What if God was only giving the Devil enough rope to hang himself, on that dark April day when he hung up God’s Son to torment and shame? I may be wrong, but what if the only wrath shown against Jesus at the cross was the wrath of Satan, who was about to get his head crushed by heavy fallout from his own diabolical deeds of terrorism—the prelude to God’s turning the ancient world upside-down?
What if the heinousness of human sin was sufficiently portrayed at the cross by the savagery of the malevolent who trumped up defamatory charges and brutally whipped, hit, mocked and pierced the Just and Holy One of God, without any alleged downpour of divine wrath on him (as if he were bearing God’s punishment for sins instead of suffering from their actual wrongs, which fatally took him down)?
What if sin was wrongly imputed to him by false witnesses and popular conjecture, not by God? What if that false condemnation justified the display of the true justice of God in reversing his death? What if Jesus, by surrender to death, was really paying his soul to ransom mortals from slavery to Sin (due to fear of death) without paying one thin drachma to God for sin’s penalties, much less to the Devil!
What if the only satisfaction God received from His Son’s death—far, far from any satisfaction for our debt of sins!—was in observing his faithful obedience in the face of grisly assaults, staying sinless and non-retaliatory even to the bitter, bludgeoned, bloody end, so as to win immortality for humankind?
What if the love of God was demonstrated by His not avenging the malicious execution of His beloved Son with immediate wholesale slaughter by angelic hosts (after all, such displays of divine anger against the vicious do fill grim pages of the Old Testament), but letting this crime slip by in forbearance?
What if God was simply letting a day or two pass to let tears dry before unveiling His real, unimaginable justice by raising up His mangled Boy from such an indecent yet indubitable death to the pinnacle of honor, thus unleashing a flood of joyful tears from his loved ones in exchange? I wonder.
What if the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice signifies not his death but his life from the dead? Could it possibly be that the ancient sacrificial blood had all along depicted the restorative power of Christ’s own resurrected life? Is that why it could serve for making atonement, sanctifying, healing, cleansing, etc.?
And what if Christ’s well-deserved award for his heroic ordeal was God’s whopping reparation to make up for such tragic loss of innocent life and Spirit-powered career—teaching all he was instructed and doing all he was directed by God—to become a life-making Spirit, crowned at God’s side, peaceably drawing foes to conciliate with God and share in his promised inheritance of all, with plenty of siblings?
So, what if the graciousness we enjoy from God is simply the surplus of favor that God in His restorative or premial justice—not merely His indulgent tolerance or measured patience, kindness, or mercy—bequeathed to Jesus for voluntarily suffering such abuse from evildoers yet responding with resolute forgiveness, as attested by the wonders of Pentecost and shower of gifts from the Holy Spirit?
In short, what if—just what if!—God flat out ransomed Jesus from the grave as a sample of what He was preparing to do for any who would dare like fools to believe such a topsy-turvy story about His unfathomable graciousness and then respond accordingly by lifelong loyalty to His ethic and example…
Ron Roper, April 1, 2011
Published in Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice: