Is Healing the Sick, Clothing the Naked, and Feeding the Hungry More Important than Atonement?

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. -Matthew 16:21-23

From what I gather on blogs, books, and discussions with Emergent people,  at worst the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is not essential (and likely a wicked view of God) to the faith of Christians or at best is not as important as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and giving to the poor.

So why did in this passage Jesus see it necessary that He die on a cross and rise from the dead and ascend into heaven; and not only necessary, but as  far more important than Him sticking around forever and just going around the world healing everyone?

That’s what Peter wanted.  For Jesus to set up some earthly kingdom where everything was all better.  Jesus refers to Peter’s thinking as that of the Devil.

Jesus’ healings, miracles, and everything else were not a end in them self.  Jesus did not heal to simply heal.  If that were the case He would not have rejected some to being healed (Matthew 13:38).  But rather He did so to point everyone to HIM.  He was the Christ, the Son of God who had come to deliver sinners from sin and wrath so that they may worship Him.

Yes poverty is sad.  So is sickness, nakedness, and hunger.  And we should strive to help those in need!  But those are not mankind’s greatest threats.  Salvation from the wrath of God and reconciliation with Him is.  That is why Jesus’ PRIMARY concern was His death, resurrection, and ascension.  Because it is not our social work or justice that saves but Jesus’ work alone that  truly saves.

Let us hear Jesus’ rebuke on Peter afresh and learn, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

-Blessings

Stephen

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5 thoughts on “Is Healing the Sick, Clothing the Naked, and Feeding the Hungry More Important than Atonement?

  1. We sinners show just how sick we are when we scoff at the concept that Jesus’ death was at all wrath-quenching for the perfectly just God, as if we have never offended or belittled or ignored him. We are like deaf people standing in the middle of the road, mocking those who are mouthing something about a semi and trying to pull them to the side-walk . But something greater than ten thousand tons is in store for those who would disdain the provision God has provided in Christ crucified.

    The good news is that God has crushed Jesus for sinners, idolaters, the self-righteous, the unjust, the wicked… Jesus has in fact taken the place of all who would ever trust in him, relying on nothing but his sacrifice to have favor in God’s eyes. Oh, turn and trust in him!

    And the good news is that Jesus death saves us from God’s righteous indignation FOR God’s unimaginably-great, infinite, amazing, delicious, fragrant, pleasant, intoxicating, satisfying, mysterious, fantastic, pure, true, endless, matchless, limitless, immutable, indescribable glory!

    A gospel that doesn’t deal with my sin problem is not good news. Proclaiming the kingdom of God is not good news if I am a rebel of the King. That’s really bad news, actually. But it’s good if the King is also a Great High Priest, who can make atonement for me. And Jesus is, and he has!

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  2. Hmmm…

    So my take (and I consider myself emergent) is that Peter was less concerned with healing everyone and feeding the poor and more concerned with Jesus establishing a kingdom “of this world” – a political/military kingdom free from the Romans and everybody else. (My contention is that at this point Peter didn’t “get it.” Later that evening he’s wielding his sword trying to take out those who came to arrest Jesus again invoking Jesus’ rebuke.)

    But the real rub is that you’ve fallen into the trap that the emergent conversation is trying to avoid, namely equating Christ’s death and resurrection with the doctrine of penal substitution. I don’t see this passage as a “proof text” of penal substitution in contrast with any other atonement theory. Is there a particular atonement theory you think is inconsistent with the passage you quoted?

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  3. @Kenton,
    Thanks for stopping in and for commenting. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I have thought about what you have said and how I could answer you most effectively.

    Concerning the account with Peter: Peter did not grab a sword later that night. And I am not sure how you could argue that Peter intended to take Rome by force. Did he plan a revolutionary war with two swords and an army of Jesus and twelve disciples the night Jesus was betrayed?

    Let’s take a quick look at the context Peter and the Jews were in. They were oppressed, taxed, and abused by the Roman Empire. Peter did desire to see the Messiah to come and deliver the Jews from the oppression of the Romans. But isn’t that what the Emergent people strive to do? Link Jesus’ kingdom with freeing the poor and oppressed from the strong and rich? I think my original link stand between Peter mindset of the Kingdom and the Emergent view of the Kingdom.

    However, Jesus intended to bring primarily a spiritual kingdom bought by the blood of the lamb.

    So back to my original question to you, “So why did in this passage Jesus see it necessary that He die on a cross and rise from the dead and ascend into heaven; and not only necessary, but as far more important than Him sticking around forever and just going around the world healing everyone?” I cannot think of another theory of such necessity. Can you?

    Second, you misunderstand me if you think I don’t think Scripture teaches multiple theories of the atonement and the meaning of the cross. However, the Bible certainly teaches Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) as primary and foundational to faith and to the reason Jesus died.

    Does that answer your questions and help further our discussion? Thanks again for commenting. I look forward to conversing more.

    Blessings,
    Stephen

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  4. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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