The Death of Jesus (with Richard Thomas)

Richard Thomas is the leader of Hope Church in Worcester, which is part of the Catalyst Network of churches in Newfrontiers. In this hangout, Richard talks us through four Biblical pictures of what was accomplished by the death of Jesus.


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The Commercial Picture

  • Jesus died for our redemption. We were freed at a price. 
  • This is the same picture that we see in the book of Hosea, when Hosea bought Gomer back out of slavery.
  • In Mark 10:45, Jesus said that he would give his life as a ransom for many.
  • Another Biblical picture is the Exodus, where God brought his people from freedom to slavery.
  • It is no accident that Jesus times his death to co-incide with the Passover.
  • Other key verses are 1 Peter 1:18 and Galatians 3:13.

The Sacrificial Picture

  • John the Baptist referred to Jesus as 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world'. This is a reference back to the Exodus, where the Passover Lamb was slain so the people could go free.
  • Hebrews 9 speaks of how Christ was sacrificed once for all to take away the sins of many.
  • Jesus is described as our substitute. He died in our place. Again, this represents Old Testament symbolism. In Leviticus, the High Priest would put his hand on top of the sacrificial offering and God accepted that offering on his behalf. 
  • Jesus saw himself in this way. He was the suffering servant who was pierced for our transgressions.
  • In Mark 10:45, Jesus is described as a ransom for many.
  • Other key verses in this are Ephesians 5:2 and Hebrews 10:14.
  • Jesus is our propitiation. Our sin is taken away (expiation) and God's anger is satisfied (propitiation). See 1 John 4:4.

The Legal Picture

  • This is the idea of our guilt being removed, us being declared righteous and justified (see Acts 13:38-39).
  • We are also credited with the righteousness of Christ. 
  • In Philippians 3, Paul states that he doesn't have a righteousness of his own. 
  • Jesus took on all of the obligations of our obedience towards God and fulfilled them on our behalf, and this is credited to our account.
  • Key Bible verses are John 1:12-13 and 2 Corinthians 5:21. 

The Triumphant Picture

  • Colossians 2 teaches that Jesus disarmed the powers and authorities.
  • We do still wage war, but we do so as followers of the triumphant Christ.

Why Was the Cross Necessary?

  • The nature of God - Hebrews 9:22 teaches that the law of God requires cleansing with blood.
  • Universal sinfulness - All have sinned and falled short of the glory of God.
  • Self help doesn't work - The sinful mind can't submit to God.

Q&A

1. In our humanistic society, which of these four facets do you think will have most effect when we talk to people?
  • It is important to know your audience.
  • There are some people who feel very guilty and some societies work on a right/wrong basis. In these cases, the declaration of not-guilty is wonderful. 
  • For some people, the idea of being 'rescued' from a wrong habit or situation may be the right motif.
  • For others, the thought of 'wow, somebody would take my place'.
  • In the West, not many people connect with the idea of sin as a transgression of a known law, unless we unpack it as 'loving the thing too much'.
  • All of these facets are word pictures - exploring the contexts of them will help them to come alive.
2. Because we have been made righteous, is it still appropriate to refer to Christians as sinners?
  • We are all far from perfect. We sin, and so this can leave us confused about our identity.
  • The New Testament is clear that we have become the righteousness of God. 
  • Though we are living in these bodies that are frail, our nature has changed and God has given us a new nature as saints, not sinners.
  • No matter what sins believers are tangled up with, Paul refers to them as saints, not as sinners.
  • It says in Hebrews that, 'He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy'. We have a judgment-proof and death-proof righteousness.
  • Don't confuse the status and the process.
3. Is it possible to be too cross-focussed? If so, what would this look like?
  • We celebrate the cross as the centre of the faith.
  • Soem theologians tend to make salvation very mechanical.
  • A Trinitarian perspective on the cross is a helpful thing to have.
  • It's great to celebrate the cross, but we should also celebrate the resurrection, and that because of the cross, God is my Father and the Holy Spirit is my friend.
  • The cross is at the centre - but there are lots of other things coming out from it.
4. Please could you explain Hebrews 9:22 in light of God's wrath?
  • The shedding of blood is a reference to real punishment (death). 
  • In Leviticus 17:11, God says that he has given sacrifices to make atonement. Sacrifice is something that God himself required. The offense of sin is so great.
  • Sin is serious because it has separated us from God. Because of this seriousness there had to be punishment.
  • Jesus was the sacrifice for our sin. This was his self-giving to satisfy God's righteous anger against sin.
5. If we are saints and holy, can we lose this when we do wrong?
  • We are saints.
  • This is a relational picture. God has made us sons and that status is firm, but as we sin the relationship is affected.
6. Can you give an practical advice for pastoring your church or small group in living out a cross-centred life?
  • Richard Thomas wouldn't tend to use the expression 'cross-centred'. 
  • We have been brought into a relationship with the Father, with Jesus as our Saviour and the Holy Spirit as our comforter. 
  • We should do the things that Jesus said, including breaking bread.
  • This brings you back to the cross, without always worrying about whether you are being cross-centred enough.
  • The cross is a means to an end. The purpose of the cross isn't for us to be cross-focussed but to have a relationship with the heavenly Father.
  • We need to focus not just on the cross but on the purpose of the cross.
  • We have a story of salvation - focus on telling that story.

Recommended Resources

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