The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob–the God of our ancestors–he has glorified his child Jesus, the one you handed over and denied in the presence of Pilate, although he had decided to let him go.
But you denied the Holy One, the Just One, and requested instead to have a murderer given to you; and so you killed the Prince of Life. But God raised him from the dead, and we are witnesses to the fact.
It’s interesting to note that we find no substitutional atonement in Luke’s writing here, no notion that Jesus Christ had to die to satisfy some divine requirement for justice. The explanation for Jesus’ death given in Acts is simply human perversity.
There is little theology of the cross like we find in Paul’s writings. The cross for Luke is a scandalous sign of the rejection of God’s anointed One by those he came to save. When confronted by God’s Messiah, humanity got together and did what it often does when faced with Truth–violence and crucifixion.
God responded to humanity’s action with his own–resurrection. Thank God!
There’s a German theologian who has really helped me rethink Jesus’ death and its profundity. This is not to take away anything from what Paul has written, or from substitutional atonement, but rather to shine light upon another aspect of Jesus’ death for us all.
Here’s some intense thoughts to chew on:
God did not will Jesus’ death. Humans brought it about, caused it. Jesus’ opponents wanted to eliminate what they profoundly hated. And Jesus, in his obedient, absolute self-surrender, gave all of himself, dying for the solution–the reign of God he preached so much about–the Life of God made available to all, not just a select few like in the Old Testament. In the reign (kingdom) of God, everyone is supernaturally, selflessly for the almighty Other, and for others.
Jesus’ death was pretty much unavoidable because people don’t want what God wants. Human beings want themselves. “Anyone who speaks and acts entirely in the name of God and desires nothing for herself or himself, but only what God wills, such a one will be hated”, says theologian Gerhard Lohfink.
So God didn’t kill Jesus.
Nor does it seem from Scripture that it was God’s desire.
Jesus’ death was the inevitable result of his living every moment in full surrender to the Father, and in absolute selflessness.
And it is the means by which we are made one with God, ultimately forgiven, and the channel through which God’s Life may flow into and through us.
It is so much!!!