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Lecture 21: Life of Jesus
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
Lecture: Life of Jesus
This is the 21th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39. (Any slides, photos, study guides or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)
I. The Virgin Birth
Recently, I realized that I didn’t know what to do with a lot that was said in the Gospels. Paul and the Epistles, I did okay with them. But there are all kinds of details in the Gospels about the life of Jesus. The basics include his death so that we can be saved. Recently I went to the Ukraine to teach a course. Now the Ukraine is part of what is known as Eastern Orthodoxy which is a somewhat different theology. And so the theology of the evangelical churches is different from what we have in the west. It was at the Odyssey Theological Seminary. One of the things I saw in going to their church was something that talked about resurrection instead of the cross. They would greet each other saying, ‘greetings in the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus.’ Their discussions emphasized ‘Emanuel, God with us.’ Now the theological points I grew up with, was that Jesus was born of a virgin and that makes him sinless. He lived a sinless life and because he was crucified we are forgiven of our sins and justified. These are all true but when I go back and think about the virgin birth in Matthew 1:1 where it starts off with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham and then continues the generational sequences. Following this we see that Mary had been betrothed to Joseph and when Mary was found with the child, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph explaining the situation to him. Joseph was going to divorce her but after the angel had appeared to him, he decided not to. So Joseph didn’t have sex with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. As mentioned in Isaiah 7:14, behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. So God did not come down and have sex with Mary which is what many Muslim believe. It was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit.
II. Jesus Died on the Cross
We have a lot of details on the life of Jesus, like four whole Gospels. Part of the reason isn’t that he was sinless, though he is. A reason for these details is because he is a model for our lives. Most of the stories associated with Jesus tell me how to live my life as a Godly person. There is another theme that within his life, Jesus is becoming Lord and Christ and revealing this in the way he lived. There is an emphasis in his obedience of becoming Messiah and King. Then he is tempted by the devil and so I think his miraculous life is a model for us to follow. And then he dies on the cross for us. Did Jesus die a physical or spiritual death or both? What is physical death; it is a separation of body and spirit. What is spiritual death; it is a separation from God. Does he cease to exist? The answer, of course, is that nobody ceases to exist when they die. Did Jesus experience separation from the Father? The only thing we have is what Jesus said on the Cross from Psalm 22, ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ We have the three hours of darkness while he was on the Cross. I think this darkness symbolizes that this relationship was ruptured somehow, but it is never taught in Scripture in so many words. I think he did; I think he took the fullness of death, but this is not clearly taught in Scripture. What Jewish festival does Jesus die on? It was the Passover. Now Jesus is the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world, but this is Passover language. Hebrews makes it clear that he is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. And Passover is all about the killing of the lamp after being with the family for three days; the blood was put over the door post so that the wrath of God was averted during the plagues of Egypt.
III. Jesus Atoned for our Sins
When we think of the idea of substitution: that means that Jesus took my sins and the punishment that I should receive for those sins in my place. So Jesus is the substitute for my sin. In Isaiah 53:5, it says that he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. In John 11:47, it says that the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, ‘what are we to do?’ Caiaphas in verse 49 who was high priest that year, said to them, you know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. Caiaphas didn’t realize that he prophesized that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation. This is substitution. There are a lot of places in Scripture showing that Jesus is our substitute, taking our penalty of death in our place. His life is a sacrifice, just like the lamp is sacrificed and the goats on the Day of Atonement are sacrificed. He is the sacrifice for our sins. So, behold the Lamp of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the Day of Atonement, in Leviticus 16:1, you have two goats in verse 5 for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. The first goat was killed; taking the blood into the Holy of Hollies and spindles it about. That is propitiation, satisfying the wrath of God. He sends the second goat away which is expiation, taking away sin. I think that the Day of Atonement was always a two goat thing. So, on one hand, Atonement is propitiation, satisfying the wrath of God and Atonement is expiation, taking away sin.
The Cup of Christ
One of the controversial questions that comes up; what happens to the wrath of God? Some say that God’s wrath against our sin was poured out on Jesus because he took our sins to himself. This is not taught in Scripture anywhere. Look in Mark 14:32 where Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he says, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ So what is the ‘cup’ here? Some would say that it is the cup of wrath from the Old Testament. It could be. From Matthew 20:20, where the mother of the sons of Zebedee ask that her sons sit on his right and left side in his kingdom. Jesus said, ‘can you drink the cup that I am to drink?’ In verse 23, Jesus said indeed that they would drink from his cup. This cup is the cup of suffering and death and shame which they will drink. I think that in this cup, he takes our sins to himself, including all the guilt and shame and I think this is horrible. What does that cup do; it satisfies the wrath of God. In Genesis 8 after Noah gets off the Ark, Noah builds an altar to the Lord and sacrifice burnt offerings. In verse 20, the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and pledged that he would never again curse the ground.
So looking at the Passover again, bringing the lamp into your house for three days and then you kill it and take some of the blood and put it on the door post. Is the wrath of God poured out on the lamp; no. So, what does the blood do? The sacrifice satisfies the wrath of God. I think Abraham and Isaac in Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac is a prophetic picture of Jesus on the Cross. Isaac is clearly a Christ figure in fully participating in that. Abraham has anguish in his heart in doing this as God the Father was in anguish in sacrificing Jesus. Look at Isaiah 53:10 where it says that it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. I think the Father and the Son cooperate to perform the propitiatory sacrifice, both agonizing to satisfy the wrath of the Father and the Son. I think the Father sacrificed his Son where the Son fully participates in this sacrifice.
We also see redemption from Satan. We see triumph also. In the death of Christ, we have the triumph over hostile powers which we see in Genesis 3:15 where it says, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ The Messiah is going to destroy the serpent and in the process, he is going to be struck by the snake and he will die. This is prophesying of Jesus giving his life to destroy the power of Satan. You find this throughout the New Testament; look at John 12:31, ‘now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.’ There is another passage in Colossians 2:15 where it says, ‘he disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.’ This is an important theme in atonement theology: Jesus triumphs over Satan and drives him out. We are freed from his authority. In this work, he reveals the heart of God to us. There are many different themes associated with the theory of the Cross.
IV. Jesus is the Savior to All People
Another point comes up; for whom did Jesus die? Some say that he only died for the elect. We see in 1st Timothy 2:5 that it says that there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which the testimony is given at the proper time. In 4:10 we have, ‘for to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.’ He is the Savior of all people. In 2nd Peter 2, it talks about false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. These people are heretics; they are destructive and evil, being false teachers who deny Jesus. In some sense, Jesus mocked them. In some sense, Jesus has provided sufficient atonement for every person in the world. This is a powerful truth.
One more thought: what about the resurrection? It is more than just the continuation of life. We see in Luke 24 that the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Jesus wasn’t there. We see that Jesus showed himself to two people on the Road to Emmaus as he talks to him and walks with them. After sitting down to have lunch, they realize who he is and then Jesus disappears. They returned to Jerusalem to tell the others what had happened and in doing so, Jesus appeared to them again. So we see that Jesus’ resurrection is a continuation of bodily life. This is a picture of what our eternal state will be like. Let’s see what comes from resurrection in Romans 6:4 where it says that we are buried with him in baptism, so that we can live a new life. This resurrection gives us a new life and a new power; this is because we share in his resurrection. From Ephesians 1:17 we see that there is an immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. We have power in us; because the resurrection his power is working within us. The resurrection says that we get a new life, a new heart, new desires and a new power.