Engaging with what we see

May 3rd Open Zoom

Once a month I have been hosting an ‘open Zoom’ not directly connected to the books I have written. In them we have tried to pick up on something that we can all contribute to, which is handy as none of us come as ‘experts’. At the last one I suggested that in this month’s zoom (Tuesday May 3rd., 7:30pm UK time) that we seek to share what we ‘see’ / have ‘noticed’ / are anticipating for this year and into 2023.

Although maybe a bit of a bigger picture response I made a video a little while back on Perspectives for 2022. It will be good to watch this before coming on line. Any big picture perspective will be translated into what is immediately before us, so I anticipate our discussion will headline the big picture but focus on the ‘what is around me’ perspective. Love to see you there – no need to let me know you are coming… just show up on the evening.

Here are the Zoom details:


Meeting ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

Necessary – for us

Last night I completed a Zoom on the final chapter in the book, The LifeLine, on the cross. Always an interesting discussion as the cross can and should be viewed from many perspectives (and is in Scripture… though no surprise here, not I think from that of penal substitution). I put forward a couple of aspects last night that are not in the chapter with ‘yes I am probably willing to stand in a corner and have stones thrown at me as a heretic for this…’

Given that we have to be agnostic about how much we have a grasp on ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’, my beliefs are ‘I lean toward’, and I lean strongly toward that of the future not being fixed, in fact I lean so strongly that way that I have probably fallen over. If the future is not fixed in what sense was the cross always planned? (‘Slain from the foundation of the world’ springs to mind here.)

Oh, what a roundabout way I am about to travel in this post…

Reading a few days ago in 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 (I have emboldened the text I am considering):

Three of the thirty chiefs went down to the rock to David at the cave of Adullam, while the army of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” Then the Three broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and they brought it to David. But David would not drink of it; he poured it out to the Lord, and said, “My God forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.

Drinking blood – something that Jesus said both in terms of the Last Supper, and in John 6:53 that those who do not drink his blood will have no life in them. To drink blood is to metaphorically to receive the gift of the substance of a person (true love) at the cost or potential cost of their very life. It is not some pagan ritual, and this blood poured out is indeed the life poured out (life of the flesh is in the blood) not some appeasing act to the divine. Blood in the OT is for cleansing not for appeasement, life poured out cleanses, for life is stronger than all other opposing forces, even in the case of Jesus, that opposing force of death. To drink the blood of Jesus is to receive deeply his outpoured life that comes to us, not simply through him risking his life, but through losing his life. (And maybe I should add that as a human he has to take the risk that love is stronger than hate; life poured out stronger than death… he, as human, being faithful to live out God’s life. He dies in faith – into your hands I commit my spirit… God raises him on the third day.)

God’s life is revealed in the cross, there we understand that God is kenotic, self-pouring out, life-giving, not life-taking. As I have stated in previous posts Jesus did not humble himself in spite of being God, but because he was in the form of God he emptied himself and went all the way to the cross. God will go, God did go, to whatever depth was necessary for human and cosmic redemption.

The cross is not an aberration of God; it is not at the resurrection that Jesus defeats the powers but at the cross; the resurrection being the visible sign that Jesus has overcome all enemies to the fulfilment of cosmic destiny (and I mean cosmic, within which of course is included human destiny).

In Acts the consistent testimony is that ‘you killed Jesus.. the Author of life…’ If we do not read a theologically biased reading of ‘eternal foreknowledge’ into Acts 2:23,

this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.

we can understand it as the cross fulfilling the plan of salvation, not in some predetermined way set before the foundation of the world, but in fulfilment of the life of God. (Foreknowledge is simply to know something beforehand, the ‘when’ of the knowledge is only determined to be eternal if there is a presupposition that is the case.)

God will self-give to whatever level is necessary, there is not a ‘thus far and no further’. The cross became necessary for us; the death within critical history (the fullness of times) in the place of strong captivity (Jerusalem, strong captivity because of the religious / political alignment)… You (religion) handed him over to those outside the law (the one world government of Empire). Handed over the life giver (human act) and death was swallowed up, it could no longer hold him, indeed Peter says it was impossible for death to hold him. It is not primarily that he dies our death (substitution and penal?), I would rather suggest he dies because of our death and he takes our death to a new place; our death is carried into his life poured out, and so he tastes death for everyone, and brings death to our death!

