Who Saved Jesus?

 

The question is not rhetorical, but serious. Peter addressed it seriously on Pentecost and continually thereafter. Jesus had been dead. his trial and crucifixion was publicly administered by Rome, supported by prominent Jews, and witnessed by thousands. Jesus’ life brutally ended in Jerusalem and he lay cold in a tomb. The Jesus story and would have ended there but for a saving act of God.

            About 50 days after Jesus’ death, Peter stood with the Twelve on Solomon’s Porch and said to a temple audience of thousands, “Men of Israel listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man [Jesus]…you, with the help of wicked men, put to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24, emphasis mine throughout). It was “impossible” because God had promised eternal life to his son.

            Who saved Jesus? God did. Jesus’ God—and our God—saved Jesus from eternal death and gave him eternal life. As Paul said, “…we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead….And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1Cor 15:15, 17).

            Our hope of ever living again rests on the fact that God saved Jesus from death by resurrection. God has promised a like resurrection for us at Christ’s return.

            Peter identifies the God that raised Jesus in another Solomon’s Colonnade sermon. “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” (Acts 3:13). Could it be plainer? The God that saved Jesus is the God of Abraham, the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh—the one Jesus called his Father. Peter also identifies his mentor, Jesus, as God’s “Holy and Righteous One” (vs 14), and God’s appointed servant.

            Peter states, “You killed the prince [Greek, archegon, translated “author,” “founder,” or as in Hebrews 2:10, “captain”] of life, but God raised him from the dead” (vs 15). “You killed…God raised…we are witnesses” is a recurring theme in Acts and elsewhere in the NT.

In what sense is Jesus the prince or captain of life? Peter answers, “God made his servant appear first to you, and he sent him to bless you when you—all of you—turn away from your wicked deeds” (vs 26).[1] Jesus’ salvation, by resurrection, is the pattern for our salvation. Jesus preached repentance toward God and as God’s supreme agent, offered eternal life to all who would follow him in obedience to the One True God.

The Greek name “Jesus” {Iesous) taken from the Hebrew “Joshua” (yehosua) means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves/has saved.” God’s agent of salvation for all humanity is his Son. He must be listened to, obeyed and followed if one is to partake in God’s salvation. The title “Christ” (Gk Christos from the Heb masiah) signifies “anointed” and refers in prophetic context to the royal “son of David.”

Binding his name to his title reveals that the historic figure Jesus is the promised Messiah of David’s seed who would bring Yahweh’s salvation to the world and lead God’s people into the Kingdom of God, just as Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land (Moses renamed Hoshea as Joshua[2], “Yahweh saves,” as he was appointed to lead God’s children into their inheritance). In that sense, Jesus could call himself “the resurrection and the life.” He was given all power and authority to offer God’s salvation of life beyond death and entrance into the Kingdom of God—and proved it by calling Lazarus out of his tomb.

The truth is: both God and Jesus can and are called “Savior.” Three times in Paul’s letter to Titus he calls God the Father ”Savior” (1:3; 2:10; 3:4), and three times Jesus is called “Savior” (1:4; 2:13; 3:6). Salvation in the sense of the NT means “being accepted by God’s love in such a way that one is freed from sin and guilt and made righteous before God. At the same time it entails the victory of life over death, a being freed from the ultimate condition of annihilation, so dramatically represented by death, and being raised to eternal life within the sphere of God.”[3]

God the Father has always been savior and his salvation has been going on since the beginning. Was there ever a time when God was not savior of his people through his Torah and prophets, or a time when his salvation wasn’t effective? He saved nationally (Israel out of Egypt, etc) and personally as witnessed by those OT men and women made righteous and waiting the First Resurrection. What God did through Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection manifests the very nature of God as savior. 

God alone is the cause of human salvation. In Jesus, he appointed his Son supreme agent of his salvation. Jesus functions as the medium or symbol of God who saves all humans according to the pattern revealed in Jesus. God who is the creator of life is also the finisher of life by his acceptance of those who acknowledge him and his son, and by resurrection. Jesus does not cause salvation, but reveals the God who does. Jesus is also the only one who has, in the ultimate, been saved from death and given eternal life.

Jesus’ entire life was committed to bringing the message of God’s salvation as expressed in the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. This perfect and obedient Son God resurrected from death. “In this action of saving Jesus, God was acing as God is. The ground of salvation, therefore, is first of all the loving goodness of God that lies behind and within God’s creativity or creating.”[4]

Jesus became the righteous son Adam wasn’t. Jesus has been anointed to lead the entire human family into Paradise—eternal life in fellowship with God. Jesus said the Father loves us[5] and while praying to him on behalf of his disciples asked, “Holy Father, keep through your own name, those who you have given me, that they may be one, as we are one.”[6]

Following Jesus is the way to God’s salvation.

(For more on the subject of salvation, write for Dr. Charles V. Dorothy’s booklet, The Secrets of Salvation). –Kenneth Westby


 

[1] The Acts of The Apostles, The Anchor Bible translation and commentary, Vol 31.

[2] Numbers 13:16.

[3] Haight, S.J., Roger, The Future of Christology, Continuum Books, New York, 2005, p 90.

[4] Ibid. p 93.

[5] John 16:26-27.

[6] John 17:11.