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Who Died On The Cross?

Read Colossians 2:9

As we approach the observance of Good Friday, it seems appropriate to discuss what actually happened in the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.  I was in a discussion this morning when it was reported that a popular theory of the atonement was that God was the divine father who carried out child abuse on his son.  The implication of this “theory” is that in order to bring salvation to the world, God, the abusive divine Father, poured out his wrath on his innocent Son, quite apart from any cooperation from the Son, in fact, against the will of the Son.  I was immediately reminded of other, equally offensive, “theories” of the atonement, but that are often much more readily accepted.  One is that the compassionate and gracious Son wrestles forgiveness from a reluctant Father.  Another is that the Father sacrifices his Son in order to save mankind, much like a sobbing railroad switch operator is forced to crush his little boy who is playing among the gears of the mechanism that controls the switch when he guides the train onto its proper track,  thus preventing the train, and its passengers, from plunging down a steep ravine.   Such images – divine child abuse, compassionate Jesus and reluctant Father, innocent child and grieving father, find very little, if any, support in Scripture.  Over the next few days, I will attempt to clarify just what happened on the cross and expound the glorious riches of the central event in human history.

I begins today with a brief discussion of just who was on the cross.  The Apostle Paul summarizes the nature of Jesus profoundly.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Col 2:9 NIV)

This verse unites the two most significant Christian observances, Christmas and Easter (Good Friday and Resurrection morning).  At the incarnation, Jesus became the God/man, 100% God and 100% man, at the same time.  One of the ancient councils concluded that in Jesus there were two natures that were united in four distinct ways.

Inconfusedly – Jesus’ divine and human natures were united, but they did not meld together to form a hybrid person, like yellow and blue meld to become green.

Unchangeably – Jesus human and divine natures both retained their full essence.  Jesus was not part God and part man – his divine nature did not change to become less than divine and his human nature was fully human.

Indivisibly – Once united, it would not be possible distinguish one from the other.  Jesus lived a “both and” existence.

Inseparably – In Christ, the divine and the human are united forever.  They will never be separated.

So who was on the cross on Good Friday?  God himself, in the man Jesus, was on the cross.  I will unpack this conclusion over the next two posts, but for now marvel in the glorious truth that when God poured his wrath out on his son, he poured his wrath out on himself.  When Jesus took our place on the cross, God, in Christ, substituted himself for us.  The cross was a divinely scripted plan fully embraced by the both the Father and the Son.  Let’s put to rest any idea that either the Father or the Son acted independently from the other.  Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:30)  So who died on the cross – God, in Christ, did.  And it  was all for love!

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