The law was God’s gift to his covenant people. By obeying the law’s commands Israel would express their faithfulness within covenant relationship. But the law has been taken captive by the powers of darkness turning it into an oppressive power. Sin and Satan work through the law turning people towards religious self-effort resulting in proud self-righteousness. On the other hand, law also reduces others to crushing bondage in guilt and shame. In these ways the law becomes “the strength of sin”, as Paul puts it.
Jesus was an Israelite “born under law” and as a faithful Israelite he fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law. He did so, not in mere conformity to legal requirements, but rather in love and faithfulness towards his Father. He always lived in trustful obedience to his Father and did so on our behalf so that he is our righteousness. Furthermore, in trustful obedience he was always moving towards the cross with the aim of setting us free from the curse of the law by bearing the curse in himself.
The Spirit of Jesus now lives in us so that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit. We now live in a new way as the new humanity free from law and yet free for God. “We are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7: 6).
We were created by the God who is love for love relationship within the triune circle of love. Within this circle of love we are to freely accept God’s authority over us in response to his free love. But sadly we live under the anti-God powers of this dark age alienated from the One who is love. Nevertheless, in sheer love the Father sent his Son into the world to rescue us for himself. Yes, Jesus coming is God’s invasion into the domain where evil enslaves us. He came to break the power of darkness delivering us from its captivity.
At the very start of Jesus’ ministry he clashed with the powers of darkness as he was tempted in the wilderness. In one of the temptations Jesus was offered all the kingdoms of this world and their splendour if he would just fall down worshipping the devil. He totally refused this offer pledging himself to worship only his Father serving him all the way to the cross.
Jesus faced another sever temptation in Gethsemane. The choice was real: his will or the Father’s will. The pull to choose his own way was truly powerful. Nevertheless, he chose his Father’s will – the way of the cross. There, in darkness, he would overthrow all the powers of darkness. The Father responded by raising Jesus from death as Son of God in power with all authority in heaven and earth. And we are raised with him sharing in his victory and free to live within the circle of triune love.
In the gospel story we often see Jesus casting out demons to set free oppressed people. He said that he did so by the finger of God. However, through his dying and rising Jesus frees people out of their bondage to sin, death and all the powers that enslave. All these powers have wrongly claimed authority over those whom God created for himself. They have attempted to displace God by grabbing his authority for themselves. They want us to serve them rather than God. In this way they have twisted, distorted and enslaved human life. However, Jesus dying and rising brings these powers to nothing. Stripping them of their claims over us he opens up an entirely new situation. The old order is brought to an end and a new order of freedom in the Spirit arrives.
We must never lose sight of how much this triumphant liberation cost Jesus himself. During the Passover meal Jesus spoke to his friends about his blood poured out for them. For he is himself the Passover lamb whose life poured out in blood sets us free from all the powers that enslave. That same blood also seals a new covenant in which we are free to share in Jesus’ relationship with his Father in the Spirit. Now with Jesus we give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. (Colossians 1:12-14).
During Passover the Jews recalled the time when their God acted dramatically breaking the power of Egypt and setting free his enslaved people. The people were liberated from the oppressive power of Egypt so that they were free for covenant relationship with their God. Later in their history the people were in bondage under Babylon rule and the Prophets spoke of a future redemption out of Babylon exile. However, the prophetic vision reached beyond the immediate rescue out of Babylonian bondage into a new covenant relationship with God in the messianic kingdom of peace and joy.
This prophetic vision was fulfilled in Jesus, the Father’s servant-son. And he chose Passover as the moment when he would accomplish the new exodus., He acted at Passover because he is God giving himself as THE Passover lamb through whom those under the oppression of alien powers are liberated into newness of life in joyful freedom. He moves to offer himself as the lamb slain to reclaim the world lost in utter distortion and foolishness under bondage to alien powers. That liberation was accomplished in his dying and rising and yet it also set in motion a battle that will end finally in the triumph of God over all God’s enemies. Ultimately it is rescue out of the power of death as the last enemy. And rescue into fullness of life in God with Jesus by the Spirit.
Israel’s God was always free to act in new and surprising ways. He was always consistent with himself and yet free to act in unexpected ways. The biggest surprise of all was Jesus. He is the God of Israel moving downward as lowly servant to accomplish a new exodus for the whole world. That was so very new! God takes all by surprise!
The people of Israel would never imagine such a thing. Nevertheless, God’s Spirit enabled the early Jewish believers to read the story backwards through Jesus’ resurrection into his death and then his life as fulfilment of the Israel story. Without the Spirit the early Jewish believers would remain blind to who Jesus actually was and is. But the exalted Jesus poured out the Spirit of Truth to open blind eyes enabling them to see the truth of this new and unexpected happening in Jesus.
So it is with us. The same Spirit of Truth opens the eyes of our hearts to see the newness of God’s action in Jesus. He does so in such a way that our eyes are open to the future horizon when this same God will make all things new in the new exodus still to come. Then we, and all creation, will be liberated into the newness of life that God has planned for us. We will be fully free to enjoy “what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has imagined, the things God has prepared for those who love him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)
The Jesus story unfolds as the breaking in of the kingdom of God liberating those bound by disease, demons and even death. But eventually death seemed to have the last word as Jesus was brutally executed. Nevertheless, death was not the end of the Jesus story. For by the Spirit the Father raised Jesus from death declaring him to be Son of God in power.
