Jesus: Revival and Much More
There is a sense in which the revival begun under John the Baptist continued under Jesus ministry, but there is also so much more to it than that!
When you read John’s Gospel slows and slows like a mighty piece of music coming to its dramatic crescendo as the narrative approaches Jesus death on the cross and resurrection on that first Easter morning. One cannot escape the centrality of Jesus suffering, death and resurrection. Paul puts it in words “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15.3&4)
So Jesus making possible the forgiveness of sins – as Paul puts it in Romans 3.25ff “whom God purposed to be by the shedding of his blood a propitiatory sacrifice …. in order to prove his righteousness (this was necessary on account of the overlooking of sins in the past in God's forbearance), in order I say to prove his righteousness in this present time, so that he might be righteous even in justifying the one who believes in Jesus.” (translation from C.E.B. Cranfield's excellent commentary on Romans, 'bold' emphasis mine))
The crunch is that for God to be – as he eternally is – absolutely righteous, and yet forgive the misdeeds of the guilty – as we all are – even when we put our faith in him through Jesus required Jesus death and resurrection.
As to the mechanics of this - much has been said in and to every generation putting it in terms understandable in their social setting. Unfortunately these explanations or “theories of the atonement” generally looked strange or even bad to later generations according to their social milieux.
I have come to think that it is better not to try to explain it. Just to say: “that was the way God chose to be who he is and yet forgive us sinners and take us in his arms as his sons and daughters “by adoption and grace”. And to rejoice that he did all this for us!
Having said this, there are two points for our project on understanding the biblical pattern of revival.
a) the universal plea; “turn back to God and obey his laws and he will forgive” is now put in context: God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit can forgive because God in Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead! And the mind-boggling cost to God of doing this has demonstrated in neon lights that he is willing to forgive when we turn back to him!
b) the Gospel (euangellion literally: Good news of a victory that has been won) of God's victory in Jesus Christ his son over all that can separate us from him is the central message of any revival.
It is entirely consonant with this that during his earthly ministry Jesus' message was “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand” and the statements and parables about himself as one greater-than-a-prophet and the proper object of people's hope for salvation and worship: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” “before Abraham was born I AM” the parable of the wicked tenants (and many others), “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” , “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” And that he taught the way of life that should follow repentance. It is also consonant with this that his message was authenticated by miracles, or to use John's favourite word “signs” of his divine credentials.