“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
As I read the Epistle passage for the second day of Holy Week, I thought again of my former college bible professor’s statement about salvation not being a direct result of believing in the Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I am still pondering that one in my mind. I am only noting the one verse from the Epistle passage for that reason. And I am not particularly drawn to the Old Testament passage either, much as I enjoyed the book of Isaiah. That leaves me with the Gospel passage. And Psalm passage.
“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” (John 12:20 – 26)
We know that Jesus is determined to head for Jerusalem. And we know that Jesus is aware that the Jewish officials (at least a large enough balance of them that Jesus was find great resistance) are determined to end his ministry and do not care how it is accomplished. In other words, Jesus knows his life is in danger.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (Verses 27)
But what hour is it that Jesus needs to be saved from? The result of his disputes with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes? Or the need for him to die in order to complete is ministry? I had quandaries like this in my earlier years – the whole issue of atonement, redemption, and salvation – and how it is to be accomplished. Blosser says that the gospels do not make the type of causal connection between Jesus’ death and salvation that some of the epistles may allude to.
“Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (Verses 28 – 34)
I want to assure you, beloved reader, that my pondering is only a theological exercise – a new way of reading and interpreting scripture. This is not a matter of me questioning my faith. And I am pretty sure that Blosser’s comments are from a theological perspective and not a rejection of Christ’s ministry and example. Theological inquiry can exist along side authentic faith.
“The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.” (Verses 35 – 36)
It would be easier if the Gospel passage was not from John. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as a spiritual mystic feature – Spirit given fleshly form. And this fleshly form must fall away for the true intent and purpose of Jesus’ life to be fulfilled. So I have to wonder how this into the Blosser’s discussion? I knew when I read the article that Blosser wrote that I might discover for myself some rubbing and sticking points with Paul’s letters. Especially within the story of Holy Week and Easter. I could have just set the article and my thinking aside. But something compelled me to pursue it.
There are nuances and delicate theologies that are distinct from the mainstream idea of resurrection equating salvation – I would like to take the time to look at them. Committing to the Christian life despite threats to one’s personal safety. It could be said that Jesus modeled this. That someone was willing to die rather than renounce their faith is an attribute of Christianity that is well known. But that attribute can be seen in other faith traditions. Christ’s glory was established before he died and rose again. He rose not because it was the only delivery route to salvation but because the Spirit was eternal. Walking in the light is another way of talking about living an authentic Christian life. And being children of the light is another way of saying children of God. Finally, being honored by God is just (or maybe even more so) as valuable as salvation. In fact, leading a life that gains one honor according to God’s judgment is a large component of Jesus’ teachings.
Oh beloved reader! I feel like I am trying to navigate some slippy slopes. But one of the things I have learned over the years is that the story of Jesus Christ and the Divine is large enough and diverse enough that everyone can find a home and a niche. Another thing I have learned is that it is not just one believer or one faith tradition that has the monopoly on truth and God-centered living; it is all of humanity coming together as a corporate body that reflects the fullest truth of the Divine. And that through conversation and caring dialogue that we can best understand it. Let us keep that in mind as we continue through Holy Week. Selah!