Does Christ see us as a resurrected body or a corpse on a cross?
One of the central doctrines of Christianity is that we, as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ, have been made whole through Christ’s atonement on the cross. That His blood was shed for the remission of sins so that we may be blameless and spotless before our Lord is a truth we should never take for granted. But how does this work?
First, we need to understand the culture the Bible was written in and to. Ancient people functioned first and foremost as a collectivist culture. For them, the importance of individuality was placed well behind the group. For example, in Asian cultures, you may be called by your surname first and your first name last. Your identity is connected to your group while in Western cultures, this is the other way around. Individualism is our top priority, communal identity is secondary. What does this have to do with atonement and our new identity in Christ?
Paul describes our identity through this collectivist language. He says that,
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)
Does this mean Paul was literally crucified? No. As believers, we are often called the body of Christ. This means that Jesus is not merely our substitute, He is our representative. When He died we too identity as crucified with Him by way of corporate association, so it isn’t we that live but Christ who lives in us.
Regardless of how one has repented and changed the world has a way of identifying those who have indulged in destructive or else inhumane activities. They’re called drunkards, abusers, murderers, etc. And indeed these can be all true. If you kill unlawfully people will rightfully identify you as a murderer because you have committed an act that is inhumane. It goes without being said that the bigger the sin the harsher the consequences. But what if you change? What if you had a change of heart and devoted whatever time it would take to make up for the wrong you did? How does God see you then? How should we see you? As a murderer or else someone with the potential to murder again?
Crucifixion isn’t the end of the story. Christ isn’t still hanging on that tree. He rose from the grave and now lives in a resurrected, glorified body. If He is our representative does that not mean we are also resurrected with Him? That we also no longer hang on that tree but have been given new life? We identify as crucified because we also identify as resurrected. That’s redemption and the process of atonement in a nutshell.
On the cross, Jesus looked just like us. Disfigured with sin and limp with shame. But He didn’t stay that way and when we surrender our lives to Him neither do we. He sets us free so the only one the Father’s eyes see is Him.