The question of Who Killed Jesus? is being asked around the blogosphere and some pretty heavy hitters have weighed in. I am certainly not cutting edge with my thoughts, but I did want to offer some commentary and Scriptural support.
In Christianity Today Mark Dever writes, "At stake [with the Atonement] is nothing less than the essence of Christianity. Historically understood, Christ's Atonement gives hope to Christians in their sin and in their suffering. If we have any assurance of salvation, it is because of Christ's Atonement; if any joy, it flows from Christ's work on the Cross. The Atonement protects us from out native tendency to replace religion with morality and God's grace with legalism. Apart from Christ's atoning work, we would be forever guilty, ashamed, and condemned before God. But not everyone these days sees it that way" ("Nothing But the Blood" 29, May 2006)
I want to discuss this by discussing some of the major objections made and then offering Biblical support for Christ's substitionary atonement--which was predestined by God Himself.
First, Mark Dever discusses the charge that the Atonement and God's "definite plan" (Acts 2:23) is "divine child abuse" (31). Steve Chalke and Alan Mann say, "The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: 'God is love'. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus' own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil" (The Lost Message of Jesus, 182-183 [a book review by 9 Marks]).
James Spurgeon from Team Pyro says, "Do you know how many thousands of people were crucified by the Romans each year and for a period of hundreds of years? There were many people who suffered physically as much as did Christ by cruel Roman hands. But no one, I repeat no one, has ever suffered the way Jesus did. He suffered at God's hands. Let me state it this way:
God suffered his own wrath at Calvary. Christ is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. It has always been God's plan to redeem and to do so in a way that maintained his holiness and his justice, yet magnified his love and his grace. (Indeed, Calvary magnifies God's justice and holiness as well.) That way was through pouring out his wrath upon himself in the person of the Son.
So, yes, the Father punished the Son. But we must also understand that at the same time God is punishing himself. God has volunteered to take upon himself his own wrath for sinners. He does so that he might shower upon those same sinners his infinite love and grace. This is necessary that God might save and yet act in accord with his own just and holy nature, or, as Paul put it, 'that he might be just and the justifier of the ungodly' ("Cosmic Child Abuse?")."
Dan Phillips from Team Pyro further states, "Man meant it for evil; but God meant it for good, for salvation, for redemption. And His will always prevails.
After all, He is God" ("God, evil, and the Cross").Second, some might question how this might give us hope. But this demonstrates a misunderstanding of the Gospel itself. The question What or Who Are We Saved from? is all important. Is it man, God, Satan, Hell, or something else? I want to provide the negation of the correct answer which is found in the book previously quoted: "The fact is that the cross isn't a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed." What are each of us saved from? The very wrath of God (Isaiah 51:21-23; Psalm 103:8-10; Nahum 1:2; Romans 1:18; 2:5; 3:5; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6; ). "Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love" (Micah 7:18). "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36). Finally, what can is clearer than: " Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God" (Romans 5:9).
Dave Warnock replies to Adrian Warnock's question Am I Really Alone? by saying, "Please reflect on what you are saying about God. Do you really want to worship the kind of God that would kill his own son? How could such a God bring hope to humankind?" ("Adrian's Blog: 'Did God kill Jesus?' Am I really alone?"). How? Paul replies, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Also, this fails to see the utter despair and hopelessness mankind is in because of its sin. "'None is righteous, no, not one'" (Romans 3:10), but further, "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and now hope "and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:22b-25). It is not that we all can do some good and some bad. It is that before we received the grace of God we had the choice every day and every minute--give God the glory or give self the glory--and we all chose every time to reject God's glory. Isaiah says, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (64:6). My purpose here is not to be overly graphic, but "polluted garment" truly means menstrual rags. That is what our attempts at self righteousness looks like to God.
The Atonement is truly part of the hope of the Gospel: each of us was lost and condemned in our sins, but God provided a perfect sacrifice for us--not just a good example, or an offering to Satan, or to any man. He did some of these things, but the power of the Atonement was in its satisfaction of God's wrath. A good example or victory over the Devil without the power to appease God would have been vain. This wrath was just. He was full of wrath because we stole His glory and ignored His beauty. His wrath had to be appeased. Christ truly is our salvation and hope.
This whole discussion started with Adrian Warnock quoting C.J. Mahaney at NA 2006:
"Who killed Jesus?I have listened to his message and I would recommend listening to it. The Daily Duck responded with this:
The Father. The Father killed the Son. Feel God's love for you revealed in this verse. He crushed his son. For you. He crushed Him. He bruised him. He punished him. He disfigured him. He crushed him. With all of the righteous wrath that we deserved. That's what the Father did.
So great was his love for sinners like you and me" (The Cross: A Meditation on Jesus' Atoning Death).
"If any single quote could encapsulate why I am not a Christian, this one, by C J Mahaney, has to be it. The sheer, hideous inanity of a god that demands a blood sacrifice from an innocent in repayment for the sins of the guilty is beautifully captured here. It is a theology that captures the worst aspects of an archaic moral worldview, one that promulgates the barbaric idea of blood guilt and blood sacrifice. Modern Christians gasp in horror at those cultures that carried on the cultural values of this mindset, such as the Aztecs and their human sacrifices, or the honor killings practiced by many Islamic cultures today. Yet their central theological mystery, the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ, is premised on the very same archaic view of honor and morality as these throwback cultures represent. I don't get it. How does a modern Christian, brought up in an ethos if personal responsibility and individual dignity spout sentiments like the above without a hint of moral vertigo?" ("Trolling the God Blogs").Theologians have in the past recognized that the members of the Trinity made a covenant of redemption in eternity past making possible the salvation of the elect. John Flavel says, "The elect (though not yet in being) are here considered as existent, yea, and as fallen, miserable, forlorn creatures: how these may again be restored to happiness without prejudice to the honor, justice, and truth of God: this, this is the business that lay before them" ("A Display of Christ"). The Father agreed to save the elect upon the satisfaction of His wrath, which Christ himself agreed to satisfy on the Cross and by whom we are redeemed, and the Holy Spirit agreed to seal those whom are redeemed.
Last, where can we receive justification for saying God killed Jesus? I want to mainly focus in the book of Acts. Peter preaching to Jews says, "this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (Acts 2:43), and again, "And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled" (3:17-18) and compare that to what the prophets, particularly Isaiah, said:
"Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Peter again says, "For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28). Peter never onces says, "OK! You guys are off the hook because Jesus was predestined for death." No, he squarely places the blame on their shoulders, while acknowledging the plan of God. This is not a case of cosmic child abuse, but love on a grand scale. For the Father did indeed kill the Son and the Son from eternity past agreed to be our sacrifice to redeem us from our sin.
(All emphasis such as italics, bold, or color is mine unless otherwise noted)
Soli Deo Gloria