Introductory Note:

How do Jesus’ death and resurrection “break the power of cancelled sin,” and what exactly does that mean? In this powerful essay first published 45 years ago, Richard Foster explores the work of redemption beyond forgiveness. The cross and the resurrection mean that Christ is present today to heal past wounds and lead us into lives no longer controlled by sin or by circumstances that have caused us harm.

Renovaré Team

With His eye toward the cross, Jesus pre­pared for His high­est and most holy work — to take into Him­self all of the sor­rows, hurts, angers, and evils of mankind in order to set us free from them. This He did, and then rose from the dead to be our present Teacher and to give us total vic­to­ry over this present king­dom of dark­ness and death. 

For three years Jesus worked with His dis­ci­ples. He taught them, trained them, encour­aged them. Yet they were not changed. They remained the same bick­er­ing, self-seek­ing men they had always been. They had seen mir­a­cles, had been under the best teach­ing in the world, and still they were not changed. Some­thing more was need­ed. In the Gar­den of Geth­se­mane, Jesus received the final con­fir­ma­tion that this some­thing more” must be done on the cross. In those night hours, Jesus was not ask­ing if He could get out of this work, but He was ask­ing, Is this the only way that peo­ple can real­ly be set free?” The answer was Yes!”

Now the usu­al notion of what Jesus did on the cross runs some­thing like this: peo­ple were so bad and so mean and God was so angry with them that He would not for­give them unless some­body big enough could take the rap for the whole lot of them. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. It was love — not anger — that brought Jesus to the cross. He saw that by His vic­ar­i­ous suf­fer­ing, He could actu­al­ly inter­nal­ize all the evil of mankind and so heal it. 

That is why Jesus refused the cus­tom­ary painkiller when it was offered Him. He want­ed to be com­plete­ly alert for this great­est work of redemp­tion. He was prepar­ing to enter into the col­lec­tive uncon­scious of the human race. Since Jesus lives in the Eter­nal Now,” this work was not just for those around Him, but He was tak­ing in all the vio­lence, all the fear, all the sin of all the past, all the present, and all the future.

Some think that when Jesus shout­ed, My God, my God, why hast Thou for­sak­en me” it was a moment of weak­ness. Not at all! In fact this was Jesus’ moment of great­est tri­umph! Jesus, who had walked in con­stant com­mu­nion with the Father, now became so total­ly iden­ti­fied with mankind that He was the actu­al embod­i­ment of sin. As Paul wrote, He became sin for us.” (1 Corinthi­ans 5:21) He had suc­ceed­ed in tak­ing into Him­self all of the dark pow­ers of this present evil age, and He defeat­ed every one of them by the light of His presence. 

Hav­ing accom­plished this great­est of all His works, Jesus then took refresh­ment. Soon after this He remarked, It is fin­ished”; that is, the work He was doing was com­plet­ed. He could feel the last dregs of the mis­ery of mankind flow through Him and come out into the Father’s care. The last twinges of evil, hos­til­i­ty, anger, and fear drained out of Jesus and He was able to turn again into the light of God’s pres­ence. It is fin­ished.” The task is com­plete. Soon after, He was free to give up His spir­it to the Father. 

The Effects

In one of his most pow­er­ful hymns Charles Wes­ley wrote, He breaks the pow­er of can­celed sin, He sets the pris­on­er free.” Some­times we miss the fact that sin can be can­celed out (i.e., for­giv­en) and still have pow­er over us. Wes­ley saw so clear­ly that not only can sin be can­celed out, but its pow­er can be bro­ken. Ear­ly Quak­ers, of course, knew this, for every­where they went they ful­ly expect­ed to be defeat­ing all Satan­ic pow­ers and estab­lish­ing the right­eous and peace­able reign of Christ, their present Teacher and Deliverer.

Because of this won­der­ful work of redemp­tion, the sor­rows of the past can be healed. There is a fine book titled, Your Inner Child of the Past. It ana­lyzes so well how the lit­tle child that we were and that still lives in us can affect us today. But after such a bril­liant analy­sis of the influ­ence of our inner child of the past, it can do no more than advise us on how to cope with our past. Jesus can do a whole lot bet­ter than that. He can heal the inner child of the past. I know this not only because I read about it in the Bible, but because I have seen it hap­pen more than once. 

My first expe­ri­ence in this heal­ing process was with a man who had lived in con­stant fear and bit­ter­ness for 28 years. He would wake up scream­ing at night and in a cold sweat. He lived in con­stant depres­sion, so much so that his wife wit­nessed that he had not laughed for 28 years. He relat­ed to me how in World War II he had led a mis­sion of some thir­ty men. They became trapped by ene­my gun­fire. With deep sor­row in his eyes, my friend relat­ed how he had prayed des­per­ate­ly that God would deliv­er them. It was not to be. He returned with six men — four seri­ous­ly wound­ed while he him­self had only a flesh wound. The expe­ri­ence turned him into an athe­ist. His heart was filled with bit­ter­ness, anger, and guilt.

I said, Don’t you know Jesus can heal that old mem­o­ry, so that it will no longer con­trol you?” He did not know that it could be so. Joy­ful­ly our small group prayed for him, invit­ing the Lord to go back and heal this sor­row of the past, adding that peace­ful sleep would be one of the evi­dences that this redemp­tive work had been accom­plished. Three days lat­er he came up to me with a sparkle in his eyes and a bright­ness on his face I had nev­er seen before. For three nights I have slept all night long and each morn­ing I would awak­en with a hymn on my mind. And I’m hap­py, hap­py for the first time in 28 years.” His wife con­curred that it was so. That was years ago and the won­der­ful thing is this: although this man has had the nor­mal ups and downs that go with liv­ing, he has nev­er again been plagued by the old fears and sor­rows. He was total­ly and instan­ta­neous­ly healed.

These things are accom­plished not only because Jesus took all the evil in the world into Him­self and trans­formed it, but also because He rose from the dead in absolute vic­to­ry over all the dark pow­ers of this present world sys­tem. The cross and the res­ur­rec­tion are two sides to the same coin — they are insep­a­ra­ble. Because of the real fact of a real res­ur­rec­tion, we are cer­tain that Jesus has now come to teach His peo­ple Him­self. Christ is here among us now. His voice can be heard and obeyed. In Him the pow­er of can­celed sin is bro­ken. Every­where we go, by His liv­ing Pres­ence, the king­dom of God is to be estab­lished and evil pow­ers to be utter­ly destroyed. He is to be our Sav­ior, Heal­er, Prophet, Shep­herd, Bish­op, Priest, King, Coun­selor, Leader, and Head.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Quak­er Life, April 1977.

Text First Published March 1977 · Last Featured on July 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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