We continue our Lenten series on Fleming Rutledge’s outstanding book, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (2015).
In this post we get to the final theme in the book – that of recapitulation.
If you are wondering what this actually means, I think that this is wonderfully captured by this paragraph from Rutledge (maybe especially since I am over 50!).
How do her words this resonate with you?
This theme is deeply connected with Christian hope – the present victory of God in Christ has universal implications for the future.
Is this wishful thinking in a world overshadowed by death? Is it what Marx called the ‘opium of the people’ – future myths of a perfected world keeping people being contented with injustice in this one?
Quite simply, it all depends on the cross and resurrection …
Is there anyone alive over fifty who would not want to live his or her life over again in order to correct the mistakes, avoid the wrong turns, undo the damage, maximize the opportunities, recover the wasted time, repair the broken relationships, restore the lost future? More important still, would we not wish to see great wrongs wiped out, – all the mass murders, child abuse, destruction of cultures and populations, despoilation of nature, and all the other miseries and atrocities of history rectified and the memory of them obliterated? In Christ, Paul is telling us, not only will all this happen in the eschatological age, but also the power of what Christ has accomplished for us and the whole creation is active in our lives even now as we put our trust in his remade humanity. (537)
In other words, recapitulation means a ‘summing up’ or ‘regathering’. In Jesus, everything is restored, and all that is in Christ becomes those that belong to Christ.
A key text here is Romans 5:12-21
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The most famous, and early, figure connected with recapitulation is Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-200).
All of the human race is implicated in Adam’s sin and disobedience and ‘in Adam all die’. But Irenaeus saw that, because of Jesus’ victory over the powers he
“overcomes through Adam what had stricken us through Adam.” (Irenaeus, quoted by Rutledge, 539).
“He [Christ] therefore completely renewed all things, both taking up the battle against our enemy, and crushing him who at the beginning had led us captive in Adam.” (Irenaeus, 5.21.1, 541)
Notice how his understanding of recapitulation is not simply Christ living the ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ human life. It is also a victorious life, defeating Sin and Death.
This theme is all inclusive, it includes the apocalyptic war and Christus Victor. His victory becomes our victory. His life becomes our life.
Participation in Christ is therefore inseparable from recapitulation – as believers are joined ‘in Christ’ they share in his recapitulating of all things.
How does that hope transform your present?