Monday, April 23, 2012

A Noble Death

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. --  John 10:11 (KJV)
The Greek word (καλὸς), which all English versions translate as "good", really leans more in the translation direction of "noble."  (See Jerome Neyrey, Journal of Biblical Literature, 120/2, (2001) p. 261-191) Neyrey discusses the Greek idea of a "noble death" as being one of sacrificial honor.  The most frequent noble death we hear about today comes from military deaths.  The soldier who falls on a grenade and saves his buddies being a classic example.  The principles outlined in this journal piece says the noble death requires that it be for the benefit of others, be voluntary, be justified, and end in a victory where the one dying is undefeated.  

Jesus' death accomplishes a great deal.  He voluntarily submits to it in the Garden of Gethsemane; it is honorable for our benefit, justified by the shame of our sin; and yet, Jesus is not defeated by death as His resurrection attests.

There is a modern school of theological thought that it was abusive of God to permit (or worse yet, require) His son's death just for our benefit.  Yet, when our sons go off to war to defend a serious threat to our freedom, that higher value makes their sacrificial death noble and perhaps even admirable.  Jesus' death was no less noble.  In our modern (privileged) age, we do not think of our souls being exposed to any mortal danger.  We see faith as an option, but not something on which we hinge our lives.  Yet, God saw the danger and sent His son into the fray to rescue us.  We are that important to God!  Is faith that important to you?

Lord, we acknowledge the intense act of sacrifice you committed for our sake.  There are no words for our gratitude.  In greatest honor and respect for you we pray.  Amen.

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