Having recently added some Catholic author’s to my reading list, I was thrilled to see a similar theme going on also in a lot of minds and hearts of authors from my original faith tradition, concerning the meaning of the cross.
Some people are aware of the influence of Anselm of Canterbury’s ‘satisfaction theory’ regarding the meaning of the death of Jesus, and how much it influenced western theology in particular.
Needless to say, there have been many problems with this theory and the way it has shaped our understanding of the Christian faith. What always struck me though, was how this theory - and subsequent theories – had no relation to the actual life and ministry of Jesus.
Viewing the cross in the light of the combined death, life and resurrection of Jesus though, a far more beautiful picture emerges, then the one we’ve inherited, and that is actually in tune with the revealed character of Jesus’ Abba.
Reading the story from this angle, there is no way, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to pay the debt of honour to an offended deity to press the restart button of an hierarchical social order. What we find instead, is a God Who fully identifies with His creation in its suffering.
In other words, the Abba of Jesus is with us – even in the darkness of our suffering and pain – and salvation and redemption are the presence of the Divine walking with creation through it's traumas and travail, even into death.
Jesus revealed His Abba’s heart by living and dying with all those, who live, suffer and die, and the God, Who resurrected Him, identifies fully with His ministering, suffering and dying Son. That’s the reason Jesus can identify with everyone who has ever suffered, while promising resurrection.
Rather than this being just a superficial solidarity, He took on the flesh and blood of His brothers and sisters, thus becoming the pioneer of salvation – and the sin He took on, was not just some legal consequence, but the actual pain and suffering of us all, as He died the brutal death of a convicted criminal.
Having experienced these things Himself, He can now identify with everyone who has ever suffered, and assure them that they are not alone, just as He was not forsaken by His Abba (Psalm 22:24).
This means, that the Abba of Jesus is not the cruel god of legalistic religion, obsessed with power and glory, but is found in the bloody and bruised body of the suffering of His Son – and that even in the felt absence of abandonment, He is there (John 16:32).
No wonder, the Jewish mystic Paul could write: 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.'
This runs exactly contrary to the theories of payment and satisfaction so many of us have grown up with, and I am glad to see and increasing number of people challenging this idol.