Stealing from Jesus

Jason Micheli —  January 24, 2019 — 1 Comment

The lectionary Gospel reading this coming Sunday is from Jesus’ rookie sermon in Nazareth. Jesus chooses a text from Isaiah in his hometown church. Jesus quotes the prophet, saying: 

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And then Jesus slams shut his Bible and declares: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Did you notice what he did there? 

Jesus says: 

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives ….to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ 

And then Jesus says: “Check. I’ve fulfilled this one.”

Did you catch it?

Jesus cut it. Go back and look at the source material. Jesus cut out Isaiah’s other line. Jesus doesn’t say: 

“‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…to let the oppressed go free…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…and the day of vengeance of our God.” 

     Jesus takes out Isaiah’s prophesy about God’s vengeance.

He cuts it. Why? Was the prophet Isaiah incorrect? Does Jesus edit out Isaiah because Isaiah was wrong about who God is or how sinful we are? When Jesus declares “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing…” does Jesus mean “You’ve heard it said that God is a God of love and wrath, favor and vengeance, but I say to you, nonsense, God is just as nice as Oprah swears by?” 

No, when Jesus takes out Isaiah’s words about God’s vengeance and then says that he’s the fulfillment of those words, Jesus is saying that he is the promised one who brings God’s favor to us by bearing God’s vengeance against us.

     Isaiah’s line about God’s vengeance- he cuts it out because it’s in him. 

It’s in his body, where he’ll carry it to a cross. 

The prophet Isaiah was right. The salvation brought by the Messiah goes through wrath not around it. The salvation brought by the Messiah does not avoid God’s wrath; the Messiah saves us by assuming God’s wrath. 

  Christ doesn’t cancel out God’s wrath; he bears it on our behalf.  

     You see, it’s not just that Christ’s faithfulness is reckoned to you as your own; it’s that your sin- all of it, your every sin- is reckoned to him as his own. His righteousness is imputed to you, and your every sin is ex-puted to him. In his faithfulness he has fulfilled all righteousness. And in his suffering he he has fulfilled all judgement. 

His Mother Mary wasn’t wrong. The coming of Christ does mean God’s judgement on the unjust. The coming of Christ does mean the comeuppance for the rich and the proud and the powerful but that comeuppance comes on the cross. 

As the the Apostle Paul says in Colossians, God in Christ disarmed the powerful and the rich, ruling authorities by making a public spectacle of them and triumphing over them by the cross. His Mother Mary wasn’t wrong because neither was his cousin John the Baptist wrong: Mother Mary’s son is the Father’s Lamb who bears the sins of the world. 

And if he bore the sins of unjust us, then when he died our sins died with him. 

     Once. 

     For all. 

Once for all our sins: past, present, future. There is no sin you have committed and, more importantly, there is no sin you have yet to commit that is not already covered by the blood of the lamb

His righteousness has been gifted to you. It’s yours and it’s free by faith. 

And your sin, it belongs to him now. Such that to worry about your sins, to hold onto the sins done to you- Martin Luther says it’s like stealing from Jesus Christ. They don’t belong to you anymore. They’re his possessions. And when he comes again we can greet him, naked and unafraid, because we know that whatever sin he finds in us has already been born by his body. 

As Christ preaches to us in the funeral liturgy:

He alone holds the keys of Hell and Death.

    

Jason Micheli

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One response to Stealing from Jesus

  1. But… But … Half of the Christian internet these days says that God couldn’t get angry! That he doesn’t have wrath, and that he certainly wouldn’t have put his wrath on his son because that’s divine child abuse! In fact, this theory supposedly only came from Calvin and was not believed by the early church, who believed in christus Victor and Ransom theory but definitely not penal substitutionary theory!

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