We continue our Lenten series on Fleming Rutledge’s outstanding book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (2015).
In this post, we continue looking at The Passover and the Exodus and the cross as a dramatic act of deliverance by God.
How seriously is the idea of being ‘enslaved’ or in ‘bondage to Sin’ taken today – even within the church?
To what are we moderns enslaved today? What does that slavery look like?
If you are a Christian, what has your experience of deliverance meant in practice?
Rutledge is well aware of how Christian reinterpretation of the Passover and Exodus finding their climax and fulfilment in the story of Jesus is seen by Jews as a profound and mistaken distortion.
She is at pains to argue that Easter does not invalidate Israel’s election as God’s chosen people (224) and points to Paul’s appeal in Romans 9. She proposes that Christians should and must engage with the Jewish viewpoint with empathy and understanding.
Nevertheless, Rutledge also warns of American mainline churches being so concerned not to offend that ‘we are in danger of allowing the Old Testament to slip away from us.’ (224)
The thrilling story of the Exodus ought to make our collective hairs stand on end, but the mention of it is likely to be met with blank stares. We need more sermons on this central shaping story … This story of surpassing power ought to be an indispensable part of every Christian’s operating system. (224).
The point here is that Easter as a new Exodus is all about the power of God to effect glorious deliverance. God is a God of freedom.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
The cross represents the victory of God and should be celebrated as such with joy and thanksgiving by the people of God. Rutledge quotes this hymn and Miriam’s song of victory;
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing
praise to our victorious King …
… Where the paschal blood is poured,
death’s dark angel sheathes his sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
through the wave that drowns the foe. (Latin Hymn, trans Robert Campbell)
21 Miriam sang to them:
“Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.”
Which brings to mind another wonderful song of celebration by the Boss –
Rutledge comments here that
This verse should give us goose bumps … it is a direct link to the imagery in the New Testament (226)
It pictures the cross as that which delivers us from slavery to sin. All of us are in bondage to its power. Its reach is systemic and personal. The reality of sin’s reach and power means that
… it is important not to spiritualize, de-historize, or individualize the exodus too much, or it will lose its edge. Affluent communities need to understand that they are enslaved by the pursuit of wealth, comfort, and status, often achieved at the expense of the poor. (226)