The subsequent invite is to find our identification with him – to die with him so that we will be raised with him. The Triune God gladly took our death to the place of death, for that death is swallowed up in the life poured out. If I then drink of his blood, I will receive the flow of that outpoured life, I will die… and rise with him. It is not guilt that is to be dealt with, so that my ledger is marked ‘innocent’ but cleansing that comes to heal the soul and to restore the familial relationship, the cross not seeking to deal with legal issues (leave that aspect to the Jewish aspect of the cross) but the estrangement issues. The ‘Prodigal Father’ will run to us, leaving the law weakened, running the risk that sin will indeed abound yet even more… but for those who receive the embrace, shame (and guilt) disappear, sin is condemned, death is conquered.

Slain before the foundation of the world? Indeed. How can it be otherwise? That is the eternal God, not simply the historical Jesus in the first century. Each time we take the bread and the wine we proclaim his death… till he comes.

The mighty promises of a deliverer, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah… but when we turn (repentance) and see (bear testimony to) it is not a Lion that fills our view, but the eternal nature of God, a Lamb slain… the One found worthy to open the book of destiny.

Yes I do believe there could have been other possibilities if we (the ‘Adam’ that we all are and participate in) had made different choices. What could never be changed is that the God of Creation is the Redeeming God who will go wherever s/he has to go in order to redeem. The cross is not necessary for God, it was necessary for us. It becomes inevitable for God because God is kenotic.

A coming together

Thanks for the comments on some of the previous posts. Knowing some of the people who read those posts I find it interesting that there seems to be those who are on the wilder end of the charismatic scene, those who wonderfully question the sanity of all that goes on in that scene… In other words quite a mix. So I was just wondering, also provoked by the call for the ‘rise of the Annas’ whether this is a sign of what is to come, a way ahead in the big scheme of things.

My background is sectarian (OK I own up). Sectarian is a bad word but if looked at sociologically virtually all protestant (and even more so evangelical) groups are sects (distinguisable from ‘cults’). They share the same big world view that other Christians do, simply they claim to represent it better, more faithfully. It was there in Jesus day, and Paul did well in that world – a Pharisee of the Pharisees! (Head people, anxiety-prone people as well as ‘king of the hill’ people probably find a good home within sects – just thought I would throw that encouragement in there.) Those of us who swapped the sacraments for the proper understanding of the ‘word’ excelled at it. That might be one reason that we love Paul better than we love Mary(!), and probably understand Paul better than he understood himself.

I hope I am less sectarian today than in yesteryear. I realise that the resurrected Jesus spent many a day teaching on the kingdom of God, and did not seem to cover it very systematically, no instruction seemed to be left as to how to handle an influx of unclean Gentiles, for example. The kingdom of God will come when we get our notes all stacked up just right… or maybe, when we stumble along, with a good dose of humility, defences down, and discover that outside our sectarian boxes are people on the same journey… and maybe we become a little surprised when we recognise that they too seem to have that same travelling companion, the one called Jesus of Nazareth.

Simeon. Thank God for the Simeons. Waiting, holding space. And amazingly he could see in a baby what he had been waiting for. That takes faith and maturity. Then passes in peace. A season over.

Anna. A season opening. It is hard to know (the English translations make a go of what is not too clear) what her timeline was, but we know that (culturally) she has been separated from her support, her protection. She has been sidelined, but had found a place in God in it all. She does not look to depart, in spite of her age. She looks for the outlet. Simeon spoke to God and within the family. Anna pushes it all out, out to whoever was looking for God’s intervention.

The rise of the Anna’s (never know if that should be Annas or Anna’s??). She speaks of the child. In our day what a disaster is on our hands, once we look beyond the four walls – whether they be the four walls of our week-by-week, or the four walls of our personal security. We look and need not some ‘redemption of Jerusalem’ but of the planet. Every day I take hope in the Incarnation and the resurrection. Easter took place in Jerusalem for the world. The Jews celebrate Passover with ‘we were in Egypt… next year Jerusalem’; we celebrate with ‘we were in Jerusalem… next year the world’. Yes we were there – when he died we died. Past tense. Visit Jerusalem should you wish… I prefer to follow Paul into Abraham’s inheritance, the promised world.

