When Jesus came announcing, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” he was invoking at once all of the expectations that a 1st century Jew had for the end of the Exile. His hearers would have understood that he was announcing that Yahweh had forgiven
Israel of her sins—notice the collective sense of this--that messiah was coming and with him Yahweh was returning to rule, the nations who had oppressed Israel would be judged, and would be restored. Israel
But there was a twist. If this new kingdom was truly to be an eternal kingdom, then God had to do something about this addiction to sin that was afflicting his people—indeed, all peoples. Something needed to be done to break the power that sin had over the people, otherwise this kingdom would end like all the others, with
Then God would have to judge or at least threaten of judgment, then the people would repent and he would forgive, and the cycle would continue. Israel once again becoming unfaithful.
So Jesus, the messiah, went up against the forces of sin, but he refused to play by their rules. He refused to establish his kingdom the way that the empires of this world establish their kingdoms—through violence, fear, oppression, and subjugation. As he told Pilate, “If my kingdom were from this world (this age, this aeon) my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.” (John 18:36) They were ready to fight, but he wouldn’t let them. And when you go up against the principalities and powers of this world and aren’t willing to pick up a sword, they are going to kill you.
And they did. They crucified him as a rebel leader, between two other rebels. To the followers of Jesus, to those who believed that he was the messiah, that the Exile really was ending and the
really was coming, this was the end. Nothing had changed. God hadn’t forgiven Kingdom of God . The messiah hadn’t arrived. Israel (and its gods) was still in charge. Rome
And then the resurrection. The resurrection was the vindication of Jesus and of his way of being
. He really was the messiah and his way really could be trusted. And his way was the way of the cross. Only through the cross could humanity’s addiction to sin and violence be broken. Israel
The resurrection vindicated the cross. In the cross all of
’s hopes found their fulfillment—their hopes for forgiveness and restoration, specifically, but with an added bonus: the cross ended their slavery to sin. Israel
That’s why Jesus could speak of forgiveness in the past tense or in the present tense as a continuous state of being: because Yahweh had forgiven Israel and was setting in motion events leading to the Kingdom of God.
© 2009 by Larry L. Eubanks