I know this sounds cheesy, but I believe it’s Jesus. I think Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection saves us completely, and I know of nothing else adequate to the task. Yesterday I talked about how sin works – the process of corruption that results in our world of broken families, political instability, a crisis of spirituality, and injustice all around. Read that one first because without it this won’t make full sense. There I described this process as having five essential steps: we reject God (rebellion) and replace him with something else (idolatry), with the result that we come to increasingly reflect our new idols and thereby lose our full humanness (corruption); we set ourselves a trap from which we cannot escape (bondage), eventually giving in totally to sin or at least resigning ourselves to a “realism” that is actually hopelessness or nihilism (depravity or despair). Here I want to show how Jesus’ death and resurrection save us from this fivefold curse.
1. Jesus reveals to us that God is truly Love and as such can be trusted safely. Remember the root problem of sin is that we doubt God’s love, we fear that he’s holding out on us, so we rebel against him and take our fate into our own hands. If God is love, this rebellion is altogether unnecessary.
2. Jesus proves God’s superiority to all other rival gods, exposing them as weak and worthless idols. In Jesus’ day the most obvious rival to God’s throne was Caesar, who was regularly hailed as Savior and Lord. As with all false gods, his ultimate power was that of death; but Jesus experienced the brunt of Caesar’s (and behind it, Satan’s) wrath and came out the other side, thereby revealing a deeper and much more powerful power through suffering (John 28.18-40; Acts 2.22-24; Colossians 2.15; Revelation 5 & 12).
3. Jesus offers himself as a substitutionary sacrifice to cleanse our consciences of guilt and shame. (Hebrews 10.2) We have wronged God and are thus guilty of defacing God’s beautiful creation (especially our fellow image-bearers). The “wages” for this is death (Romans 6.23), but Jesus takes upon himself (or in Jesus, God takes upon himself) the brunt of God’s wrath and judgment on sin (Rom 8.3-4). We are thus reconciled to God and rescued from the full consequences of sin, both now and into eternity.
4. Jesus breaks the stranglehold of the forces keeping us in bondage. One of the primary ways biblical authors explain the cross is by pointing back to the Exodus, where God defeated Israel’s oppressor/slavemaster and freed them from his grip; similarly Jesus has defeated evil and freed us from the principalities and powers of sin and death. (Hebrews 2.14-15; John 12.31; 1 John 3.8; Rom 8.1-17)
5. Jesus invites to walk with him – in his steps – and so to restore our true identity as God’s image-bearing human beings. In his whole life, and especially the way he died, Jesus reveals a new path of radical love, hope and faith (1 Peter 2.21-25; 1 John 3.16; 4.7-21; Philippians 2.1-11). He called together a new community to walk this path and so be fully redeemed. The upshot of this is also that in our redemption is the key to the entire creation’s redemption, so that we confidently look forward to the restoration of all things (Romans 8.22-25).
Certainly this could all be said better, but this is how it came to me yesterday at Vasquez and I’ve found it helpful to lay it all out like this. Peace!