Worst scenario seems to me that God plunges into this great mess and the parousia takes place. After all it was at the ‘fullness of times’ the Incarnation took place; not the best of times, but when there was no hope for the world. That worst of scenarios is pretty good, but to be honest I would be disappointed. Can we not do better, after all the first ‘fullness of times’ was pre-cross. We are post-cross, and I don’t think we understand Paul (and the NT) better than he did when I suggest that because ‘he stripped all powers and made an open show of them’ and rose with ‘all authority in heaven and earth’ something globally, universally and forever actually changed in every sphere, heavenly and earthly on that day when he rose. So I would love for there to be something more. That there is hope in this ‘fullness’. Hope for the climate, the planet, justice in economies, maybe something that we might liken to ‘God is in their midst’, at least at some tangible level.

And the more I think is happening. No need to lose faith as a charismatic. More words of knowledge, healings, crazy miracles, angelic visitations, demonic confrontations, trips off to heaven (but keep them pretty quiet). I am so convinced of that. No need to make everyone else in our image, of insisting that we have the one and only inside track on what it is to be faithful to the revelation of God in Jesus. Just a question to myself. Do I think the God revealed in Jesus loved this planet? Could s/he be revealed in a tree-hugger. (Just questions to myself. No I am not replacing the Incarnation with a tree-hugger; but I think I also should not replace the Incarnation with a ‘bury my head in the sands and shout louder in tongues’ either. And I am much more in one camp than the other, though quite like trees!)

God is big. BIG. BIG. Present in all kinds of places and with all kinds of people

No need to change my beliefs. Wow… no reason to!! That would be crazy. Not simply because the world view I find in that book makes SENSE, but my experiences line up also. The convictions have been worked in me for good reason. But maybe I need to also walk with many new companions. I have a lot to learn from… and I have a witness to bring, a witness of the resurrection; as someone said to me recently to evangelise all I need is the right knowledge, to witness I need to both reflect on what I have seen and be a reflection of what I have seen. Anna saw something in that child and spoke… Simeon a sign of what was ending, Anna a sign of what was coming, and has been coming ever since. That trajectory continues.

I have my convictions of the parousia but could well be wrong (I won’t be the first person who combed the Scriptures and got that part wrong!! They managed that quite well also in Jesus’s own day!). The trajectory though seems to be OK and sure. God coming… and certainly resurrection in there, Simeon, Anna, Judas (pretty sure on that), my parents, Sue. Yes all those who have gone before. Are they all coming when we need the biggest bail out ever, or could it be different? Annas – we call. Whatever happens that day will herald a party beyond a party. A ‘fullness of times’.

There is no other?

Before the recent posts and the various comments, so un-influenced by them Elly sent me this poem.

we say there is no ‘other’
and we find a sandpit
we say not me
and dig a hole
we say there is no pain
and we lower ourselves to the ground
we say look at us
and our heads disappear
and when we emerge
we are blind.

Here we are – 2022

In this video link I am making my contribution to a ‘where are we’. When COVID kicked in I, as per many others, saw it as signifying a reboot. I also said that although there would be a measure of post-COVID that 2022 would be much more troublesome. Little did I know that we would be looking at a full scale war where the map of Europe is being re-drawn, and the desire to see a nation obliterated. This was recently released by the Patriarchate of the Moscow Russian Orthodox Church:

You are a Russian Warrior. Your duty is to defend the Fatherland from Ukrainian nationalists. Your task is to wipe the Ukrainian nation off the face of the earth. Your enemy is an ideology causing sinful damage to human soul.

The main sight I had on 2022 was that there would be a series of events, probably containable if there was only one of them but cumulatively they would cause immense problems as they both followed one another and came together. I see this spilling over into 2023.

In the video I seek to give the sight I have, but want to emphasise that at the beginning of this year I saw a series of doors before us (I saw ‘four’) and that we could go through whichever we wished and the other side we would find that God was there waiting. Those opportunities might be huge, or we might consider them small (after all the small act of the 2 coins made a huge contribution the ‘end of the age’ in AD70). Large or small is not the important element. We might have (physical, relational, geographical) limitations on us but a very distinct before and an after. Opportunities are here. We look for them amidst neighbours, colleagues. We are all carriers of that reconciliation spirit that comes through the reconciling of the world to God through the cross.

