 12:27)
(Skip to v 31)
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:33)
So this is an amazing piece of scripture. What Jesus is doing here is outlining 3 things that he’s accomplishing through his death.
And there’s so much that can be said for all 3 of these, and maybe someday we’ll go through all of them, but for right now I really want to focus on the 1st one that’s in verse 31 which is : Jesus says that by his death, the world will be judged.
Which is an interesting idea. I think a lot of Christians would believe that in the end of the world the world will be judged, but we might be a little fuzzy on how the world was judged when Jesus was crucified. So what’s going on here?
So what’s going on? And I’ll say it like this:
The Crucifixion exposed the broken system at the center of the world. And in doing so, he gives the world a new center.
And I know what you’re thinking: The center of the earth is lava or something.
So I don’t mean the center of the actual planet, I mean it more like the center, the nucleus of an atom. It’s the thing that holds everything together. Where everything else rotates around the center.
Group of friends - one friend.
I don’t know if you some of you guys have a group of friends, and then there’s that one friend who without them, you know there would be no group of friends. They’re always the one saying ‘Let’s get together and do something!’ ‘Let’s go skiing!’ ‘Let’s get together and bring our own steaks and secretly harbor bitterness for whoever’s steak is the best!'
Well you could say they they’re the center of your group of friends. They’re the nucleus, without them the whole thing falls apart.
So you could say something like this: With the crucifixion of Jesus the world is given a new center. And it’s center is “Love expressed in forgiveness.”
And that sounds like a really hippy-dippy thing to say, but let me explain.
Let's look once again at the story. Jesus is now 48 hours away from his crucifixion. Nobody else knows that but him. He’s tried to communicate it to his followers but it’s always just fallen on deaf ears.
They think Jesus is going to become a king in a real conventional matter, by overthrowing the government and becoming an earthly king. That's what they're expecting to happen.
They certainly don't realize that he's forty eight hours away from death.
So Jesus is alone in his awareness of this and that's deeply troubling.
Jesus is about to be arrested and he's about to go on trial, twice. A religious trial and a civil trial.
But as is so often the case with the ministry of Jesus there's often a paradox involved.
When it looks like the world was putting God on trial, God was actually putting the world on trial.
We don't realize this until we read Paul's writings later in the Bible.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
But Paul will tell us that in these moments Christ was putting the powers of the world (The Ciaphas’s and the Pilates) to shame.
“In the trials of Christ before Ciaphas and Pilate, it was not Christ who was on trial, it was the world itself that was being tried in the court of Christ." (Brian Zahnd)
Again, Jesus said: “Now is the time for judgment on this world."
So when Christ dies on the cross, he gives the world a new center. A new thing to rotate around.
So he replaces what used to be the center of the world with a new center.
It's the center of forgiving love.
The trial of Jesus in humanities court was actually the trial of humanity in Jesus's Court.
Jesus is betrayed by Judas, he's arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, he's tried first religious courts by the Sanhedrin where he’s convicted of blasphemy for claiming to be the son of God.
He's now brought before pilate as a Caesar's representative. He’s the secular governor. Pilate is not interested in trying Jesus of religious grounds. He doesn’t care.
Pilate says so.
So the people would come and say ‘Well we also have political means of prosecuting. B/C Jesus claims to be the king of the jews.
And this is a purely political claim.
The problem is, the jews already have a king: Herod. Appointed by Rome.
So to say that Jesus is King of the Jews would be a deeply insulting statement to the Romans.
And he says “are you the king of the Jews" and Jesus says “It is as you say. But my kingdom of not from this world. For if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting. But my kingdom is not from this world.”
So you need to know what he's not saying. Jesus is not saying that he has some kingdom in a far off place that has nothing to do with this world. He's not saying that.
He saying yes I have a kingdom but my kingdoms do not come in the way that your kingdom come.
And how do the kingdoms of this world coming? Well that's easy: through power.
And Jesus is saying my kingdom doesn't come that way. If it did then my servants would be fighting. They would be trying to gain power. But my kingdom comes another way.
Pilate’s confused by this. And Jesus likely sees the confusion on the face of Pilate and the Jesus continues and he says “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth..”
So what Jesus is essentially saying here is this: “The world has not had the truth. But now I’m coming to bring the truth.” It's an amazing thing to say. That's huge.
Pilate responds with his famous question:"What is truth?"
This is a cynical question from a pragmatic politician.
So Pilate sends Jesus to be beaten, hoping that'll be enough.
So Jesus is mocked, they put a crown of thorns of his head, a stick for a scepter, someone draps a purple robe over him in mockery.
And he’s brought back to Pilate.
Pilate continues his questioning: “Where are you from?”
And now Jesus is not replying. He’s said what he had to say and now he gives no reply.
So Pilate get’s even more frustrated and he says this “Do you not know that I have power to crucify you?”
Now THAT is interesting.
You can see Pilate answering his own question: “What is truth? I’ll tell you. Truth is power.”
The center of the World is power.
Now please understand: All Jesus has to do is to admit that he’s not a King. And that Rome has King. WHY? Because they have the power. The power to kill. The power to crucify.
Just admit that, and you’ll be released.
But Jesus won’t.
For Cesar, and Pilate, and Ciaphas, the center of the world was power.
But Jesus said he came into the world to bear witness to the truth.
