In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 1-14
In Genesis 1 and 2, we learn that God’s original intention and design for humans and creation was for communion with God, where humans (made in God’s image) are dependent on and participate in the life of God and partner with Him to bring beauty, order and abundance to the whole created realm. From John 1, we know that all things were created in and through Jesus. However, through humankind’s rebellion described in Genesis 3, we lost our intended communion with God, changed our source of life, and now we and all creation experience sin and death. Here, humanity stands in great need of atonement and restoration in order to reconcile all things to God in Christ. Sin and its effects obviously need to be dealt with—but our ultimate need is to come back to our source of life, in Jesus.
Jesus and the Story of Israel
Through the Old Testament, we know the Law is a mirror to reveal the sin condition of the human heart and reveal the helpless plight of humankind to fix this problem on their own. Right from the time of the Abrahamic Covenant, Israel fails (think golden calf) again and again—unable to uphold their side of the Covenant and continuously doubting God’s self-revelation of His faithfulness and goodness toward them.
In this regard, the incarnation and life of Jesus are of utmost significance. Jesus is the continuation and fulfilment of the story of Israel: Jesus, as a foreigner, comes out of Egypt (as did Israel); His baptism and wilderness experience re-does and restores Israel’s Red Sea and wilderness experience; Jesus chooses 12 disciples and re-does and restores the tribes of Israel (through the disciples, He will re-build the people of God in the Church who will establish His Kingdom and reflect Him to the nations); in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus re-does Moses’ teaching of the Law, inaugurating a new vision of God’s kingdom where the law is written on our hearts.
At each and every stage where Israel had failed, Jesus gave the perfect faithful human response. As Scot McKnight describes, He rolls back history and restores it. In His humanity, Jesus took our place on our side of the Covenant, offering the perfect response of faithfulness as a human that we were unable to offer.
Jesus undid what Adam did: in Adam, we sin and die, “in Christ” we become righteous and live through faith. Jesus is the second Adam (and second Israel), He did what they could not do.
Jesus the High Priest and Sacrifice
In the Old Testament sacrificial system, God provided both the priesthood and the accepted substitutional form of worship. In fulfilment of this, Jesus becomes both our perfect High Priest (the God-given one who mediates between God and humankind and humankind and God) and the perfect sacrificial response offered by humankind that we were unable to offer.
“For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17
Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension Jesus carries away our sin and brings us into the Holy of Holies in His body. Just as the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with the names of the children of God on his breastplate, Holy Spirit binds us into the body of Christ and Jesus bears the people of God into the presence of the Father. As such, Jesus is our constant, continual, efficient human representative and mediator in the heavenly places.
Jesus’ Teaching and Ministry
Throughout Jesus teaching and ministry, He proclaimed and demonstrated the good news of the kingdom of God. In Luke 4, at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, we see Him reading from Isaiah 61 announcing a new age where captives are set free, there is mercy on the poor, the blind can see, the oppressed are free and God’s favour returns. In turn, the Beatitudes describe the type of people for the new covenant as the poor, the hungry, the marginalised, the weeping and the despised. Jesus is describing God’s Kingdom! In fact, He went as far as saying ‘the Kingdom is in me.’ He didn’t just come to proclaim truth: He is truth lived out—the life of God shared.
We’re not trying to escape our humanity but reclaim it in Christ’s humanity. (quoted by McKnight, 2007, p. 60).
The incarnation of Christ and His humanity is central. Jesus is our living breathing picture of how humans live dependently on God through the Spirit—our true representative of full humanity. He re-established humanity in Himself and faithfully fulfilled our side of the Covenant. As T.F. Torrance describes, Jesus is the perfect two-fold sacrifice that was required by God, our perfect human response, in whom we come before God and are accepted by Him. As the original mediator of creation, in the incarnation the Son came to his own, to what had been lovingly created in and through Him to have life and sustenance in Him.. The head of the original creation is now head of the new. He did it through the incarnation, in His human body—re-creating it as it should be!
Julie Canlis (2010). Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension
Eddy, P.R., and Beilby, J.K. (2006). The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views
McKnight, S., (2007). A Community Called Atonement (Living Theology)
T.F. Torrance, (2016) The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church
Credit for Blog Banner Image to vexels.com: Red Glitter Christmas Background