Interpreting what we see is always a challenge – expectation often cocks up our interpretation. Back in 2010 I wrote contributing to a book on what do we see for the decade. In there I put that the dollar would no longer be the currency of international exchange. It still technically is… though I suspect that before the end of the past decade that was already shifting, things were already in motion. (Not trying to justify myself…) the fig tree died when? When it was visibly dead or when Jesus spoke the word? Sometimes what we see is something that is set in motion, and we assume it is completed. It might have started but behind the scenes, invisibly. A number of years ago I had a word that a woman who had not been able to conceive would have a child that year, but although not able to conceive had had a miscarriage. It was the first Sunday in January. I prayed for her. [I will make a note below on such ‘words’.] In April she saw me and told me she had not conceived. My response – this is not your problem, this is mine. I took it seriously. All kinds of ‘words’ like that should be rarely given… and never are they to be carried by the one that they are given to. They have to be carried by the giver and with full accountability. (What happened to all the words about Y2K bug and how we were to prepare for it, complete with planes falling out of the sky… more words were given than apologies, and discovery of why they were so wrong.) We have too much wishful thinking, a ‘what would I say / do if I were God’ is totally inadequate as a way to think – it presupposes we understand God. That is a journey of a lifetime… and beyond a lifetime. In prayer the Lord said to me ‘do not call this a child when it is in the arms’. That is not the normal outcome of ‘you will have a child’ (read scripture to see what is consistently normal). Christmas eve she was confirmed as with child. My point is we understand so little, we quickly make assumptions and of we run, and sadly the assumptions are normally centred around either (or both) personal and national blessing. The continual focus on issues national that sees God’s favour on a particular land in a (semi-)covenantal nature is a far bigger issue than on getting predictions wrong. There are enough predictions that do not come to pass in scripture to make that a minor issue, but in a covenantal nation (the ONLY covenantal nation) they were clear enough that even a holy Temple could not save them! Focusing on the national and personal is certainly legitimate when God speaks, but outside of that we are forever in danger of releasing expectations that are based on a pre-resurrection perspective!

Here then is the video:

Four waves released

Back in February I had a couple of intense weeks thrust upon me. I initially understood this to be for a particular situation, but with the crisis in Ukraine, I now believe it is something global. Below is an image that more or less represents what I saw and sought to push back on. Four waves of attack, each one building on the one that went before. When wave 1 was established it released wave 2 (wave 1 continuing). When I encountered this wave 3 (‘worm’!) was not fully established so wave 4 was not yet released – for this reason I am holding out that we will not see nuclear nor chemical warfare in Ukraine, though the destruction already there is abhorrent. I have a video link where I seek to explain what I experienced.

A king… one after God’s heart

I am reading in 1 Samuel at the mo and of course have been reading of the institution of the monarchy with 1 Sam. 8 being ever so central. There were good kings and bad ones, but it is not too difficult to draw a line that by the third generation of kings (Solomon) the people have not left Egypt but headed back that way. The Queen of Sheba might have been very impressed, but we don’t have to go too far behind the public face to see the cost. The hierarchy is impressive – if one is impressed with hierarchy. Not surprising that the king who comes up to take on the northern lands comes up from Egypt and sets up some golden calves! Three generations.

Saul starts well, but it is ever so hard to occupy any seat of power and to continue well. Into that context Samuel says,

The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you (1 Sam. 13:13,14).

God goes where we go. You are rejecting me, you want a king… I will anoint a king for you. (This of course has consequences, but in line with the series on the cross, God will take the consequences, Jesus dying as ‘the king of the Jews’!) Into these seats of power that God never instituted and that tend to corrupt, s/he looks for someone after her/his own heart. What does that look like?

It must look like a foot washing servant who is among us.

There are many seats of power in our world that will work to corrupt anyone who is appointed to sit in them (could it be that the seat ‘the Messiah’ was no different?). We can be realistic, for God is realistic. The seats are there. And always God looks for those who will occupy those seats but with God’s own heart.