To give the world a different centering principle.
And what is that centering principle?
Not power demonstrated by violence,
but love demonstrated by forgiveness.
Ultimate truth is not power. Ultimate truth is love.
Why? B/C God. Is. Love.
God has power, and we worship him in his awesome power. And we celebrate his power.
but God is not power. God is Love.
And also, God’s power is not the kind of power we often times think of when we think of power.
B/C even the power of God is ultimately motivated by love.
So it’s not that God resists all power, but it’s not at the ‘center’ of the world anymore. At the center is love.
Ok so Pilate. Pilate represents the Kingdom of Rome.
And the Roman Empire was the world’s superpower.
They ruled by slaughtering all who opposed them.
So the center of the Roman Empire was power.
And Jesus - represents the Kingdom of God
Which is not LESS powerful than the Roman Empire, it’s MORE powerful, but at the center of the Kingdom of God is not power but love.
He COULD have just unleashed armies of angels, remember? But that would just continue the same system. - The system of power.
Remember when they’re in the garden and Peter takes up the sword to fight off the guards and Jesus says “What are you doing?! That’s not how we do it! That’s how they do it. That’s not how we do it. I’m here to bring something else.”
“Meet the new boss. He’s the same as the old boss.” - That’s not what I’m here for!”
So what does Jesus do instead of unleashing armies of angels?
He goes to the cross and dies in love and forgiveness.
So Jesus dies. And Ciaphas and Pilate think ‘Well, that’s that.’
"So much for this whole new way of seeing the world. - That sure didn’t amount to much. All that talk, and still, our power won.”
Which is why the resurrection is so important.
B/C it shows that love is greater than power. It shows than the Kingdom of God is greater than the Kingdom of Rome.
Even when we kill Jesus, he still comes back in love and forgiveness.
He reads this story and thinks that Pilate got the best of Jesus.
The primary concept in Nietzsche’s philosophy is ’The will to power.”
He says the desire for power is the main driving force behind humanity.
“I will have my way. And I will destroy all who oppose me.“
This is what’s motivating Pilate right here. He says “I have the power to kill you.”
Pilate believes that the cross is at the center of the world.
But what he means by that is having power over others.
It’a almost like he’s pleading with Jesus “I just wish you would realize how the real world works, you dreamy eyed hippie.” If you realize that, we don’t have to do any of this, we can let you go and you can go around preaching your cute little sermons and healing the sick, and all that. But you must never question that at the center of the humanity is power, that’s not negotiable.
Jesus also believers that the cross is at the center of the world. - But in a completely opposite way. It’s not about “The Will to Power”, it’s about love enforced by forgiveness.
And he goes to the center of power - the roman cross - and loves and forgives and it gives the world a new center.
It’s the great awakening.
But so long as we continue to live our lives with power at the center, we will always just bring about more pain.
You hurt me, so I’ll hurt you.
And we use someone elses bad behavior to justify our own.
See this in relationships. You see this in relationships all the time. “I know I shouldn’t have said that, but YOU said this first!"
Politics We see this in politics all the time 'I know that was wrong but let's talk about the other guys!'
Imagine if Jesus would have done that.
“I came to be nice and loving, but you killed me, so I’m gonna kill you.”
No, his love wasn’t dependent on our love.
Once you see a world centered around power, once the mask is ripped off and you see it for what it is, it is PAINFULLY obvious that nothing good is every going to come from it.
And the record plays over and over and over and over. Cain and Able. That’s all it is.
And once you see that, you see how absurd it is to trust in anything other that the love of Jesus to heal the world. It’s silly.
Wives, let’s say you have conflict with your husband at home. Well what if we tried this. What if we took more power from you and gave more power to your husband. How would that work for you? Not good you say? You would just rebel you say? - Yeah it’s because relationships don’t function by power but by love. And the same is true with the world.
The Apostle John makes it very clear that if we haven’t made love the center of our life, then our Christianity isn’t ultimately real.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9)
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in the darkness.
If you doubt that, go talk to someone on their death bed. They don't care about Money, power, politics, success. Think about their loves one. Want the people in their lives to know how much they love them.
God is more known by love than by thinking.
Hans Urs von Balthasar - Theologian:
"Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed."
When you listen to the news, you can ask yourself a question: "What's at work here?" Is Love at work here? And then a follow up question: "Is love at work here?"
Back to 1 Corinthians 13 - Paul says if you get everything else right, but get love wrong, you get nothing.
You get big fat ZERO on your report card.
You get everything else right
But if you love, you'll be fine.
Love covers and multitude of of sins, you know.
Love and do what you will.” Augustine (4th century)
In the crucifixion of Jesus, we are shown another way. Jesus shows us the way of love as opposed to the way of power. It seemed like Jesus was on trial, but in reality it was humanity that was on trial. And our broken system of ‘The Will to Power’ was put to shame. It was exposed as being the complete opposite of the kingdom of God. You can’t serve both God and power. Because God is Love.
The only chance we have to make this a possibility is we love because he first loved us.
Our love is a response to His love.
It's amazing the kids can do this. When you're a child, you imitate. And eventually becomes the way that you are too.
If you need a place to look, look to the cross. And then you imitate it.
We do our worst, and he simply responds with father forgive them.
As they pass - spend a minute asking God - "Where does my love need to grow?
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."