It’s been an awesome week studying for a single exam I have coming up, Christology and Revelation, with a question on how we know about God (revelation), one on the divine/human nature of Jesus (christology), and two on atonement, or “at-onement,” exploring the multiplicities of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean for humanity’s reconciliation with God. Having never really delved into questions of atonement, I’ve drunk deeply of the wealth of material I’ve found this week! Recently though, as in about ten minutes ago, I revisited a nicety which I remember popping up not infrequently in the history of my exposure to all things atonement. It goes something like this:
“Even if you were the last person on earth, Jesus still would have died for you.”
A nicety, indeed. But maybe not the truth. Do we, in presenting the Gospel primarily as it concerns individuals the world over, empty the cross of its power? I wonder why Jesus doesn’t come instead to Adam and Eve and make reparation for their individual sins. And what broken relationships is this last person on earth going to be restored in? What about the cosmological extent of the fall: Even if you were the last moon in the universe, would Jesus still have died for you? What about all the fishes of the deep blue sea who go unmentioned in this metaphor?
Jesus’ death is the high point of God’s reconciliation of Creation to him (Rom 8:20-21), entering into time at the “culmination of the ages” (Heb 9:26). Neither can Jesus say, “You are forgiven,” without, “Take up your cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23-24). What if forgiveness was not a mere cancelling of our own indebtedness to God but an invitation to take part work of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18)? Even if you were the last person on earth, Jesus would still call with you to join in this work.