Storied Salvation: Part XV

Salvation From Sin

While salvation from sin is a theme, the priority and later focus of the Church on this aspect – as though it encompassed the greater meaning of Jesus mission – misses the point. Jews in the first-century were not concerned about forgiveness and God’s dealing with their sin because God had already made provision for this.

“There is no sign that first-century Jews were walking around gloomily wondering how their sins were ever going to be forgiven. They had the Temple and the sacrificial system, which took care of all that. If Jesus had only said what a lot of Western Christians seem to think he said, he would have been just a big yawn-maker. What he in fact said was so revolutionary that it woke everybody up.”[1]

Disease in the Gospels is often equated with sin. By forgiving sin and/or delivering one from the stated affliction, salvation had come. This was salvation from the certain death which would have ensued had there not been direct intervention.

“In the healings of both the woman with the hemorrhage (Mark 5.84 par.) and the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10.52 par.), Jesus proclaims that their faith has ‘saved’ them; most recent translations correctly render the Greek verb sōzō ‘has made you well’; cf. Mark 3.4; 5.23, 28; 6.56; Luke 17.19; Matt. 27.42 par.) Likewise, sōzō is used by the disciples when they thought they were drowning (Matt. 8.25; cf. 14.30) and (in a compound form) of Paul's escape from shipwreck (Acts 27.44; 28.1).”[2]

The works Jesus did correspond to the greater theme of his eschatological motif which pointed to the signs given by the prophets as to what Yahweh would do when he ushered in this “age to come.”

“Mostly, Jesus himself got a hearing from his contemporaries because of what he was doing. They saw him saving people from sickness and death, and they heard him talking about a salvation, the message for which they had longed, that would go beyond the immediate into the ultimate future. But the two were not unrelated, the present one a mere visual aid of the future one or a trick to gain people’s attention. The whole point of what Jesus was up to was that he was doing, close up, in the present, what he was promising long-term, in the future. And what he was promising for that future, and doing in that present, was not saving souls for a disembodied eternity but rescuing people from the corruption and decay of the way the world presently is so they could enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose—and so they could thus become colleagues and partners in that larger project.”[3]

The metaphorical use of salvation is often applied to the present:

“The death and resurrection of Jesus are the inauguration of the promised new age; and this ‘age to come’ is the long-awaited time of deliverance. The Jewish metaphorical meaning (resurrection as the rescue and restoration of Israel after exile and oppression) is retained but transformed: the divine rescue operation through Jesus is for all people, and delivers Jew and Gentile alike from the present evil age.”[4]

Jesus actively intervened in the chaos (“destroying the works of the Devil”)[5] of peoples’ lives, making the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the mute speak. In this manner, he brought the salvation of the future, when all will be right, into a small geographical region and to a relatively small number of people (cf. Luke 4:23-27) as a taste of what Yahweh would do on a grand scale. The prophets had foretold these things were to happen. 

[1] N.T. Wright, Who was Jesus (William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 98.
[2] Meier and Metzger, Oxford Companion to the Bible, 670.
[3] Wright, Surprised by Hope, 204.
[4] Wright, Resurrection, 220
[5] 1 John 3:8.

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