My project in this and the coming posts is to trace the contours of how the achievement of God in the cross intersects with who Jesus is — particularly as he’s included in the unique divine identity of YHWH.
So I’ll be travelling along the kinds of the axes isolated by scholars like Richard Bauckham when they argue that Jesus is presented in the earliest texts of the NT in terms reserved exclusively for YHWH in OT/Jewish monotheism (ie. as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Judge and Redeemer of everything that is).
The point I want to make in this post is, at one level quite simple and (hopefully) uncontroversial: According to the New Testament, it is the Creator who was crucified on Calvary
In the so-called ‘Christ hymn’ of Colossians 1.15-20, for example, Jesus is spoken of as supreme — not least because of the share he has in creation: ‘he is before all things’ and ‘all things were created through him and for him’. Assuming Paul (or whoever wrote the hymn) hasn’t ditched the basic framework of OT/Jewish monotheism, this kind of talk puts Jesus very firmly on the ‘God the Creator’ side of the line.
However, he is also the one by whom all things are reconciled, ‘by means of the blood of his cross’. Paul refuses to drive a wedge between creation and redemption. Instead, he insists that they cohere in the cross — or rather, in the crucified one who is both Creator and Reconciler.
Wolfhart Pannenberg draws what I think is a profound conclusion from this connection (Systematic Theology, Volume 2: p 144):
The love with which God loved the world in sending his Son (John 3:16) does not differ in kind from the fatherly love of the Creator for his creatures. The sending of the Son proclaims the radical resoluteness of God’s love as Creator for his creatures. Instead of separating God’s covenant history from creation, the sending of the Son, from the incarnation to the resurrection, ascension, and glorious return, is to be seen as the fulfillment of God’s creative work.
The cross ushers in the new creation, which does not so much represent the replacement of God’s original good world — implying that he’s somehow abandoned or failed to achieve his purposes for it — as its perfection and renewal.