Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

Study notes for: October 26th sermon.
Text: John 18:28-19:16

We live at a time in history when there's a huge disconnect between Jesus and His followers. People like Jesus... a lot. There are all kinds of bumper stickers, pins, bracelets, t-shirts, and flags available that will let you show your loyalties. At same time, though, lots of the same people who claim to be tight with Jesus can't stand other Christians, and really can't stand the church.

My question this coming Sunday is this: If Jesus is so wildly popular, why did everyone, religious and secular, patriotic and rebellious, from the right and left alike, conspire to kill the man? What was it about this person that made His death a necessity from the perspectives of such wildly diverse people as Romans and Jews?

The second question: What's the value of Jesus death? What was gained by it? To understand the framework for this question, you might want to pour yourself a cup of coffee and take a look at the atonement theories that have been cast by theologians down through the ages. If you're bored with that, just read I John 2:1-3 and II Corinthians 5:21.

1) According to these two passages, what's the value of Jesus death?
2) What does Paul mean in Romans 6 when he says that we died with Christ? What does this look like in real life?
3) When you think about Jesus death, are you supposed to be glad that he died for you, sad that he suffered so much, intent of being willing to suffer more for him? What is response as you recall the death of Christ through the Lord's Table and Baptism?

Now...on to the reasons people killed Jesus -

1) Jesus proclaimed a different kingdom and told his followers that, while they should 'render unto Ceasar..." the reality is that their loyalty to Christ's reign supercedes any other kingdom. Can you think of Christians who've paid a price in America for placing their loyalty to Christ above that of country? What would that look like here?

2) Jesus' teaching was, eventually, an offense to everyone - but in His physical absence, the church has the luxury of re-interpreting His sayings, and thus runs the risk of lessening both the offense and impact of the gospel. If Jesus were to walk among your church today, what might He tell us that we're misrepresenting? Please use the scriptures to support your thoughts.


At 22/10/08 22:26, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the value of Jesus' death? Supposedly, it is an atonement for my sins as described in Hebrews... however, I don't feel the transformation I am supposed to feel based on this great atonement for my sins, that is, what we are all supposed to have gained by it. Bummer. Funny the atonement section in Wiki did not address the suffering of God... this is the one thing (God's supposed ability to suffer with us) that is giving me hope these days. I wonder what you think about that Richard.

People killed Jesus because he smiled all the time and carried all the lost sheep back home to safety. Err, I meant to say, they killed him for disrupting the power structures. He leveled the playing field, that's why they killed him. He turned all the power structures on their heads and pointed out how silly they looked and got followers to recognize this too... that's why they killed him.

Examples... Maybe MLK, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, School of Americas marchers, Witness for peace folks that go to Israel... all examples of people who put loyalty to kingdom above nation.

I think Woody Guthrie gets it right when he sings about Jesus in NYC.

Misrepresenting... Jesus would wonder why I am not making disciples, am not one as he and Father are one, nor am I going and doing likewise. I'm not taking care of the widow, orphan or oppressed. I'm not spending any time with those in prison. I give my checks to Compassion and World Vision and even to my church who spend nearly 85% of its money on church based ministry and not non-member based ministry ( I don't attend Bethany).

Thanks for the series Richard. I've been listening through the podcast. I'm on the East Slopes of the North Cascades swingin' my hammer to Dahlstrom. Keep on preachin' it.


At 24/10/08 15:48, Blogger Patrick said...

yeah, dave! I don't know you, but I like what you are saying about God suffering with us. I too, noticed the lack of this in the wikipedia article.

I think the value of Jesus' death is tied to his resurrection as well. Jesus' suffering was God fully embracing all of creation's pain and brokenness, down to the lowest, darkest level. AND . . . in the same way that Christ suffered as all creation does, we have hope that we will share in Christ's resurrection!

This way of thinking about the crucifixion of Christ is more meaningful to me, because it focuses on joining with Christ and with God, rather than on taking a gift from God. This helps me to be more motivated to join with God in the mission of God's Kingdom. And it makes more sense of communion in my mind, since that is the most tangible practice in terms of joining with Christ.

I also wonder what you think of this, Richard . . . maybe a follow-up comment?

