I hesitate to write this, because it commits me to something that opposes conventional doctrine. But after all, I can only be wrong.
There is much argument about whether or not Christ was “sinless”. An interesting “take” might be to look at who was the first person to “exercise faith” in Christ’s death.
I would think this would be “the thief on the cross”, who gained admission “into the garden”. The Roman watching on, seemed to have an “epiphany” exclaiming “surely this was the son of God”. But his was just an observation.
Then perhaps Mary, finding Jesus gone from the tomb.
But otherwise, are we left until Pentecost to really see the effect of the risen Christ on people?
So, what am I getting at? Only that the cross really had no impact in the saving way we have come to expect, in the early stages of its revelation.
In other words, whether or not Christ actually “bore our sins” is not evidenced in any way as far as his effect on people, at least not in the commonly accepted way of believe/repent/saved? Prior to Pentecost.
So the question is, in just what way did he “bear our sin”. If He did bear our sin, how did it happen. It had no immediate effect on anyone (we do have written that some rose from the grave, but that is not relevant here), no one suddenly exclaimed “Wow, my sins are gone”.*
So in that sense the bearing of sin passes undetected. Can we see it happening on the cross? We see him suffer and exclaim “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”. And that’s about it. No hint as to what actually dealt with the sin.
Of course it is said that it is his blood that took away the sin. But this in itself, is nonsense. Certainly there lies in the greater understanding of it, that as a “sacrifice” for sin, there lay some power, providing it can be seen and understood. But not that blood in itself has any value at all. [it is of course faith exercised in the blood]
When we look at all the references to sin bearing, including “by his stripes we are healed”, and “the chastisement we deserve fell on him”; also “He became sin for us”, it appears these things are not literal, (though they may be true) that they help us to understand what has been accomplished, but don’t help us to understand how.
All these references are simply plays on the principle of sin causing death. But the primary issue is not sin, but death. Because death is said to be the result of sin, the fact that he died is the issue at hand. The emphasis on sin may be to concentrate the blame squarely on us.
So we don’t get to see how he bore sin, other than him being separated from the Father, as an indication of sin; but we do see him dying.
So whatever happened had no effect on anybody at all! (other than the spurious records of random resurrection). The only time that there is a result of what he has done (yes there was the tearing of the temple veil) [on people] is by people recognising it as a “sacrifice” for sin and RESPONDING accordingly.
And the task for this appears to have been given to “The Spirit” which was to be poured out at Pentecost. It was after this that people were greatly affected and repented and were saved.
So we have to dig a bit deeper to find an answer, and it appears to be this. That Christ’s death satisfied the requirement that sin should cause death, since he died “for us” sinners. Yet what was the sin connection with him, how is it possible for him to die for others, and to have this connected to the sin of others?
Also, Christ satisfied the requirement that the righteous man should live, since he was raised again.
So where do we see him bearing sin? Well, in the garden firstly, where we see him struggling with the task to come, the cross. He knew that at the time of crucifixion, the sin presence he would encounter, would blind him to the presence of his Father. That the righteousness he had “enjoyed” as coming both from his Father, and also as indwelling himself, would have to encounter sin and deal with it totally. But he would be on his own with this one. (He knew that when it came, he would not be able to understand what was happening to him). Therefore, at the time, he began to enter into this struggle, the preliminary to the cross itself. And he began to die, there in the garden.
What happened to our sin? NOTHING. If we chase this out to the end of the cross, our sins were still “in us”. Nothing changed at all. All those verses were not strictly, literally, true. They only gain their credibility from the impact of his death. He died. That was true. Inasmuch as sin bearing relates to his death, it is true. But the sin issue itself was unchanged. (in us). Blood or no blood.
Later, as the gospel presented, people respond accordingly. How is their sin released? THEY LET GO OF IT as they “believe”. Their faith saves them. sin is removed by faith.
Back to the sin issue. The issue of the cross appears to be all about death. But we see by the resurrection that it also involves life.
The only thing that presents as an answer and meets all the criteria (except the obvious and prominent objection about Christ’s “sinlessness”), is that Jesus restored the fallen condition of mankind within himself. That is, he destroyed the death processes within his body.
So he bore our sin by taking its penalty. But this was a process involving man’s inherent death, passed to him through Mary, since he himself was flesh and blood, and could not automatically pass into heaven unless he was changed from flesh and blood, into some more compatible nature with eternal substance.
“He became sin for us”. Although one of the verses that again, relies on the death penalty for its validity, it smacks of what actually happened to Jesus, when he merged his righteousness with the unrighteousness of man’s inherent nature. Up till that time he had kept his distance from the indwelling propensity to sin, he had stayed at one end of his consciousness, and regarded that which was of his human nature, as absolutely foreign to him.
But the cross brought it all into focus – his composite nature of God and man had to be finally resolved, and it was here that he was to release mankind from death, by destroying it (his death) in his own body. Entering into the presence of sin may have been what instigated his perceived separation of himself and his Father. But he was on his own, and had to deal with, from his own power, authority and righteousness, the corruption that lay in the nature of man, and was in his own body also.
Had he continued in life, he would have succumbed to the aging process, and died. As we all do. But his task was to survive, to overcome, to be the first one to break through the barrier between the earthly and the heavenly. He had to destroy death within himself – WHY? So he could become a “life giving Spirit”, and then give this Spirit to men, so they also might have power to overcome.
There is no evidence beyond the thief perhaps, that anyone in that point of time gained salvation other than from receiving the Spirit. Dramatically at Pentecost and in subsequent examples, and later in the form we are more used to, without the drama of tongues and prophecies. There would be no point in the giving of the Spirit if it were not necessary.
So he had to be made like us, to share in our weaknesses, which included temptations to desire and to lust. There is no way anyone can rightfully claim that Jesus was perfect, and had no internal deficiencies. All “flesh and blood” has internal weaknesses. Were it not so, he would indeed have been perfect and would have no clue as to our weaknesses and failings, and could have been immediately “perfected” into Heaven, without all the fuss.
NOW, just as he overcame his own body’s death processes, the Spirit, who comes in the guise of comforter and High Priest, also works with us to overcome those same processes. But obviously not to the degree of perfection that he had to, try as we may. But we are already made perfect in essence, and our further “perfection” lies in “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”.
Further to this subject, I have mentioned the struggle in Christ as being righteousness versus unrighteousness. [Paul had this struggle also, in Romans 7, but was without the Spirit, and failed, but Jesus WAS the Spirit] But God’s righteousness is actually his LOVE. So the internal “war” that was waged in his body was really love overcoming non-love, or opposition to love. We are told not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. These processes, as guided by the Spirit, must have some similarity to what Christ endured. “If only we suffer with him”. He has destroyed death within himself, for us, to become the means of distributing life to us, by becoming a life giving Spirit. And we receive that Spirit by faith. “Until Christ AGAIN be formed in you”.
Postscript. I add this strange thought as a PS. In keeping with the conventional thought that “Christ suffered the wrath of God”, we rather see Christ’s own righteousness, spirit, nature, love, destroying the inner diabolos, the inner serpent, totally and absolutely. The vessel of love was able to overcome and purify, himself.
Matthew 19-17 “Why are you asking me about what is good? There is only one who is good.”
*Perhaps now by faith some do.