Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus' Sacrifice of Praise

More from the book. 

As the true heavenly high priest promised by Psalm 110, Christ fulfills all sacrifice.  This is major theme in the New Testament.  Jesus is the true Temple (Jn 2:18) and all rituals and sacrifices of the Levitical cult are typological of his grace (Col 2:17, Heb 10:1).  For this reason, the early Lutheran scholastic theologian David Chytraeus observed that “God instituted so many different kinds of sacrifice in order that . . . .the variety of Christ’s benefits and of spiritual sacrifices . . . . [would be] foreshadowed by this diversity of sacrificial types.”[1] Among these various sorts of sacrifice, we noted in chapter one that there are three main categories: sacrifices of praise, sacrifices of atonement, and sacrifices meant to ratify and enact covenants or testaments.  Christ fulfills all of these forms of sacrifice.  His life and death served as a sacrifice of praise, because possessing the fullness of divine glory he was not subject to the law.  His obedience and death served as an atoning sacrifice, in that by it he rendered both infinite obedience and suffered infinite retribution in his theandric person on our behalf to the Father.  Finally, his death confirmed the testament of the gospel and thereby became a source of our true knowledge and true worship of God.  For this reason, much as his kingly office is ordered to his priestly office, Christ's priestly office is ordered to his prophetic office.

We begin first with Christ's fulfillment of the sacrifice of praise.  As the possessor of the fullness of divine glory, Christ was utterly free from the law and therefore the archetype of Christian freedom.  For this reason, any obedience that he rendered to the Father is not a legal obligation,[2] but rather a sacrifice of praise for having already received all from the Father from eternity: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (Jn 17:4).  Indeed, Jesus’ own “glorification” (his death on the cross) is a glorification of the Father since in dying under God’s wrath and the most extreme opposition from sinful humanity, he still confesses God’s goodness and grace and thereby glorifies him by his confession: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (Jn 17:1). 

Even Jesus’ lamentation on the cross (Mk 15:34) is itself a confession of faith in the goodness and grace of God that is hiding.  Jesus' dying words in Mark, it must be remembered, are a quotation from the prophecy of Psalm 22 and therefore cannot be separated from the liturgical function of lamentation.  Psalms were utilized as the liturgy of the Temple[3] and therefore are in a sense all concerned with the praise of God for his goodness.  Psalms of lamentation also assume the existence of and trust in divine goodness.  One does not lament if they do not consider God to be gracious and good.  Lamentation is faith’s response to appearances that contradict its trust in God’s goodness and graciousness.  Those who do not believe God is good and gracious do not lament because the world is precisely as a non-existent or malevolent deity would have it.  Therefore, Jesus in his lamentation maintains his faith in God’s Word to him, in spite of divine hiddenness and condemnation.[4] 

As the true human being, Jesus Christ displays perfect faith in God's goodness.  Knowing himself to share all things in common with the Father and having this reconfirmed throughout his whole life by God's external Word (in the Scriptures, spoken to his parents, at his baptism and at Tabor, etc.), he trusted in God's goodness and his own vindication with a victorious faith (Heb 12:1-2).  Whereas Adam and Eve, standing at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil doubted God's beneficence, being surrounded by all good things, Jesus on the tree of the cross, stood in the most extreme opposition, abandonment, and condemnation in his death.  Nevertheless, unlike our first parents, he praised God and did not doubt his word of grace: "you are my Son with whom I am well pleased."  It is for this reason that both Luther and Thomasius (whom we cited earlier) are correct, that Jesus could only redeem if he experienced the total abandonment and wrath of God. Jesus active righteousness is rooted in his perfect faith in the face of total abandonment.

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