I am not a Catholic, and so no surprise that I am not convinced that the papacy has anything to do with a ‘seat’ that Peter sat in! I am not suggesting Pope Francis is perfect, but when I read of his involvement with the first nations people in Canada recently I think maybe in that aspect we have God finding someone after his heart to sit in the seat that should never have been.

And I need to take to heart the seats offered to me… white, privileged male. The seat is there – how do I sit in it, or maybe do I get up from the seat (down from the seat?) and put a towel round my waist…

Pope Francis, the Catholic church and the First Nations peoples

I had an email at the end of last week letting me know that this had taken place in Canada. Might be a long time coming, but great to read.

I don’t know if you have been aware of this but First Nations peoples here in Canada, as a part of Truth and Reconciliation, and the journey of healing, have finally had a meeting with the Pope. We have been dealing here in Canada with a very violent and sad history of institutional abuse of children. Children were taken from their families and put into church run schools, often funded by the government. The government has apologised and paid out billions. The Protestant churches – Anglican and United – also apologised years ago. But the Catholic church held back. Would not apologise and has not paid what it agreed to pay.  It was even difficult to schedule a time for delegates to meet with the Pope, though some of that was Covid.

This week delegates from Inuit, Metis and First Nations had private meetings with the Pope. They invited him and the church to walk with them on the journey of healing noting that the Church needs healing. They spoke about land and told their stories of trauma. They explained they have a shared Creator, this to a Church that had declared them non-human back in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Today the Pope apologised. He spoke of coming to Canada to visit their land and homes. He spoke a lot of land and intergenerational trauma. He hugged delegates. He spent way more time with them than was scheduled. Delegates danced, sang and prayed in their languages which had been banned in these residential schools. They gave the Pope gifts – a book of their stories, a cradleboard that symbolized all the children lost, an Inuit worked cross made of baleen, and other things.  They have asked that the Pope renounce the Doctrine of Discovery that declared the lands as empty of humans and free for Catholic nations and the church to take over. It was put out in the 15th century and fueled how Europeans treated indigenous peoples.

A big moment for Canada and the world. It makes way for a larger shift.

Sin is condemned

In Jesus ‘sin’ is condemned. It is certainly not that Jesus dies as a sinner; he is holy, separate to God throughout his life and death. It is not that God killed Jesus, for the continual phrase in Acts is ‘you put him to death’. He is killed as an act of corporate humanity, poignantly with religious and political powers finding their way of colluding together. In that situation Jesus does not resist the inevitable path, but embraces it. There is a submission to the hostile powers. Submission to the powers that we could describe as human, but in reality they are non-human powers for what is taking place is simply an ultimate demonstration of dehumanisation. Those non-human powers we can describe in terms of ‘principalities’ or we can describe them under the heading of ‘sin’ and the partner / consequence to sin, the power of death.

Sin, a way of living, in alienation to God, in denial of the God-path for humanity is condemned in Jesus (Rom. 8:3). Sin could not reign over this man. It is condemned as his life is poured out like a cleansing agent and the poison is pushed back – not only into every aspect of human life on earth, but even into the very heavens (Heb. 9:23-28. The Hebrew writer continually uses the sacrifice / cleansing paradigm for the work of Jesus. Perhaps what we read here of ‘the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these’ is a way of saying the death of Jesus reaches into all creation, but perhaps it is also saying that the heavens were touched by the sin of humanity?)

Why such a radical effect? Yes the innocent doing something on behalf of the guilty, a theme that was very Jewish indeed, with the remnant doing something for the whole, or the (Maccabean) martyrs giving their lives and the vindication of God will be manifest in the nation. But something more than this is going on, for ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’.

The effect is so powerful because of the ‘when’ and the ‘who’. It occurs at the fullness of time, when the domination of that one-world government and the fall of Israel has reached a point that the whole world is in the hands of the evil one, the one called the prince of this world. The poison in the wound cannot be healed, the situation is terminal, not meaning that all are condemned, but we are all condemned to live under the domination of ‘sin’ (NB the singular use). The when.

The life of God is poured into the situation, and not from the outside but the inside. A deliberate embrace of whatever the powers can summon, and a submission to those powers. Sin and death; devil and demons. That level of powerful coming together of hostile powers though cannot overcome love. Death cannot overcome life, not the kind of life that has eternally been poured out (hence we can read of the cross ‘being before the foundation of the earth’).