At 24/10/08 16:21, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Hi all...

Gift - or joint heir, with whom we both suffer and reign?

The answer is: YES

I'm always by either side of this atonement argument if the other side is neglected - I John 2 says that Christ's death became the propitiation for all sins. And Romans 6 says that 'we died with Christ' on the cross, and Paul speaks of filling up that which was lacking in Christ's suffering. I can't enter into the sharing of the suffering unless I receive the gift. But I can't really receive the gift, at least not in the sense it was given, without sharing in the suffering.

At 24/10/08 16:22, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

by they way... I appreciate the comments on these 'sermon' posts. I end up tweaking my talks because of them! Thanks for sharing.

At 26/10/08 19:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the 5pm service tonight, and I think I began to understand the "hugeness" of Jesus taking on all our sin and guilt and shame and pain on the cross. But then I started to think, and I wondered, since all "wrath" was taken upon Jesus when he died, and because we are always fully accepted because of his death, can God still get mad at us? I understand the difference between discipline and condemnation. But I think I am having a hard time swallowing the "full acceptance" piece". And how does full acceptance fit with the fact that we live sinful lives and obviously, that is not okay with God?

At 27/10/08 12:01, Blogger Patrick said...

Richard, don't you think in modern evangelical circles, the representational model of Christ's crucifixion is neglected? I mean, if you listen to people talk about the cross, it's all about a trade, a ransom, or a sacrifice. And all the songs we sing in church are about purchasing our souls with Christ's blood. I'm not kidding on this one. Seriously, over 2/3 of them are. There is not a single song about us seeing Christ's resurrection as "pars pro toto," giving us hope for the future (as NT Wright writes about).

It seems like all the atonement model purchases is forgiveness for the symptoms of brokenness, because we are all still sitting here broken, whether or not we've "received" Christ. And the symptoms are all still around us. That is why knowing Christ suffered with us and hoping that we will be raised as Christ was is more meaningful to me.

With regards to wrath being emptied, if Christ was fully God, how does the Father's wrath being transferred to the Son fit with a trinitarian model?

At 28/10/08 09:58, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

There's a critical verse that I hope helps us all in this discussion. It's find in Romans 5:10 which tells us that if we, "were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

Notice: our salvation isn't tied to Jesus death... that's tied to His resurrection. However, our reconciliation IS tied to His death, and this, along with the fact that the substitutionary view of the atonement has very deep historical precedent, is why you find so many songs about this stuff. The problem, in my estimation, isn't that we miss the point of his death, so much as that we miss the point of his resurrection, a topic I'll be privileged to share on in a couple of weeks. make sense?

At 28/10/08 22:45, Anonymous Herb said...

In response to Christ being sin in order to.... "make us not sin"... No, thats not what is says, but thats often how we interpret the whole exchange. Rather, in oder that we might become the Righteousness of God in Him.

What is the Righteousness of God in Him?
As Christians do we reduce the enrobing in the righteousness of God to merely managing our sins and becoming more sinless? The Pharisees were very devout in their attempts to do this.

Also, in keeping his commandments as in I John, was Christ coming to proclaim that we ought to count sins and enter into a fool proof sin management system, quote, in Him? What ought the focus of these things be?

Is there a more holistic understanding of the Righteousness of God than a puritanical form of Christianity we've inherited and emphasize here in the states? Possibly one with less emphasis on sin management and more emphasis on connecting the human heart with the heart of God? Whether it be accomplished through the symbol of a serpent on a cross or a human on a cross....

Going further, could it be said that Christ is less concerned with how well you're managing your sin that with how well you're following His commandments? Did Christ do more to pull us away from prohibitions or raise the bar?

At 29/10/08 02:16, Blogger Patrick said...

@ Richard - I guess I don't really understand your distinction between salvation and reconciliation. What is salvation other than a complete reconciliation between creation and God?

