Jesus Christ, identity thief

Earlier this month I heard an interesting sermon upon God’s commandment not to steal. The first part was rather predictable, listing the many ways we rob each other of money, of property, of value, and of time. Most people can probably make a list of the way these things have been stolen from them, and the more honest people can make a similar list of the way these things have been stolen by them.

Of course the point of the sermon was not to scold thieves, but rather to call thieves to repentance so they could be assured of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The sermon took a shocking turn, though, when the preacher said that to rescue sinners like us, Jesus Christ became an identity thief.

Jesus was willing to describe himself as a thief. He described his future coming in glory as “like a thief in the night.” He also called himself a stronger man, tying up the strong man (the devil) so he could rob that strong man of his possessions (sinners). The way Jesus rescues sinners is not fair; he gives us rewards we do not deserve and takes instead the punishment we deserve. On Judgment Day, as our enemies see us enter the kingdom of heaven, they will stamp and cry and shout, “That’s not fair!” Our salvation is unfair, but God’s mercy and love move him to be unfair for our benefit.

But does that make Jesus Christ an identity thief? Generally speaking, an identity thief pretends to be another person in order to gain things through that person’s name and reputation. I know a couple whose tax refund was delayed more than a year because someone had filed a return using their names and address and Social Security numbers, cheating the government out of money that did not belong to that thief. Identity thieves borrow money or make purchases using another person’s name and credit account; it can take years for the victim to escape those debts and reestablish a good credit rating. Identity thieves can hack bank accounts, emptying them of funds before the bank and the victim know what has happened. Identity theft adds up to millions of dollars wrongly gained by criminals and millions of dollars lost to honest individuals, businesses, and banks.

What does Jesus have to gain by stealing our identities? He does not need money or property; everything in the universe already belongs to him. He does not need a better reputation than he already has to get what he wants; Jesus is innocent of sin, pure, and holy. Tying up the devil is one way to steal sinners from him, but taking the identity of sinners appears to be more than even Jesus would want to do.

Yet “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (II Corinthians 5:21). Though he was innocent, Jesus was treated as guilty of all sins. Hanging on the cross, he suffered and died as payment for all the sins of history. His Father abandoned him in the darkness, allowing Christ to know that separation that sin places between God and the sinner. The curtain in the Temple was torn as a sign of the removal of our sins, reconciliation in place of the division that we had caused by our sins.

Jesus has stolen our identities. But, like a careless thief (or, rather, like a generous thief), Jesus has left something behind. He has left his righteousness for us, so we can assume his identity. He stole our identities “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (I Corinthians 5:21). God the Father looked at his Son on the cross and saw sin. He looks at us today and sees the righteousness of his Son. In Baptism our sinful selves die with Christ and are buried with Christ. In Baptism we are raised with Christ as a new creation. In Baptism God says of us what he said of Jesus: “This is my Son. This is the one I love. With this one I am well pleased.”

Do you miss your old sinful identity? Instead, rejoice that Jesus has taken away that identity. He has stolen it from you to give you what you do not deserve: his identity. Made a child of God, you are now royalty in the Kingdom that will last forever. Jesus did this for you, not because you deserve it, but because he loves you. J

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16 thoughts on “Jesus Christ, identity thief

  1. Maybe Jesus wasn’t an identity thief, but an identity swapper: after all, according to your explanation he gave you his identity in return for your sinful ones (I say you, but I am not officially religious, so please forgive me for that – I do like your take on religion and the way you explain things). When you’re a thief you generally don’t leave things behind in return for what you take.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, I really like this Salvageable. Well said, indeed.

    It also works really well with my idea of stolen moments with the Lord. Steal my heart, rob me of sin. Stealing can have more positive implications, like when we are speaking of love. He is a beautiful thief indeed, and when you think about it, He’s not really stealing anything that isn’t already His own.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. So very well stated, indeed we all who have become ‘new creations’ through the miracle of the ‘new birth’, being born again do now rejoice in our ‘old identities’ having been redeemed. I relate the following Scripture passage to your thoughts.

    “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. He said to them, ‘But who do YOU say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven’.” – Mt. 13:16-19.

    True identities are often purposely masked to evade detection by those who would reject us if they knew the truth. Before a legitimate personal encounter with Christ, we can only assume we may have properly identified exactly who He is. Similarly, until such personal revelation by God, we only think we really know who we ourselves are!

    When the true revelation through personal encounter with Christ illuminates the reality of who He actually is, He also transforms us from our former self-awareness of mere human existence into the spiritual reality of being true sons of God. When we rightly identify Christ, He reveals to us our true identity!

    As sons of God, we spread ‘the kingdom of God’ on earth through the SAME Holy Spirit that was in Christ reconciling the world through Him. The biding and loosening of ‘whatever’, is now our shared ministry of reconciliation. Rather than Jesus stealing our identity, He has ransomed what had been stolen by the devil’s deception, causing us to believe a lie – about ourselves and God.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book, The Sickness Unto Death, in which he revealed that none of us is truly a “self” apart from being right with God through Jesus Christ. J.

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