The Gospel Explained, Misunderstood, and Explained Again

crossnailsskysmallI recently had an article published on the Toledo Faith & Values web site. In the article I explained what the gospel of Jesus Christ is, in it’s essence. Someone posted a response, first quoting me: “Pastor Claassen states: ‘His [Jesus’] mission and achievement was to go to the cross and to be our savior, rescuing us from our sins and reconciling us to God.”

Then he responded. “This idea – that Jesus’ whole purpose in life was his death – seems odd. The gospels tell, in page after page, of the loving lessons and actions that Jesus did, giving examples of how to LIVE life.”

Well, yes, Jesus was a great example — but He didn’t come to show us how to live, because He knew that we could never measure up. Jesus made it clear that His goal was the cross: “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . . . and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)

My critic went on to state, “I find the idea of substitutionary sacrifice not only barbaric [this is one of the favorite words of the critics of the gospel of Jesus] but selfish. To put one’s own personal failing onto Jesus is terribly juvenile.”

That’s EXACTLY what we’re supposed to do! Again, note what the apostle Peter stated about Jesus, whom He followed for three years and whose death and resurrection he witnessed: “‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)

My critic, actually a critic of the cross and the gospel, also stated, “Jesus was crucified by the Roman authorities on the charge of sedition. He didn’t choose to die; he was executed by the state.”

Jesus most certainly did choose to die! Jesus prayed to the Father, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (John 12:27)The cross isn’t a story about Jesus’ victimization; it’s about His victory! The New Testament states, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

The critic concluded his response by stating, “It’s up to you, yourself, to become the fully-functioning adult that we see in the LIFE of Jesus.” No! It’s not up to us! We can’t do it! The apostle Paul said, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) As Timothy Keller put it, “We are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.”

I know the gospel of Jesus is often misunderstood and/or rejected. I guess I’m still surprised when it is.

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