Christus Victor

I think this is a pretty good retelling. If I left out something important, or put in something you don’t think belongs here, lemme know with chapter & verse so i can fix it. ‘Cause as long as this is, I know I still left a ton of things out!! I think I delineated everything that was my opinion as opinion, and I think I’ve justified everything else.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them. And it was good. And God made people in His own image. God put a tree in the middle of the garden and said don’t eat anything off of it because if you do, you’ll die that day.* Long story short, the devil tempts the woman, tricks her into eating the forbidden fruit. Her man’s standing next to her, and I may just be projecting here but he’s probably thinking “If she’s gonna die today, I’m eating that fruit and dying with her, ’cause I’m in love with her. We’re having us a Romeo and Juliet moment here.”

Now the devil, he likes Romeo and Juliet. The humans die at the end. Humanity got broken; sin-sick, if you will. But for reasons the Bible doesn’t reveal (I personally suspect “Love”), God doesn’t exactly follow through with His end of the bargain and kill their disobedient behinds on that very selfsame day. Adam and Eve go on living for quite some time, which I’m sure caused ol’ Satan no small amount of grief. But death does get introduced into the world through what they did. The tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and once you know good from evil, sin gets an invitation to lunch. We bid a reluctant greeting to sin, death, and the devil.

The devil, as it turns out, is quite the prosecuting attorney. Ever since God tossed “Satan vs. All of Mankind” out of the court of Heaven, the devil hung around heaven hoping to get a case made to have folks executed. Mostly disrupting things up there and hollerin’ about justice. Meanwhile, he got himself some hoodlums to cause trouble down here on earth.

And cause trouble they did. Famine. War. Pestilence. Them seven deadly sins, pride being the top one. Everybody thinking they’re better’n everybody else and thinkin’ that if they don’t kill the other folk before the other folk kill them, well, them and theirs are gonna die.

Meanwhile, Satan’s running the Ministry of Misinformation. Satan all this time has made sure we understand exactly what kind of God we’re dealing with here. He’s a hard man. There are some people He likes, and some people He doesn’t. And mean, too. A fella could go to hell for just thinking about sinning.

Now lemme tell ya ’bout a man named Jesus. Everybody said he was the son of God. His nickname, “Emmanuel,” meant “God with us,” but he sure was strange compared to how the Ministry of Misinformation told us God was. He told folk to love their enemies. To treat other folk the way you’d wanna be treated. The folk who got pushed to the margins of society he treated just like the folk at the top of the totem pole – better, even, ’cause they weren’t doing the pushing-other-people-down. All this mess happened, of course, because of the devil and them demons hard at work, death scarin’ folk, and sin having a stranglehold on ’em. He showed them that everything the Ministry of Misinformation had been feeding them about God was nothin’ but a pack of lies.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Naturally, the powers that be couldn’t have Jesus saying the things he was saying and doing what he was doing and lovin’ who he was lovin’; why, folk might get the idea that those lowlife scum was people after all, people that deserved love and respect. So they did the only thing they could do. They arranged to have him killed. And that’s where they made their mistake, ’cause that was the plan all along.

See this Jesus fella turned out to be God.

Funny thing about sin. Sin works well in a tit-for-tat system. You hit me, I hit you right back, harder, and sin just keeps getting bigger. Sin’s quite the monster. And sin’s goal is to bring forth death – as much and as often as possible.

Now suppose sin gets a shot at killing God. You’d say that sin got the number one goal, the top target of all time. And you’d be right. Sin at the cross is at its absolute most sinful. ‘Course, death, the tool of sin, is right there with it, and the devil running the whole thing like a puppet show.

Now, remember those God-stories that were being passed around by the Ministry of Misinformation? Well, it turns out that they really conflict with this picture we have of God on a cross. He doesn’t look so mean up there. Or condemning. He looks anything but harsh. Actually, He looks… loving. And thirsty.

And we did it to him, too! God didn’t want human sacrifices, but we sacrificed God out of our need for blood, out of the devil’s sick and twisted sense of “justice.” And God went willingly, out of love. And all the powers of hell cheered. Only there’s somethin’ they all didn’t know.

They didn’t know that three days later this Jesus fella was gonna rise from the dead. I figure if they knew that they’da probably called the whole thing off.

‘Cause for the first time, sin got the crap beat out of it. Sin got shown off for what it really was. Evil killed love. The folk who were “just trying to do the right thing” and pushing other people down got unmasked for the slimebags they really were. Sin got taken out on and absorbed into this Jesus fella and he took it ALL, and didn’t hand any back. Not one little bit. It killed him. Then he rose up from the dead on the third day and in so doing killed sin right back. But sin wasn’t God. Sin didn’t get a resurrection story.

Now death. When death manages to kill God, death has won its biggest victory. That’s obvious. But when after three days in the grave Jesus gets up under his own power, he kicks a heaven-sized hole in the one-way door and brings back a whole host of captives.

When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train… (Ephesians 4:8)

Death the terrorist is now death the joke, ’cause that door ain’t one way no more. We can follow Jesus down into death because Jesus is going to lead us back up out.

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; (2 Timothy 2:11)

The scary place turns out to be a sham, a humbug, a fraud, and the One who climbed out of the grave with the nailprints to prove it turns out to be the way out, the truth, and the very life itself. With death conquered, we human types don’t have to fear our enemies killing us first, because death is shown for the hoax it is. We can love our enemies. And by His wounds, we are healed.

Close your eyes. See the court of heaven. See us, on the dock. See the prosecuting attorney, ranting and raving about how justice needs to be served and somebody has to die.

See the heavy wooden doors burst open, shoved open by hands marked by nails, and one like the son of man, bright as daylight, walks into the courtroom and stands at the defense table.

Satan shrieks and objects and shrivels, but regains his boldness and tells our Father he’s bound by justice to throw the book at us.

The Son raises a nail-scarred hand. “The debt is paid. I’ve taken death as their representative, and as it turns out, death is the ultimate statute of limitations. If you’re breathing, the law applies to you. If you’re dead, well, it don’t have any authority over you anymore.”

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)

The devil, he starts protestin’ and stammerin’ and trying to spit out something about a miscarriage of justice, but the Father stamps the statutes that are set up against us with the word “CANCELLED,” nails it to the cross, and tells Satan to go to hell.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (Revelation 12:10)

[God] canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross… (Colossians 2:14)

If God is for us, then who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not with Him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31)

I’m not so sure that God needed the cross in order to forgive us. Maybe we needed the cross to believe it… To quote Derek Flood, whose work I’ve drawn heavily from, and whose arguments I find incredibly compelling,

God does not need the cross to forgive us or love us. Jesus forgave and loved people before the cross. But some of us needed the cross to be able to really accept that forgiveness. God does not need the cross to love us: God has always loved us. But many of us needed the cross to really grasp that. God does not need the cross to be reconciled to us. But many of us needed the cross to be reconciled to Life, to break the cycle of rivalry and to heal our estranged authority image. The cross speaks to us at the point of our need. And while these are not God’s problems, but our alienation, still for us that alienation is very real. So to the one wracked with guilt God says through the cross, “I take the blame. I pay the price.” To the one who is locked in self-hate God says through the cross “I love you so much I would give my life defending you.” To the one in rebellion to life God says through the cross, “See me here. I am not a threat; I am love.”

*Why God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden mostly escapes me, but it seems like it’s got something to do with free will. I still freely admit that it seems a little crazy for God, knowing everything that was going to happen as a result of doing what He did, to have done it anyway. Though I must admit, I’m also a bit partial to felix culpa: “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.”

About David M. Schell






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