Reconciliation in Jesus, the vicarious human

A key concept in understanding our emerging Trinitarian theological vision is the vicarious (representative) role that Jesus fills in the reconciliation of God and humankind.

In The Mediation of Christ Tom Torrance writes of Jesus' incarnation as the means "in which God has drawn so near to man and drawn man so near to himself...that they are perfectly at one" (p. 29a). Jesus is "Emmanuel, 'God with Us"...the mediator between God and man...both God and man in one incarnate Person, in whom and through whom and in the form of whom divine reconciliation is finally accomplished" (p. 29b). In Jesus, who is fully God and fully human, we find "a bond of union and communion between man and God...which can never be undone" (p. 30b).

As vicarious (representative) human, Jesus stands in the place of all humanity. This is a key concept of which Torrance writes: "The incarnation is to be understood as the coming of God to take upon himself our fallen nature, our actual human existence laden with sin and guilt, our humanity diseased in mind and soul in its estrangement or alienation from the is the alienated *mind* of man that God...laid hold of in Jesus Christ in order to redeem it and effect reconciliation deep within the rational center of human being" (p. 39b).

Torrance then points out that this reconciliation accomplished by and in Christ, is not merely a legal transaction, but a relational transformation within the person of the unique God-man, Jesus. This view is indeed different than the view embraced by much of Western Christianity, which tends to see the atonement "almost exclusively in terms of external forensic relations...[as a] judicial transaction in the transference of the penalty for sin from the sinner to the sin-bearer. In the biblical and early patristic tradition, however...the Incarnation and the atonement are internally linked, for atoning expiation and propitiation are worked out in the ontological depths of human being and existence into which the Son of God penetrates as the Son of Mary....Thus atoning reconciliation began to be actualized with the conception and birth of Jesus of the Virgin Mary when he identified himself with our fallen and estranged humanity...a movement which Jesus fulfilled throughout the whole course of his sinless life as the obedient Servant of the Lord, in which he subjected what he took from us to the ultimate judgment of God's holy love and brought the healing and redeeming power of God to bear directly upon it in himself. From his birth to his death and resurrection on our behalf he sanctified what he assumed through his own self-consecration as incarnate Son to the Father, and in sanctifying it brought the divine judgment to bear directly upon our human nature both in the holy life he lived and in the holy death he died in atoning and reconciling sacrifice before God. That was a vicarious activity which was brought to it triumphant fulfillment and which received that verdict of the Father's complete approval in the resurrection of Jesus as God's beloved Son from the dead and in the rebirth of our humanity in him" (p. 41).

In Jesus' incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the entire human race has been (already) reconciled back to God. Does everyone know this? No. Does everyone live accordingly, no. Are there terrible consequences in living as though this truth is not true? Indeed. And as Jesus says: "you will know the truth [his teaching of who he is as one with the Father and with all humanity] and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32)

May God work in and through us all to help more and more people repent (change their thinking) and believe this truth, placing their trust (faith) fully in the God who has saved them, so that they too may experience the new life that is theirs in the humanity that has been reconciled to God in Jesus.