Monday, April 23, 2012

Resurrection & New Life: The Bloody Cross

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Today's guest blogger is the Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale.  He is the E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical in Evanston, Illinois.  He completed his master of divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and his PhD in American History and Evangelism from Southern Methodist University in the Dallas area.

Scripture:  John 19:33-34 

33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

Many people are understandably uncomfortable with the bloodiness of the crucifixion. Specifically, theologians have grappled with the fact that the Father demanding that the Son undergo such a gruesome experience makes the Father into a monster, demanding the torture and anguish of the Son in propitiation for the sins of humanity. Certainly, if the passion and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than a means of satisfying the Father’s need for blood to be shed, this would be deeply disturbing. However, a different perspective can be taken to this.

The world is a bloody place. Not a day goes by in which the news does not relate of some atrocity or tragedy that has resulted in the often gruesome deaths of innocent people. Bombs fall on civilians, children in their homes are shot accidentally in the midst of gang conflicts, murders, suicides, and torture abound. The sin behind this spilling of blood is truly monstrous. It leads people of all stations, ages, races, and religions to a terrible end and seems to attest to the fact that might ultimately triumphs over life. Life cannot withstand the violent assault – it must spill its blood and admit defeat.

God offers a different view of this in Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” The shedding of blood, stated God, was for the atonement of those who had sinned. The one killed carries the ultimate power of testifying for the redemption of the killer. This is the context in which Jesus suffered and died: He was not seeking to satiate a bloodthirsty God, he was voluntarily allowing his innocent blood to be spilled that he might claim the authority to forgive those who had transgressed the will of God. Moreover, in claiming the role of the victim, Jesus was empowering every victim of violence to stand over his or her killers with the power of forgiveness. Victims no longer, they hold the destiny of their killers in their hands and can offer them peace through their blood.

God’s demand for the blood of Christ was not to fill the divine desire for blood, but to declare the bleeding ones as the ultimate victors over those who made them bleed.

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