Monday, November 5, 2007

Salvation during Jesus' Ministry: Battle Skirmishes or Decisive Victory?

We have seen (see also here and here) that Luke emphasizes the saving significance of Jesus' death and resurrection in his Gospel and Acts, but that Jesus also provides salvation prior to his death. For the sake of convenience, I'll repost the main instances of the latter here:
  • In Luke 6:9, Jesus says: "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?"
  • Jesus responds to questions about the forgiveness of sins by saying to the "sinful woman": "Your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 7:50).
  • Jesus tells the woman with a flow of blood: "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Luke 8:48). (Most English translations read: "your faith has made you well," but the phrase is identical to 7:50.)
  • Jesus tells the one grateful ex-leper: "your faith has saved you" (Luke 17:19). All the lepers were made well; only one was saved.
  • And Jesus announces at Zacchaeus's party: "Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:9; cf. the "today" in 4:21).
Some people take these statements at face value. Joel Green, for example, argues that death is only the supreme example of saving "reversal." Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension makes salvation more widely accessible, but his entire life is salvific:
"Luke, then, understands salvation as a reversal of positions, and sees in Jesus' career the decisive beginning of this salvation. Indeed, this transposition motif finds its zenith in Jesus' passion and exaltation. The cross, then, is not the contradiction of Jesus' divine mission, but is the means by which he fulfills God's purpose, after which he is exalted to God's right hand. In thus fulfilling the role of the Servant of Yahweh, Jesus effects salvation for all humanity, establishes the true character of discipleship as reversal, and lays claim on all who would follow him in faithful discipleship" ("'The Message of Salvation' in Luke-Acts," Ex Auditu 5 [1989]: 31).
Others maintain that instances of "salvation" in Luke's Gospel are only preliminary anticipations of Satan's final defeat--or, if you will, of lasting forgiveness and a new relationship with God--which occurred at Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension. Susan Garrett is, if I recall, a good representative of this view. Incidentally, Garrett argues "that Luke regarded the death, resurrection, and ascension as an 'exodus' because in these events Jesus, 'the one who is stronger,' led the people out of bondage to Satan." To make her view work, Garrett needs to argue that Jesus' vision of Satan falling from heaven in Luke 10:17-20 is a proleptic vision of what will happen at Jesus' death.

I am still not sure. What do you think?

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