Roc Homily (d) – 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time (A) 2017

A few folks asked, “What’s all this about paying a debt?”  Here’s a shot at it before launching into John Calvin…

Theologians throughout the ages have grappled with “Why did this happen?  Why did Jesus die?  What does it mean he died for our sins?”  This piece from Isaiah, read on Good Friday, seems to raise questions and call for answers…

Isaiah 53:6f — 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

What does it mean that God laid the burden of our sins on Jesus?

Why John Calvin?  It seems to me that his view of the divine-human relationship has influenced some theologians in this country.  Human beings are corrupt.  There is no hope for us.  Jesus’ blood covers our sins.  It’s a sure formula for shame.  Here is John Calvin’s bit:


john-calvinJohn Calvin on Penal Substitutionary Atonement

The uniqueness of the Person of Christ pays dividends in the work of Christ: Christ’s divine nature enables him to pay the penalty for sin; his human nature enables him to do so on humanity’s behalf.

This is in keeping with Anselm‘s teaching on the atoning work of Christ in his well-known work Cur Deus Homo?, but it conceives the satisfaction of Christ less as payment of a debt and more as a payment of a penalty, to satisfy God’s justice and the demands of the law and to redeem humanity from the power of sin and death into which their sin had enslaved them. This is shown below in a short excerpt from John Calvin (1509-1564):

“Moreover, it was especially necessary for this cause also that he who was to be our Redeemer should be truly God and man. It was his to swallow up death: who but Life could do so? It was his to conquer sin: who could do so save Righteousness itself?

… Therefore, God, in his infinite mercy, having determined to redeem us, became himself our Redeemer in the person of his only begotten Son…

Another principal part of our reconciliation with God was, that man, who had lost himself by his disobedience, should, by way of remedy, oppose to it obedience, satisfy the justice of God, and pay the penalty of sin.

Therefore, our Lord came forth very man, adopted the person of Adam, and assumed his name, that he might in his stead obey the Father; that he might present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to the just judgment of God, and in the same flesh pay the penalty which we had incurred.

– John Calvin (1509-1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.xii.2-3

Tomorrow, my take on atonement… Or at least an introduction…

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