When it comes to understanding the atonement, how Jesus saves us and makes us ‘at-one’ with God the Father, it all comes down to the conjunctions.
Does Jesus die for us?
As in, does Jesus die in our place? As a substitute for you and me?
Or does Jesus die because of us?
As in, is death on a cross the inevitable conclusion to the way he lived his life? Does Jesus die because our sinful lust for power, wealth and violence kills him? As though our world has no other reaction to a life God desires than to eliminate it?
Does Jesus die in order to destroy Death and Sin?
As in, does Jesus let the powers of Sin and Death do their worst so that, in triumphing over them, he shatters their power forever?
Does Jesus die with us?
As in, does Jesus suffer death as the completion of his incarnation? Is death the last experience left for God to be one of us, in the flesh?
Was it necessary for Jesus to die?
Or was his incarnation, his taking our nature and living it perfectly, redemptive in itself?
Did Jesus have to die on a cross?
If the conclusion to incarnation had been for Jesus to die as an old man of natural causes, would we still be saved?
How does the history of and covenant with Israel fit into the salvation worked by Christ?
And how does Easter relate to Good Friday?
The Christian tradition and scripture itself offers many more vantage points on the mystery of the cross than the standard, unexamined ‘Jesus died for you’ platitudes you hear so often in the pulpits.
Check out the ebook for Lent, Preaching a Better Atonement. In it, I take a look at some of the Church’s historic understandings of the atonement and offer a few examples of what it looks like to preach that particular angle on the Good News. All any proceeds will go towards the Guatemala Toilet Project.