Thursday, June 15, 2006

God's Role in Jesus's Death

This is one of those topics that seems a little absurd to me, but maybe I am just too much of a lightweight (wink, Kim!). For some reason, in some circles there is a "Did God Kill Jesus?" controversy.

Huh? I find this an issue that is easily addressed with a few scriptures. I see no reason, really, to make it too complicated.

Quick background: Kim at The Upward Call was reading a controversial post about this subject the other day, and an incident in the comments box sparked an interesting discussion on her blog. I didn't go and read all the original arguments; frankly, I don't want to.

Why did Jesus die? Did He want to? Did He willingly lay down His life, or did God "kill" Him? Did people kill Jesus, incurring guilt upon themselves?

Well, at one point He hoped there'd be another way, and who can blame Him?

Matthew 26:39
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."

But He went to the Cross willingly. He knew His mission.

John 10:15, 17-18
'I lay down my life for the sheep. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.' (Isn't the oneness of Father and Son wonderful?)

Matthew 16:21
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

His death was not a surprise to Jesus. He was willing to be the Passover Lamb.

Hebrews 2:9-10, 17
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering....Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Yet, yes, it pleased God to do things this way. As Jesus said in Gethsemane, it was God's will.

Isaiah 53:6, 10-11
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....
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;

he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

But some humans did bear guilt for their parts in the crucifixion of God's only Son. I believe this is because they had "free will", so to speak, and chose to do wrong, but I know many will disagree with me on that point. They sinned against God when they condemned His Son, an innocent man, and more than a man. God alone knows the degrees of their guilt, but it cannot be stated that they did not sin just because they didn't realize the great extent of this sin.

Matthew 26:3-5, 63b-68
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, 'Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people'....And the high priest said to him, 'I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his robes and said, 'He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?' They answered, 'He deserves death.' Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, 'Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?'

Matthew 27:24
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves.' (Of course, he wasn't innocent of Jesus's blood...but that's another story. Isn't it interesting that his wife was given a dream?)

Matthew 27:25
Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

Interesting that Jesus said this (below) as He was being crucified, though; He knew that no one there knew all of the implications of what was happening that day:

Luke 23:34
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Why are questions so often posed as if there is one answer? "Did God kill Jesus?" Um...that's not the right question. It presumes all the wrong things and leaves out lots of important things.

It pleased God to provide atonement for our sins this way. He foreshadowed it throughout the Old Covenant, and Jesus, as part of the Godhead, was in on that, all the way. One of the things I love most about Bible study is witnessing all the seamless ways the Lord has written His plan into the Word, over and over again, in pictures, in allegories, in prophecy, and in historical recording. Nothing caught God by surprise; He has never been foiled by a plan of man.

My ten cents.

**NOTE: I just remembered that my pastor in California did a GREAT article on this when The Passion of the Christ came out. He used a lot of Scriptures that I didn't think of while writing this. A great read.