My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet- I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. (ESV)
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Humiliated for the Humble
Friday After All Saints
6 November 2015
You can't have it both ways. You cannot point out the weakness of the incarnate Christ on the one hand and then proceed to mock him for His weakness on the other, complaining that He is but a creature by reason of His attributes as a human born of Mary. Nor does His human nature and its attributes prove that He is not or cannot be God, anymore than the Navy's destroyers are not ships because they are also instruments of war. Christ the God-Man takes on the humble titles, flesh, and actions of humanity for our sakes. This should not lead us to mock His weakness, but rather to glorify Him that He was willing to redeem human flesh by becoming incarnate of Mary. God becomes man, so that man might share in the divine life of Christ the Son of God.
He becomes weak that the weak might be saved through Him. He divests Himself of the use of His divine power and authority, that He might walk among us and bring to those without power and authority, the power to become children of God (Jn 1:12
). In this weakness of Christ is the full and true glory of God to be found. This is why the church covers with a veil the crucifix in her sanctuaries as Lent comes to a close. The veil covers the glory of God, which is displayed precisely in the weakness of Jesus on the cross. We cover the body of Christ on the cross to remind us that His weakness is the fullness of the divine glory displayed to us poor sinners for our salvation (2Co 3:13
). We may not look upon the full glory of the crucified Christ and so He is veiled.
All human attributes assumed by Christ by reason of his incarnation are assumed for our sakes. All the earthly titles which are attributed to the Son of God are attributed to Him for our sakes. He's called things like "the door," "lamb," or "body." He permits, and even revels in, such attributions for our benefit. He opens the door to heaven in such a way that it cannot be shut against us (Jn 10:9; Rev 3:8
). He becomes the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29
), that we may be comforted with the sure and certain knowledge that our sins have been taken away, because they have been taken by Him and that He was sacrificed for us. He becomes the body prepared upon the sacrificial pyre of Calvary, fulfilling in that one sacrifice all the promise that was offered in every other sacrifice. By reason of his divine nature He is greater than all of these human titles and attributes, yet He willingly suffers them unto our blessing. Here is the glory of God that He is willing to be humiliated for ones so humble as us.
"If Christ had stood upon His own eminence, if He had not condescended to weakness, if He had remained what He was, keeping Himself unapproachable and incomprehensible, a few might have followed Him. Perhaps not even a few would have followed Him, possibly only Moses would have, and He only in so far as he saw with difficulty the back of God (Ex 33:23
). For Moses went into the cloud, either being placed outside the substance of the body or being withdrawn from his senses. For how could he have gazed upon the subtlety or the immateriality of God (I don't know what one should call it), being immaterial and using material eyes? But inasmuch as He strips Himself for us, inasmuch as He comes down (and speak of an emptying, as it were, a laying aside and a hiding of His glory), by this He becomes able to be grasped by us.
"Pardon me that I show my emotion. I am filled with indignation and grief for my Christ (and desire that you share this with me) when I see my Christ dishonored on this account on which He most merited honor. Is He to be dishonored that for you He was humble? Isn't He a creature, because He cares for the creature? Isn't He subject to time, because He watches over those who are subject to time? Doesn't He bear all things and endure all things (1Co 13:7
). Why should this amaze us? He put up with blows. He bore spittings. He tasted gall for my taste (Ps 116:13; Ps 34:8).
"Even now He bears to be stoned (Jn 10:31-33) not only by those who despise Him, but also by those of us who seem to adore Him. For when we use fleshly words while discoursing about the immaterial it is perhaps the part of those who despise and stone Him. However, we beg God's forgiveness, because this happens because of our infirmity. I do not willingly stone Him; but having no other words to use, we use what we have. You are called the Word and You are above the Word. You are above light, yet are named Light (Jn 8:12). You are called fire (Deut 4:24), not as though You are perceptible to sense, but because You purify light and worthless matter. You are called the sword, because You sever the worse from the better. You are called a winnowing fork (Mt 3:12), because You clear the threshing-floor, and blow away all that is light and breezy, and You store in the barn what is weighty and full. You are called an ax (Mt 3:10), because You cut down the worthless fig-tree after long patience, because You cut away the roots of wickedness (Mk 11:20-21). You are called the door (Jn 10:4), because You bring in. You are called the way (Jn 14:6), because we go straight. You are the lamb, because You are the sacrifice (Jn 1:29). You are the High Priest, because You offer in sacrifice the body of the Son, since You are from the Father (Heb 10:5). Again I stir men's tongues; again some men rave against Christ, or rather against me, who have been deemed worthy to be a herald of the Word. I am like John; the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Mt 3:3)."
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 37.3-4
Almighty God our Heavenly Father, You have seen to it that we should be saved through the glorious humility of our Lord Jesus Christ. Send us Your Spirit that we might not take offense at His weakness, but see the truth of our salvation in His glorious cross. Amen.
For the Memorial Lutheran Church Thanksgiving meal for the homeless, that the Lord of the church would bless the congregation's labors and grant success to the event
For Jo Lodholz, that her gracious Lord would grant her strength for a recovery
For Kristin Granzow and Jared Witte, who will be joined as man and woman in holy marriage tomorrow, that they would glorify the gift that God is giving them in marriage by reflecting the love of Christ for his bride the church and the church's submission to Christ her bridegroom
For all those who labor outdoors in construction and yard maintenance, that the Lord would keep them safe and give them joy in their labors
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015