@ Herb - Are you saying its all symbolic? And it doesn't matter whether it's a serpent or Christ? I would have to fully disagree with you in that respect. I think Christ's death has meaning because Christ was part of the Trinitarian communion. I've been trying to describe a "part for the whole" theology, where Christ's death and resurrection have a direct relationship to creation's death and resurrection. In what I've been writing about, Christ's death and resurrection is NOT a symbolic description, but rather a relational paradigm. I DO agree with you about your focus on holistically ethical living, rather than on simply avoiding sin, but I think the mission of Christ was and is the same as God's mission has always been: to reconcile all things to God's self. I don't think Christ was raising the bar, instead he was showing/reminding us that our mission is to try to reach the bar that will really only be reached when God's kingdom comes in its fullness.

Does that make sense? Not a symbol for an ethereal truth, but a relational paradigm that points towards a future event that will happen in history.

At 29/10/08 07:10, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

thanks to both Herb and Pat for keeping an important discussion going:

Herb - 'not sin' can mean many things!! You ask: Is there a more holistic understanding of the Righteousness of God than a puritanical form of Christianity we've inherited and emphasize here in the states?

My answer would be a wholehearted yes - Jesus was characterized as FOR justice, healing, forgiveness, celebration, caring for the poor, and breaking down walls of division. Yet, in saying this, let's not misrepresent
Jesus as a political liberal. He taught about sexual purity and was harsh on divorce; these too are components of righteousness.

Patrick - reconciliation seems to be the starting point of a progressive transformation that will continue until the whole cosmos is filled with Christ's glory (Ephesians 1:10,11). To illustrate - it's as if I can't receive the infusion of life that I need until I am allowed into the hospital. I'm allowed into the hospital, so to speak, by virtue of wealth of another, Christ, the righteous one. It's great to talk about the far reaching scope of salvation, but we can't even start the journey without the cross.

hope this helps..?

At 29/10/08 08:21, Anonymous Herb said...

Good morning participants! Patrick.... I can see how with the limited words of a blog that you could think I've reduced this to a mere symbol. In which case I would totally disagree with myself too:)
I agree that the entire engine behind all of this is relational.

- observable truth: God used many different devices for atonement/reconciliation & real healing/salvation throughout scripture: Lamb, grain, moses raising a serpent on a stick, spit in mud... They are not mere symbols, however they are powerful symbols for our remembrance and real acts humans participate in.

- Why are/were these adequate: Because we have a God (Community of God... heck possibly a heavenly council for all I know) that has ruled, or judged, that these acts were/are sufficient for the cleansing, the restoration, atonement. We also know that our God has a pre disposition to favorable, loving relationships with Humans (right out of the gate with our Creation story as compared to other Ancient Near East stories)

- Also remember that merely performing the act was not an automatic for atonement. Remember a fed up God in Amos saying the sacrifices of the people... the trips to the temple... INCREASED their sin because of their filthy hearts and practices. So, there is a heart attitude and "good faith" criteria in the old covenant.... and the new I would argue. And possibly a broader Judgement criteria that is in the trustworthy hand of God. {side note} The High Priest came out of the Holy of Holies either dead or alive with the same sacrifice.

- Questions to ask at this point. What heart is God looking for when we approach his table? Or, What heart was he looking for when they approached the temple with a lamb? Or even more beautifully, what heart is needed to actually be changed by Christ?

- Now, the salvation component and the perfection of Christ as a relatable human and as an atoning sacrifice is what blows it out of the water. I love the way Hebrews plays with the Old and the New.... Christ isn't just the High Priest that makes the sacrifice for the "nation", but he's the sacrifice as well... and He serves in the Heavenly Court continually. Whether this is actual or symbol, the point the author is making is that.... Come in... you have direct access now. Present your heart before God and find restoration through Christ.

- Christ's death and sacrifice is a symbol and a real exchange because of the ruling I described earlier. He hangs there on a cross as symbol to remind us and prepare for us (based on Gods intimate knowledge of the human heart) to be humbled and re-engage. An entering of the hospital if you will.
I would go further to say that its more like making regular trips to the health clinic (the Lords Table) than a one time trip to the hospital.

- Christ's life before and after His death is the same call, the same invitation that has always been, from the very beginning. Its a fulfillment of the prophets and it is the most perfect, consistent example of the heart of God and the life we are called to. (this is drastically understated, but I'm running out of time)

I have to go to work now unfortunately, but this is a great start:) We haven't even discussed the Holy Spirit yet.


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