As the followers of Jesus looked back at the cross through the resurrection and by the Spirit they saw that the cross marks the end of one era and the start of another. They were now sure that in Jesus dying and rising the God of Israel has acted to accomplish a new exodus for the whole world.
By the Spirit, we now participate in this new exodus. For us, the old has gone and the new has come as we live in the freedom of the children of God. We are free from all the powers of the old order. We are free in the Spirit to draw near with Jesus crying Abba Father. For by the Spirit we share in Jesus’ relationship with his Father enjoying life with him in God now and forever!
Yes, we are new exodus people living in the freedom of what the Triune God has done, is doing and will do to make all things new.
Jesus spoke very little about his suffering and death for us. However, the nearer his ‘hour’ (as he called it) approached the more he was ready to speak little by little about his death and the resurrection to follow. One way he spoke about his dying and rising was as his exodus.
The early believers experienced this new exodus. They actually lived in the freedom of the new exodus even as they looked forward to the future liberation of all things. Within this experience of new exodus a new narrative of God’s saving acts identifies who God is. Israel pointed to their God as the One who brought Israel out of bondage in Egypt. The early Jesus community singled out their God as the One who raised the crucified Jesus by the Spirit. They identified God in this new way by telling the story of Jesus’ dying and rising as the new exodus that sets us all free from the bondage of sin and death.
Just like the early believers, we now share in the freedom of the children of God in union with Jesus by his Spirit. We are free from sin and death and free for God. We live freely in him and he lives freely in us as our life is hidden with Christ in God. And now we await the liberation in fullness. Then the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. This is the new exodus already accomplished, already experienced and already anticipated with sure expectation. “So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed”.
The Lord liberated his people from oppressive bondage in Egypt. They were now free to enter into a covenant of love with their God. Israel constantly looked backwards to this great liberating event reminding them that their God is the One who set them free from oppressive bondage. Later in their history, through Isaiah, the Lord pointed them forward to a new exodus event. He would act again to liberate them from oppressive exile in Babylon and also from even more oppressive powers. And in this new exodus Israel’s covenant God will prove to be the God of all peoples.
At his transfiguration Jesus spoke to Moses and Elijah about his “departure” which he would accomplish at Jerusalem. The word translated departure in Luke is exodon so they were talking about his “exodus”. The death of Jesus is the new exodus that God promised through Isaiah.
In this new Exodus the lowly servant of the Lord liberates us from all the powers that oppressed us. Through him we are free from sin, death and all the dominion of darkness. And that means we are free for a new covenant of love with God sealed with Jesus’ blood. Within this new covenant we are free to enjoy life in the promised land of participation in the very life of the triune God. Furthermore, within this communion of love we anticipate the day when the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Jesus acts in our place and in our cause as only he can. He alone “gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”(Gal. 1:4). We did not play any part in this saving action. How could we? We were under the power of the present evil age unable to do anything for ourselves and so unable to add to what Jesus did for us. He was also made a curse for us to free us from the curse (Gal. 3:13). Again, he did so, without us. The whole of God’s saving action has happened fully in Jesus needing no completion by us.
But is there no way at all that God’s saving action is completed by us? What about the decisive demand of faith? Faith is vital, but it does not add to what Jesus has done for us. In faith we gratefully respond to all Jesus has done for us by trusting in Jesus plus nothing. We fully trust in him alone and not at all in ourselves. And we give thanks to God for his indescribable gift.
This faith comes as Jesus encounters us personally by his Spirit. And in this encounter we know that faith is the gift of God. Furthermore in this response of faith we are united to Jesus by his Spirit. And in this union we now share personally in Jesus response of faith in our place and on our behalf. In that way, our imperfect response of faith shares in the perfect faith of Jesus on our behalf. It is all Jesus plus nothing.
Left to ourselves we humans are enslaved under the reign of sin and death. Under these powers we are always against God. We don’t want him. Nevertheless, God wants us and shows he is for us as he steps into our situation to rescue us from our plight. God intervenes in the death of Christ to bring to an end the reign of sin in death. He takes our sin upon himself and goes down into death to bring the power of sin and death to an end. Then Jesus is raised from death by the Father’s Spirit bringing into existence an entirely new creation.
This decisive divine intervention brings about a radical reversal of our previous situation in Adam.
In Jesus dying, the old is gone.
In Jesus rising, the new has come.
God himself has interrupted our old human existence in Adam under sin and death in order to open a new and living way in Jesus and his Spirit.
Jesus died and rose again as our representative so we died and rose with him. We have been crucified with Christ and so for us the old has gone. We have also been raised with Christ and so for us the new has come. And now our ongoing daily life is shaped by this dying and rising. Daily we die to any religious self-effort in attempting to be right with God or holy before God or more united to God. Daily we also rise in the Spirit into our new relation with God in which all things are new.