Over the past couple of weeks, my head grew heavy and my sight grew dim.
No, not because I was headed back to the Hotel California.
More like a return to seminary.
I’ve been preparing for some messages two series from now. As in the one after the one after There’s An App For That.
The distant series I’m getting ready for is called Old. Rugged. Cross. It’s a series that takes us up through Palm/Passion Sunday on March 28.
Anyway, for years my thinking on the place of the cross and the role of the crucifixion has been pretty standard evangelical fare: Jesus took our place on the cross, bearing the punishment for our sins that we deserve. The wrath of God was poured out on him so that it won’t be poured out on us. The technical name is the penal substitution theory of the atonement.
I’ve pretty much thought that was the primary if not the only understanding of the crucifixion.
Instead of getting right into message prep over the last ten days or so, I went back to school. I lifted a couple of heavy academic books, Recovering The Scandal Of The Cross by Joel Green and Mark Baker and The Cross Of Christ by John Stott (both pictured on the left). I spent some time in the Gordon-Conwell library. I even Googled the subject — something I obviously couldn’t do when I was a bona fide seminary student, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (AKA the 1980s).
But in all that reading and learning, the adrenaline was palpable. I learned so much. New discoveries were on every page. I even emailed a former Asbury prof and asked, “was I asleep on that day or what?”
While the “substitution” theory of atonement is certainly a strong and biblical motif for understanding the cross, it by no means tells the whole story. It’s not the one and only. It’s one of many.
So when I read the scholars’ works and studied the scripture, it opened up several new avenues of understanding exactly why it is we preach “Christ and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).
I’m not done with this series. I haven’t even started the next one.
But by the time we get to Old. Rugged. Cross., we’ll be ready to deepen your appreciation of the crucifixion by turning your understanding of it upside down.