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Christ in the Crucible

The Lesson Study Guide presents this statement for Wednesday December 26:

Clearly, something much more was happening here than just the death, however unfairly, of an innocent man. According to Scripture, God’s wrath against sin, our sin, was poured out upon Jesus. Jesus on the cross suffered not sinful humanity’s unjust wrath but a righteous God’s righteous indignation against sin, the sins of the whole world. As such, Jesus suffered something deeper, darker, and more painful than any human being could ever know or experience.

The statement is based not upon texts the authors have just asked their readers to look up (Matt. 27:45, 51, 52; Mark 15:48), for none of them say anything about God’s wrath being poured out upon Jesus. In fact, nowhere in the New Testament does it say so; none of its passages even say that Jesus paid a penalty for sin. This absence makes sense because, as John 1 indicates, Jesus is God. It would make little sense to pour out wrath upon oneself.

Christ in the crucible is not about Jesus suffering under the wrath of God. It was not the wrath of God that placed Jesus on the cross, it was actions…sinful actions of humans who rejected their creator. As Acts 3:15 says, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (NIV). Eight texts in the New Testament assert it was humans who killed Jesus, and not one indicates that God killed Christ (Matt. 16:21; Luke 24:20; Acts 2:23, 3:13, 5:30, 7:52, 10:39; 1 Thess. 2:14-15). In fact, Romans 3:25 depicts God presenting Christ as an offering for us, not something that satisfied God’s indignation against sin. The sacrifice of atonement—literally “at-one-ment”—means reconciliation. God reached out to humans because justice, in God’s view, is not based upon punishment, but a return to harmony with him, to restoration of a positive relationship with God.

We are in the crucible of our own making. Our God came down to that crucible, polluted and cruel though it is, to show us that he loves us and wants us to have a loving, trusting, friendship with him. God does not want us to see him as an angry God or a God who punishes the innocent to free the guilty, but as a God who loves supremely, who is eager to forgive, and who will do what he promises—even to raising us to life, just as Christ was raised from a death inflicted by people who rejected their own creator.

This is the central message of Christmas.

Ron Corson is a cytotechnologist who lives in Olympia, Washington

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