The Father’s Son become lowly human servant offering up his own life for us. In doing so, he brought to an end the old age under the power of sin and death. Not only did he die for us, we also died with him and death itself also died. Following on from that dramatic event, the Father raised Jesus from the dead as new man in new creation. He was raised for us and we were raised with him.
These sentences set out something of what God has done for us in Jesus. And yet, we must recognise that God and his reconciling acts cannot be contained within our sentences. Through our sentences we try to express faithfully all that God has done in Jesus; but it isn’t reducible to ideas, theories and arguments. Who can say what is unspeakable, and who can describe what no eye has seen?
All our sentences about God have their truth, not in themselves, but only in him to whom they refer. And so, by the Spirit’s enlightenment, we must pass beyond our sentences to the actual person of Christ himself allowing his person to continually remould our understanding of him. As the Spirit of Christ takes us ever deeper into the mystery of Christ we see more and more who he is and what he has done for us. Even so, the fullness of Christ always remains hidden from our view. And the more we gaze on him the more the hiddenness grows. While the more we encounter the one who is hidden, the more he opens himself to us beyond our sentences.
During Old Testament times, did anyone see that the repeated sacrifices for sin were mere shadows? Did anyone begin to imagine that the reality to which the sacrifices pointed was the self-offering of one man as the once for all sacrifice for sin? Furthermore, would anyone dare to envision that the person offering himself as the sacrifice for sin would be God as human? Would anyone dream that God himself would act to reconcile the world both as Judge and judged; priest and sacrifice.
On this side of the cross, and in the light of resurrection, we now see that Jesus has done the unimaginable in himself. We now know that through the cross God himself, as the man Jesus, tastes death for all. We now discern that through the cross our old fallen humanity is brought to an end and is replaced by a new humanity in resurrection. We now recognise that through the cross, sins are forgiven and captives set free. Yes, we grasp all this and more! However, we still cannot penetrate fully into the meaning of his cross, for it is all an impenetrable mystery.
We can only begin to see something of the meaning of the mystery as God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts. Only then can we begin to see something of the mystery that brought about the new creation in Christ. So, as T F Torrance says, “We cannot think our way into the cross of Christ but only out from it”. And, with Torrance, I must add, that we can only do so from the resurrection side of the cross as the Spirit of Christ opens to us the mystery of Christ. For the meaning of the cross transcends our attempts to define it and even what was prefigured in the Old Testament. And so we survey the wondrous cross in awe.