Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Jesus' Life For Us: Repentance

A powerful thought from Scot McKnight's book: The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others I have found very helpful in my life. In fact that entire book (and his newer book I find second to none in helping us think through the gospel: Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us) is potent. This book is revolutionary for our lives because it helps us get to the heart of what life is all about in what was the creed of Jesus.

Scot McKnight writes:
Theologians speak of Jesus' "active" and "passive" obedience. "Passive obedience" refers to Jesus' suffering for us; his "active" obedience is his perfect life before God. (p 238)

The chapter in this section I wish to refer to is entitled "In the Jordan with Jesus". I am not summarizing it, and would highly recommend that you read it and the book. I am simply pulling out what I believe to be truth from it which on the surface is missed in our Bible reading and even in our study, ordinarily. The aspect of Jesus' life for us that we'll take a look at now is his repentance for us.

When Jesus went to John the Baptizer in the Jordan to be baptized, John protested that he needed to be baptized by Jesus. Jesus certainly did not need to repent or be baptized by John for himself. He was sinless. But by this act he repented and was baptized for us. He was more than identifying himself with humankind in what he did that day. He was actually enabling us, by his coming death as well as his resurrection, and his asension after which he sent the promise of the Father, the Spirit, to truly repent.

As Scot points out in that chapter, our repentance, though sincere is weak. But Jesus' repentance for us enables our repentance to become strong as well as true. Jesus is for us not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also for our living in his way and will. In Hebrews 12:2 Jesus is called "the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (TNIV). Note this in its context of Hebrews 11:1-12:3.

Because Jesus "repented" for us in the Jordan our repentance can become a joyful turning from sin to God. Of course repentance for us as God's people is ongoing. Nevertheless it can be powerful and joyous. Because we are carried along by the one who perfectly repented for us.

You may protest and think this is majoring on a minor. And is this really true anyhow? Yes, I think there are basics we need to be taught. Like "Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures." Or, by Jesus incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and by the coming of the Spirit we by this grace, through faith become the people of God. But we need to try to understand all we can from this Story of God. And I believe this teaching is missed by many of us.

Jesus. Thank you for your death and resurrection for us. And thank you for your life that you lived for us. Thank you for repenting only so our repentance can be real through your perfect and complete repentance. Let us follow you, all the way. By your mercy and grace. Amen.


codepoke said...

Interesting idea.

I am comfortable with Jesus' life being as effective for us as His death, but I have never heard repentance as one of the acts He performed for us. I do not have the book, so I cannot see the scriptural underpinnings of your/his assertion.

In the scene at hand, I see Jesus saying His baptism is necessary to fulfill all righteousness, but I don't see repentance called out anywhere in scripture as something Jesus did. It was necessary for Jesus' life to be perfect, and to fulfill all the law, in order for it to substitute for ours. His life was perfect without repentance, though.

There seems to be a disconnect here.

Ted Gossard said...


Thanks for your response.

I too had to work through this idea before believing that there is very much something to it.

John's baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And Jesus submitted himself to this baptism publicly. Jesus told John that this act would fulfill all righteousness.

I think this is the first step Jesus took in fulfilling what Israel failed to do. Of course his life was perfect. But my allusion to Hebrews 12:2 concerning Jesus as the pioneer of faith suggests, I think, that his acts on earth (notice that the context has to do with acts of faith on earth) both make our walk in him possible, and show as well as enable us to so walk. He was like Moses who thus led his people on. But unlike Moses he fulfills all, bringing us into our inheritance.

Jesus did not repent himself. But I see his baptism by John as one of identification with his people who do need repentance.

There is more in the book by Scot along the lines of Jesus' life so figuring into our lives. I may bring those out with more posts. I think the whole together of that strengthens this thought. It's the last major section of that book, and probably the only part that comes across with SOME interpretation we may have not heard before.

One passage that might help us think along these lines is in Hebrews where it says that since Jesus was tempted in his humanity he is able to empathize with our weakness and uniquely help us.

I think too that the Spirit of Jesus is the enabler for our repentance and faith and all that go with that in our lives as God's people.

codepoke, thanks much for challenging this. I am still working on it. And this medium spurs that on.


Scot McKnight said...

Codepoke and Ted,
This is an old, old idea, and it goes back to Irenaeus (at least): it is called recapitulation. That Jesus' life recapitulates Adam's (Second Adam), Israel's (Second Israel) and all of ours: he lives our life so we can live his.

If the baptism of John is a baptism of repentance for sins; and if Jesus does not need to repent; he must be repenting for others.

This repentance, then, perfects ours.

Hope this helps. Thanks, Ted, for calling attentiont to this.

Ted Gossard said...

Scot, Thanks much. Great clarification and help.

codepoke said...

Hey Scot,

Thanks for weighing in on your book in our little comments. I will consider your answer. In the meantime, should you drop back by, here are my questions around it.

Like I said, I am comfortable with the concept of recapitulation. I may even have heard the term somewhere in my distant past, but thank you for defining it. Jesus went out into the wilderness to fight the same devil that defeated the first Adam. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, and we need that. That's all good.

I have 2 issues.

1) I'm not convinced that Jesus had the same baptism that everyone around Him was having. Everyone else was being baptized for repentance. I think we can infer from Jesus' recapitulation of baptism that Adam would have needed to be baptized at some point, had he not rebelled. This baptism would not have been for repentance, but symbolic of death.

2) The implications of your statement are huge. This directly asserts that we cannot repent. I know that I cannot fight satan as Adam couldn't. I know that I cannot claim authority as Adam couldn't. Even in the regenerate state, I need the Son of God to fight satan and claim authority. In the regenerate state, though, repentance is something that flows from my heart. How can anyone do that for me? If Ireneaus taught that, I might even have to doubt him ;-)

Thanks again for your first answer. I will consider it.

Scot McKnight said...

Thanks for this.
I will have to disagree with you on Jesus' baptism; no evidence that his baptism is any different. One can argue that Jesus is baptized to fulfill all righteousness and that this makes his baptism unique, but the baptism is still a baptism of repentance for sins. The question has to be asked: Why does Jesus associate himself with an act of repentance from sin?

The second point is not clear: but we cannot repent perfectly on our own; even as regenerate we do not repent apart from the Spirit's conviction (John 16). So, we are in need of grace as regenerated. The temptation shows our need of having one go before us to pave the way to repentance.

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity; chp titled the perfect penitent.

codepoke said...

Good stuff, Scot. Thank you.

I will put this in my mental "pending" pile, and check out Lewis's chapter. :-)