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Acts 8:1-8
And Saul approved of [Stephen's] execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.(ESV)
When the Cross Comes
20 August 2015
When I lived in Louisiana the people of the state re-elected Edwin Edwards as their governor. When they re-elected him Governor Edwards had already spent time in federal prison after a previous term as governor (Illinois is not unique). I found it astounding that the people would re-elect him. I asked someone why he voted for Governor Edwards and he replied, "I voted for him because he was the biggest crook on the ballot." There was a strange romance with this man, because he flouted the law with delight. Sometimes criminals gain a following of admirers for their daring. People indulge them because their exploits cause them wonderment or give them entertainment. Their impiety and deviltry, for which we give them a pass, generates admiration.
On the other hand, those who are found to be godly supporters of the Word of Christ are sometimes reviled and persecuted. Their piety alone causes anger and offense in the world. Those who live under the Word of God are often seen as "showing up" the rest of us and need to be "taken down a notch or two." The prophets and apostles of old often underwent great persecution, finally being put to death by those who took offense at their preaching of the Christ and His gracious work to save sinners. Great offense is taken where Christ is the only Savior for sinners. Such a proclamation means that I am completely and irretrievably sunk in sin. I cannot save myself, not wholly, not partially.
Apart from Him, my works are a stink in the nostrils of God. Apart from Him, I am so deeply damned that I cannot even conceive the depth of my damnation. There is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved. The world hates it when we preach this. It will hate us as it hated the One whom we preach. And the world is not kidding. It will not give us a pass, but will execrate and reject us as those who disturb civil tranquility and turn the world upside down. There is nothing quaint or tolerable about the preaching of the church about sin and grace. There just isn't. This causes the cross of persecution to be laid upon our shoulders. So be it. We preach the cross of Christ so that we are empowered to bear our cross when it comes. Only as the crucified shapes us by the preaching he delivers on the lips of our pastors can we bear the crosses that He Himself sends to those who follow Him. The more forcefully the crucified is proclaimed the more likely persecution is to fall upon those who hear it proclaimed in their church. It always attracts persecution in a wonderful bit of circular argumentation; from the preaching of the cross to its imposition and our faithful bearing of it. We invite the cross and when it comes we will bear it.


Martin Luther

"The 'offense of the cross' (Gal 5:11) may be understood either actively or passively. The cross immediately follows the teaching of the Word, according to the statement of Psalmist: 'I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted' (Ps 116:10 KJV). The cross of Christians is ignominious and merciless persecution; therefore it is a great offense. To begin with, they suffer as though they were the most infamous scoundrels. The prophet Isaiah predicted this about Christ Himself: 'He was numbered with the transgressors' (Is 53:12). Besides, the punishments of thieves and criminals are commuted, and people are touched by pity toward them, so that there is no offense connected with their punishment. But because the world regards Christians as destructive men, it thinks that no punishment inflicted on them is severe enough for their wicked deeds. Nor is it moved by any commiseration toward them, but it imposes the most ignominious kind of death on them. By this means it seeks to gain a dual advantage: first, it offers service to God by killing them (Jn 16:2); and secondly, it hopes to reestablish public peace by getting rid of these cursed people. Thus the cross and death of the godly are full of offenses.  Paul says, 'Do not let the humiliating treatment and the continuance of the cross and of the offense trouble you, but rather let it encourage you. For as long as these things continue, the Christian cause is doing very well.'" 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.11
Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all that He might bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our eyes may ever behold our Savior and His cross, that we may not fear the power of any adversaries but rather rejoice in His victory for us. Help us to bear the crosses that you send to us and not be overcome by adversity; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all teachers that they might be encouraged in their vocation, as they and their students return to school
For Walter Friend, that the Lord Jesus would continue to keep Him steadfast in His Word in the midst of weakness and suffering
For all those who feel the unease of the world because of the political instability in the world, that they might turn to the Lord Jesus as the only true stability for living life
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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