Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Worse than death? III

Jesus' obedience unto death

...let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

- Hebrews 12.1-2 (NRSV)

Jesus was obedient to the point of death. The possibility, even the inevitability, that following his Father's will would lead to a painful and shameful execution was not for him a reason for compromise or recalculation. He knew that sin is worse than death. And so he continued walking the dangerous path of calling Israel to repentance and of living without fear of what others might do to him because of it.

Now Jesus clearly loved life. He wept over his friend's death. He healed and forgave those threatened by death and sin. He spoke of life to the full and celebrated children and weddings. He feasted and drank, thanking his Father for good things. Yet his love for life and the good creation did not dominate his existence so that every effort was to be made to preserve his life and health. First came faithfulness to his God and Father. This was his agenda, wherever it led him. He would not sacrifice everything to stay alive, nor was he in a rush to die. Indeed, all other things being equal, he would have preferred to have been able to avoid the cup of suffering, but instead he prayed and lived "not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22.42).

For Jesus to have treated death as the worst possible outcome and as his primary enemy would have distracted him from the very path that would lead to its defeat. Jesus defeated death not by avoiding it but by solving the problem that causes it, by healing the crack in the world that leads to all decay and degeneration. He undid Adam's disobedience through obedience. He took on our temptations and succeeded where we failed.

Much more can and should be said about the cross, but at the very least, we see that regard for God trumps fear of death in Jesus' willingness to obey in all things, even when life itself is at stake.
Ten points for the name of this stone.
Series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI.

10 comments:

nicole said...

ah byron, the things you say are wise and true. i wish i was less afraid of death, and more afraid of sin...
on a completely unrelated note, did you know that most of the links on your page (ie to sites other than the theo-blogs) don't work? they seem to have two "http://"s in them. just a little heads-up :)
on a slightly more related note, i have no idea what the name of your stone is, but it looks like a 'nigel' to me. or possibly a 'wilberforce'.

byron said...

"Wilberforce" - I love it. Five points.

Thanks for pointing out the problem. Should be fixed now. Another glitch from switching to Blogger2.

michael jensen said...

Yes, even life, which is good - really good - isn't good enough.

erggghh,... i am still not sold on switching to Blogger 2. I remain on the old path.

Joanna said...

This is a great challenge Byron. I guess we need to submit not just our lives but our deaths to God...

nicole said...

hooray! points! and only 110 to go before i catch up with pete...

cyberpastor said...

What are your thoughts on the idea that life was perfected in Jesus - life in the Spirit of the Father.

In this scenario the life in the body is perfected in Jesus through his personal reorientation of all that it is to be alive in the world. I don't mean that he was truly alive as I don't want to infer some kind of Platonic "real life." Rather, what it is to be alive was perfected in him by the Spirit to prefigure the new creation.

byron said...

Cyberpastor - I like the idea. What it is to be alive was perfected by him: I'd love you to fill this concept out a little more.

cyberpastor said...

What I am getting at here is that the creaturely existence of human beings is brought to it's perfection by the Spirit in the man Jesus of Nazareth. This is the Father's purpose from before the creation of the world.

The Messiah's love for creaturliness is perfected in him by the Spirit as he lives a full life (as you pointed out). Yet his obedience was not for the sake of returning to Eden but rather that all things might be brought to their completion in him. This completion necessarily involved the defeat of death - life's great enemy - but it also meant bringing life in the Creation under the Creator and in His Spirit to it's climax. The climax is previewed in the resurrection from the dead. Here is where the new creation is given a sneak preview.
This life in the new creation is life perfected - what God always intended.

Anthony said...

Ten minutes of Googling, and it's the Heelstone associated with Stonehenge. The Wikipedia photo is taken from almost exactly the same angle as yours.

byron said...

Bingo: ten points - you're off the mark and running.