Jesus submits to powers: the ‘human’ or better the ‘non-human’ powers.

He also submits to God. The human Jesus submits to God. It is far to crude to say he is submitting to the Father, rather he, as human representative, is submitting to the God-flow. Not my will – human will, and a very real will that was – but yours, and perhaps if I take a liberty, he could have said ‘but our will be done’, other than he is speaking as the Son of Man, the human representative.

In submitting to God he is not submitting to the punishment coming from God, he is submitting, as human, to the God-flow.

The when… the who – this is the act of God in humanity. The cross is for us. Sin cannot survive in that environment, regardless of what form that sin takes. Sin is condemned in the ‘flesh’ (humanity) of Jesus.

All sin was gathered to that place, for that place (the cross) was where the literal outpoured life of God was focused. In that sense we can suggest Jesus was made sin for us (perhaps could be ‘sin offering for us’), not made a sinner. Sin is fully manifest, the totally innocent one, the one who never wavered in pulling for the future of humanity, that flesh becomes the place where sin is condemned.

Can God forgive without the cross? Absolutely. He has no issue with forgiveness. There is no need for payment. Can the power of sin be broken without the cross? No, for God does not come with power to remove what has been chosen by humanity; other ‘gods’ might do that. But he will come in human likeness, when the powers are at their maximum, and he will demonstrate that he was always journeying eastward from Eden. ‘In the day that you eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil you (and I will be counted among you) will surely die’. From Eden to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, to the cross where those full of knowledge crucify him, but life calls for a forgiveness pleading that they don’t know what they are doing. But that is OK from God’s perspective. I’ll submit, is Jesus response. This is the moment of glorification, this is the hour.

Creation responds, earthquake, tombs open, darkness. Sin is condemned.

Now comes our grateful response. Not to fear of judgement, but to love. If he died there for me, I died. I died with Jesus. I can begin a path, begin with repentance toward God. A change of mind, a change of mind about God, for the cross reveals who God is (no one comes to the Father except through me). A repentance for sin committed. A cleansing from the pollution that we have both experienced and contributed to. An imperfect journey in that new way, for the powers are defeated, yet remain present. The cross is not about transaction, it is about transformation; transformation of the whole of creation, and about personal transformation.

God does not seem to be looking for perfection… just too realistic for that. Genuineness, openness, receptivity, and a faltering ‘let your will be done’ response. That response takes faith and trust that God is for me, that a submission to God is not about killing me (!) but bringing me truly to life, to a fullness of life.

As a Gentile I gladly affirm that ‘even to us Gentiles God has given the gift of repentance that leads to life‘. For the Jew, as those ethnically descended from the patriarchs, so loved because of that, a repentance toward God, no longer looking to defend themselves because they have names they can call on, for now ‘there is only one name under heaven by which we can be saved’ (a Scripture directed to an exclusively Jewish audience). To all, whether Jew or Gentile, for we both have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the good news is that at the cross, the male Jew, in whose person the life of God was present in fullness, went there for us. Surely this is what gripped the Jew of all Jews (Paul) to become the herald of good news, to glory in nothing but the cross, a herald to all of creation. He knew a new time / creation had come. The old had passed away; sin had been finally not simply confronted nor simply contained, but condemned. He died for us. So in him now we all have died. He was raised for us. So in him we become witnesses (based on what we see) to that resurrection.

Foolishness to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jew, but to those of us who believe it is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16).

For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Cor. 1:22,23).

Finally let me finish this short series with a suggestion. Theories will take us so far, but something beyond theories is at work in the cross. The heart is touched, and touched deeply. The men disappear from view. The women stay, they see. Along with one man, John, who was marked by love. Maybe defined as ‘with special needs’ (after all he leans on Jesus at the Last Supper), so a little bit on the outside of the acceptable. Hearts open at the cross; minds offended. Perhaps we should read the narrative that way. Certainly I will not be closer to God the more I understand, but the more open I am will make all the difference. Maybe if I open myself I can be one of those who see that he is raised, and gladly think that the one raised is the Gardener, returning to the place of work, encouraging me to find what part of the ‘garden’ I too can tend to, and in that part if my heart is open I will find there are trees of life for me to take of the fruit and to give to others. Yes there will always be present that other tree, the result might be that my eyes will be open… but open to the shame that comes.

