Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday 2010

First a reprise from last Holy Saturday ...

Holy Saturday is a good day to take stock, utilizing the peace and stillness made available in the mercy of God. A word which comes to mind is 'mystery'. The journey of Jesus to the cross is full of mystery. Why, for example, does our sin require this solution, rather than another? If the gospels and epistles give a strong sense that Jesus went to the cross because this was God's purpose, the mystery remains of what the specific human factors were which led to Jesus' arrest and then, given the weak nature of the charges brought against him, why the arrest was followed by execution.

But there is also the mystery of tomorrow, the Day of Resurrection. What actually happened on that first day of God's Resurrection? Each of the gospel accounts has striking differences from the others in the details, even though the broad outline (visitors early to the tomb, tomb empty, encounters with an angel or angels or Jesus) is similar. (Note, in the last sentence, that one cannot even say that all four gospels record an appearance of the Risen Lord to his disciples. Mark, notably, in 16:1-8 being deficient in this respect).

Yet the liturgical emptiness of this day (save for the possibility of celebrating an Easter Vigil this evening), which recognises that little happened on the day after Jesus died and was buried, is sobering. If nothing succeeded Jesus' death and burial, would anything remain of Jesus and his story, save for a line or two in the Talmud? Would not everyday for ever afterwards be a day in which nothing happens involving Jesus?

Something happened to upset the normal human script: someone dies, there is a ceremony of farewell, life goes on, but there will be talk, from time to time, of what X meant to us, what X would do or say were he/she with us now. Easter Day is the declaration that something did indeed happen to upset that script. A living Jesus is encountered by his desolate followers in such a manner that the day of discovery is thereafter celebrated; in fact, eventually, the Day of Resurrection changes the timetable of Christians: Sunday is the new Sabbath. Further, Christians live and act as though the risen Jesus lives in their midst everyday, not just on that one day of resurrection.

So, Holy Saturday is a taste of what life would be without the risen Jesus, even as it is also a foretaste of life with the risen Jesus.

Then a link to an excellent discussion of the translation of hilasterion in Romans 3:25 ... I am happy to take comments on this but will not respond myself. I am posting it as a footnote to my four previous posts!


Tim Harris said...

The article you link is indeed a helpful summary - especially in highlighting Leon Morris' significant contribution (it was often said that graduates of Ridley College emerged with a better theology of atonement than Moore College graduates...). Morris' 'both/and' approach was brought out well by J.I. Packer in 'Knowing God', and was formative for me as a teenager.

And as a fan of the (revised) NLT, I am glad to see the approach taken here. The challenge still remains, in that we need to do a lot of work in 'de-theologising' terms that we here as theological shorthand, rather than allusions to a range of everyday or commonplace contexts more familiar to the original hearers (ransom, redemption, justification etc).

"Jesus as the sacrifice for sin" is probably as good as we can get, but still requires a significant understanding of the mode of sacrificial actions - highly symbolic, and as such (as appointed by God) an effective sacramental means of grace that brings assurance that offense before a just God has been dealt with.

It seems to me, the reality and truth of this is affirmed in the apostolic proclamation of the cross of Christ, but just 'how' remains a mystery. In my view, the sacrificial element is a key dimension, but not at the cost of losing the other images of salvation (ransom/redemption, freedom, victory, acquittal, justification, vindication, reconciliation etc).

Anonymous said...

Yes, a helpful summary of a classic issue. Thank you.