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For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned - for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.


But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.


Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)


Divine Emetic To Death

Wednesday of Epiphany 6

19 February 2014

When our children were about 2 and 5 years-old respectively, our whole family simultaneously  suffered from a stomach virus. My wife and I started the illness and the children within hours were also suffering. This was a truly dismal state of affairs. Our youngest daughter, because of her age, had no resources with which to manage her midnight vomiting. My wife and I would groan upon hearing the poor little thing, look at each other and debate who felt the least bad. I drew the short straw. I know, "Spare us the details, please." This ugly (not to mention odorous) picture drawn from everyday life in a family rearing small children is used by Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306 - 373) to describe what happened when death tried to swallow up the Life of Christ at the cross. Christ becomes a kind of emetic, which when death tried to choke Him down at Calvary, must come forth from the maw of our enemy death. But like all emetics, Christ brought back up from death everything which lay in the gut of death. All those who had been swallowed in the normal course of fallen mortality were disgorged with the Lord of Life. The image is hardly pretty; it has the surreal and horrifying qualities of a sci-fi drama.


This image testifies to the ugliness of death. Our Lord was not deterred by what we might call the "ick-factor" of fighting for life in the jaws of ugly death. Christ was willing to undergo whatever was necessary to get death to vomit forth those who belonged to Him. He willingly put at risk His pristine holiness to descend into death and shatter death's hold on those whom He loves and for whom He descended into death. I remember seeing a crime mystery on TV starring Kenneth Branagh, the British actor as a police inspector, in which he recognizes that a crime victim has had his wind pipe crushed by a blow. He realizes that he must do a field tracheotomy on the victim or he will die before the paramedics can arrive. With all the realism of modern TV, Branagh's character performs the tracheotomy with all the requisite blood and horrifying sounds. If a field tracheotomy has to be performed there is no way to avoid all the agonizing gore just because we may be squeamish. It doesn't do anyone any good to be squeamish about these life and death crises. So it is that Ephrem has caught all the ugliness of this aspect of our rescue from death in His description of it.


Eve was the perpetrator of her own fall, having torn down the fencing of the Garden's safety by her grasping of forbidden fruit. Yet still, the Lord of Life came through Eve's daughter and remade her as the source of the Life, which she had so decisively lost in her first mother. Through the incarnation Mary offered a new shoot from Eve to undo Eve's transgression. Death had never failed to swallow down life before! He prowls after Mary's Son to do what He had done every son of Eve. But it was not to be. He who is the life of all the living cannot be choked down by death. He must be sent up from the mouth of the grave and with Him all those who had been swallowed by it. His life meant life for all of them. For all of us. 


Ephrem the Syrian 


"Christ came to Eve, the mother of all the living. She is the vine whose fence death laid open by her own hands, and caused her to taste of death's fruits. So Eve the mother of all living became the well-spring of death to all the living. But Mary budded forth, a new shoot from Eve, the ancient vine. New life dwelt in her, that He who is the slayer of death might be stored up in this fruit against death. When death came confidently according to his practice to feed upon mortal fruits, and death swallowed the fruit without fear, he vomited it forth and with it many more. For He who is the medicine of life came down from heaven, and was joined in the body, the mortal fruit, and when death came to feed according to his practice, the Life in His turn swallowed up death. This is the food that hungered to eat its eater. By one fruit, which death swallowed hungrily, he vomited up many lives, which he had swallowed greedily. The hunger, which caused him to rush against one, emptied out his greed which had caused him to rush against many. Thus death was diligent to swallow One, but was rushed to set many free. For while One was dying on the cross, many that were buried from within death were coming forth at His cry (Mt 27:50-53).


"This is the fruit that shattered death, who had swallowed it, and brought out from within it the Life in quest of which it was sent. For death hid away all that she had devoured. But through the One that was not devoured, all that she had devoured were restored from within death. He, whose stomach is disordered, vomits forth both that which is sweet to him and that which is not sweet. So the stomach of death was disordered, and as he was vomiting forth the medicine of life which had sickened it, he vomited forth along with it also those lives that had been swallowed by him with pleasure." 


Ephrem the Syrian, On Our Lord, 3




Lord Jesus Christ, You are the life of all the living and the death of death our foe. Grant us in our day to live in peace and quiet confessing your power to snatch us from death's yawning maw. Amen.


For Tom Cedel, who is undergoing therapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength and healing under His caring hand


For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, as they work through the Koinonia Project materials, that they would kept in the fellowship of Christ and His church


For all those who are looking for work, that the Lord would send them the labor they need in keeping with a proper vocation

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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