He has died. He is risen.


I never enjoy getting to Leviticus in any systematic reading, just too much weirdness going on for me, and far too many questions that I have no answer to. I am ever so glad that we have a New Testament! Sacrifices are very central in Leviticus, and it could be easy to read the instructions there as informing us that God demands sacrifice otherwise there will be no forgiveness, maybe even to push it further in our thinking that God needs to be appeased. That is a not uncommon perspective in religions that are outside of the Judeo-Christian faith, and probably sneakily creeps into our own hearts at time, with a ‘how will I get on the good side of God’.

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure (Heb. 10:5,6).

God does not desire sacrifices! It is certainly possible that God never put in the sacrificial system that we read of in Leviticus (we do not have ‘I command you to do this…’ but a more gentle ‘when you do this…’); it is possible that given the ancient culture God is accommodating what they were already expecting culturally to do, thus with that reading God would be using something already in place but adjusting the content in a direction more fitting. We see this with Paul’s use of the patterns from the day of the ‘household codes’, where he addresses (as other authors do) the male head of the household who is the husband, father and master. He does not abolish the culture but injects meaning into the structure that was already culturally set for every household. If this be so we can go a little easy on ‘God demands sacrifice’. (The Septuagint, in use in Jesus’ day, has in Leviticus 4 the introductory word ‘if’… if anyone brings a sacrifice, suggesting that an offering will be brought, and any instruction that follows is to modify and clarify, rather than to stipulate that an sacrifice is to be made.)

Most of the sacrifices have nothing to do with any form of ‘appeasement’ for sin. They are celebratory of fellowship with God. We do come across, though, the sin offering in Leviticus. The sin offering that Mary, mother of Jesus made in the Jerusalem Temple! A sin offering by the mother of our Lord, that sin offering being prescribed for post-birth (Lk. 2:24; Lev. 12:8). Where is the sin that needed to be forgiven in the conception, carrying of and subsequent birth of the Holy One? That should alert us somewhat that we should not be thinking ‘bad deed done’, God not happy, make an offering, God now happy again!!!!

Many scholars, and now a few translations, move right away from the word ‘sin offering’, and go for something along the lines of ‘purification / cleansing offering’. Ancient worlds are not our world, but it would seem cleansing is the real issue. Child-birth is messy, it is bloody, and common with all bodily discharges there was the need for some cleansing, almost some ‘spiritual detergent’ needs to be applied.

Jumping to the New Testament we read that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit through being cleansed:

And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us (Acts 15:8,9).

Peter was no longer to call unclean what God had cleansed and his fellow-Jews rejoiced that,

God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18).

What a lovely phrase… a repentance that leads to life. Cleansing meant that they could receive the Holy Spirit and come on to the life path. No more labouring unsuccessfully on the ‘right / wrong’, ‘I will do better’ path. Life is opened up for the Gentiles also… the necessary element being that of cleansing.

Hebrews 9:22 read a little more carefully lays this cleansing element as being necessary and that blood was (is) the way for that cleansing to take place. If not read carefully we read that forgiveness is not possible without blood, and that can lead us down the line of ‘God demanding sacrifice’. Forgiveness (and here I pull on the ‘being loosed from something that ties us down, refusing to allow us to progress’) requires that we are cleansed. Here is the text:

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

No forgiveness of sins, without blood… but why? Because blood purifies. The Old Testament use of blood has a cultural element to it, but the purification through the blood of Jesus goes ever so deep:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! (Heb. 9:13, 14).

How does the blood of Jesus purify? That might be something very hard to grasp but the depth of the cleansing that comes through the cross is very real. The blood of goats and bulls purified the flesh, the blood of Jesus purifies the conscience. A deep cleansing, a healing of the soul, something that offers us a new heart, a new core to our being, the Holy Spirit within, a door open to walk the path of life.

He died that we might live, truly live. God does not demand sacrifice in order to forgive; we need the sacrifice, the self-giving of Jesus, the self-giving of the Triune God to break the cycle of death and sin, we need that sacrifice to cleanse us within.