Why was Jesus Crucified? and How Can We See the Mission of the Church in the Nation of Israel?

The other day I was thinking.  And then, Sarah thought it warranted a blog post.  Since it is a snow day here, and class was cancelled, I figured I had time to work on it.

Why was Jesus crucified?

Jesus came, lived, and died to take away the sins of the world.  When He died on the cross, he was the propitiation for our sins, so that we could enjoy eternal life.  Sometimes, when I hear Christians discuss the crucifixion, we fixate on the horrific details.  “Did you know that there were small pieces of metal embedded in the whips they used?”  “The nails would have been driven through His wrists, for more stability”  “Have you seen that Mel Gibson movie?”  There is no doubt that we can hardly image the horror of Jesus’s torture and crucifixion.  It is possible that there is no worse way to die; and yet, some of the early Christians went to the cross singing.  Were they braver than the Son of God?  I think not.  The real burden Jesus endured was not the lashes or the beam.  It was taking the full measure of God’s wrath for all the sins of every human who has ever and will ever live.  That was what caused Jesus to sweat blood in the garden and ask God to take this cup from Him.

I cannot imagine drinking the cup of God’s wrath.  What Jesus endured on the cross is beyond the scope of human comprehension.  Why was he crucified?  To give us an image of the greater agony He went through.  Because our human minds are limited, Jesus physically demonstrated a spiritual reality – “You can’t even begin to imagine what it is to suffer for the sins of the world, so I give you the crucifixion, to show you what suffering looks like”.  A similar example is Baptism.  We are washed in the waters of Baptism to show that we are cleansed of our sins.  Because we cannot see the sins wash away, God gives us a visual to go along with the spiritual truth.  Like Baptism, Jesus’s death on the cross was efficacious.  It was what it symbolized.  Not only did he give us a living picture of suffering for our sins, he was actually suffering for our sins while he hung there.

How can we see the mission of the Church in the nation of Israel?

When we read the Old Testament, we see a lot about this group of people called the nation of Israel.  What relevance does their story have for us?  A lot, actually, but the other day something struck me that I’d never thought of before.  God moved Abraham to the land of Canaan.  The patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – were established there.  Then, the family of Israel moved to Egypt, following Joseph.  They were there for quite a while – long enough to grow from a family to a nation.  However, after the exodus from Egypt, they saw that this was also long enough for other peoples to move in on the land that once was their fathers’.  Led by Joshua, the Israelites fought to reclaim Canaan, the Promised Land, from the nations that had settled there.

How does this apply to us?  God created the world to be good.  However, as Canaan was settled by pagan nations, the world has been corrupted by sin.  The Israelites were led out of Egypt (an image of repentance from sin), through the Red Sea (an image of the waters of Baptism), to the Promised Land, where they were aliens in a land that was meant to be theirs.  As Christians, we repent from our sins, get baptized, and then find ourselves pilgrims in a world that was meant to be good for humanity.  Part of our calling is to fight against sin, not just in our own hearts but in all the world, and work to redeem creation.  As the Israelites fought to reclaim Canaan, I think we, the church, must fight to reclaim the world around us.  We should not sit idly by and wait for heaven to come.  We are to be God’s agents in this world, working according to God’s will to return it to its state of original perfection.  How does this play out in our lives?  For example: one day, we will have glorified bodies.  For now, I think we should work to perfect our fleshly bodies.  Another example: one day, there will be perfect justice.  For now, we should work for justice throughout the world.

Those are just some thoughts I had the other day.  Am I right?  Am I wrong?  Do you know?  Please share any insights you have or gaps you see in my reasoning.

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