New Church Life March/April 2017 - Page 31

     “old church” concept: the Gospel clearly says that Jesus came “to give His life a ransom for many.” But people put this together with the prophecy in Isaiah 53 and draw all sorts of unwarranted – although very tempting – conclusions. “Surely,” we read, “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6) The idea is that He suffered so that we don’t have to – that His suffering appeased the wrath of God, the Father, so that we would not have to bear the consequences of our sin (just like the Old Testament scapegoat), thus that He suffered for us, on our behalf. But that simply isn’t what the passage means. What it means is that Jesus bore the brunt of human evil in His life, carrying it as a burden of graft and persecution against Him, graft and persecution that He only suffered so that He could answer it with truth and compassion. And we are healed by His stripes, that is, by the brutal treatment given to Him, if we see the horror of it all, observe His response to it, and determine not to do in our lives what the people did to Him. (See Divine Providence 275) Of course we read in the Gospel of John that John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (1:29) But the Writings (in Doctrine of the Lord 15) are very clear that this is a mistranslation, and that what it really says is as just mentioned, and further, that He bore, or carried the abuse heaped on Him as a clear manifestation of the abuse that had been heaped on the Word, which He then embodied. The application to our lives now is frightening if we take it seriously, and at any rate constitutes a graphic warning about how we treat the Word. It’s not that we might really hurt the Lord, who we know will continue to love and care for us just as He did the disciples after His resurrection, but when we abuse the goods and truths of the Word we put our own salvation – our own spiritual health – at risk. It’s in this context that the concept of a ransom comes up. Normally we think of a ransom as the price that one person pays to free another from captivity. Did the Lord pay this price? Well, yes, yes He did. He suffered – He endured and overcame temptations of all kinds – in order to free us from captivity – from our own sins as well as the influence of the hells. But it’s not a ransom without responsibility. It’s a price the Lord paid to rectify the whole order of things so that we could take the responsibility that was being withheld by the corrupting influences of this world and the next. Going back to our first reference from Arcana Coelestia 2034 it was about freeing us from the compelling power of the Word misapplied – in 97