Kruiz edited
Nothing Beyond the Cross
Friday after Ash Wednesday
3 March 2017
If Christianity is about anything it is about the cross. Oh, it is not about wood and nails, but the meaning of Christ's cross. For the church the cross is the meaning of Christ's death. The theology of the cross is seeing everything through the nexus of the cross. The whole meaning of the Christian religion can be collapsed onto the cross of Christ. When we preach Christ crucified we have preached all that is needed for salvation. But more than that; we have preached a "way of seeing" that is unique to Christianity. All that God has given to us in the gospel can be seen only through this "way of seeing." The way of seeing of which we are speaking is the way of the cross.
 
The cross teaches us that there is no way to God except through the signs that He has given us in the divine revelation in Scripture. Sometimes we mistakenly think that God is like the Wizard of Oz, who has a public stage presence, which if we could just get behind it into the control booth, we would see the real God. But no such end run is possible. We are always left only with the stark reality of the God who reveals Himself in Christ; the Christ who has been crucified.
 
What do we see of God in the Man who was crucified? We see weakness, foolishness, suffering, the degradation of God, and the humiliation of the eternal Son of the Father. None of these things can be predicated of God, according to human reason. He who is all powerful cannot be weak. He who is all wisdom cannot be identified with foolishness. He who is beyond all suffering cannot suffer. He who is exalted on high cannot be humiliated. Yet, this is the meaning of the cross. This is how God has revealed Himself to us. He is not play acting on the cross, but giving Himself to us. There is nothing beyond that. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"It is not an easy matter to believe this. To believe that Christ was crucified for us, that He died and was damned for us, requires the power of God. Thus St. Paul says to the Corinthians: 'We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles' (1Co 1:23). Yet this proclamation penetrates the heart; for 'it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes' (Rm 1:16). If I were to consult reason about this, it would say: 'Let the devil believe in the sort of wretched person who was nailed to a cross!' And yet the holy martyrs let themselves be burned at the stake and slain for such a faith! Despite His horrible appearance they believed that this condemned Man was the Savior of the world.
 
"Thus Moses had to preach to Nicodemus and glorify Christ. A serpent was to appear, not possessed of physical but of devilish venom, that is, sin and eternal death. There would be no cure outside Christ the Lord, who, in the form of an accursed and vile worm, would redeem man from death, sin, and the power of the devil and would save him eternally.

That is what I wanted to say very briefly on this text. For who could treat it completely? The intention both of Moses and of John was to point to the deity of the Lord Christ. This serpent, Christ, must be true God, since the mere sight of Him has the power to heal all people and to deliver them from death.
 
"Jesus Himself says here in John (Jn 3:14-16) that the bronze serpent in the wilderness had been a type of Him. Now He adds the purpose for which the Son of man was lifted up: 'That whoever believes in Him should not perish.' We have already stated that John describes Christ's deity and His humanity with these words. His humanity is evident from the fact that the serpent was crucified and died; His deity is apparent from the fact that the serpent gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.
 
"John pictures Christ as God and man throughout his Gospel. But here he states, with particular reference to His humanity, that the Son of man must be lifted up. That is, He must be hanged on the wood, on the cross, and suffer and die, which pertains to the human nature. On the other hand, it lies beyond humanity that a crucified man should impart eternal life and that anyone who looks at the crucified Christ should have eternal life. But no one was lifted up and nailed to the cross except Mary's Son, who is a man with power to save all believers, since He is also the Son of God. Thus we heard before: 'No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.' (Jn 3:13). And this pertains solely to the divine majesty."

Martin Luther, Sermons on the Gospel of John, 3.14
Matthew 20:17-28

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
 
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.
 
But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have called us to the suffering of the cross, that we might see only through Your blood and death. Send us Your Holy Spirit that we might believe only in Your wounds to hide our sins. Amen.
 
For the Leadership Retreat of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord of the church would grant His gifts to His holy bride, the church, through the labor of leaders
 
For those who are threatened by inclement weather on land and sea, that the Savior would bring them rescue when they are in need
 
For all those who suffer persecution at the hands of liberal Western church organizations that have given up the true faith, that those who still have the biblical faith might still confess it in the world
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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