Kruiz edited
Monday of Lent 5
3 April 2017
While touring in Mexico with one of our mission teams I had the privilege to enjoy a day in Taxco, an old silver mining town about three hours outside the Federal District. There were fabulous artifacts worked in silver by the local artisans. I was able to buy gifts for my family. But the most moving piece I saw that day was a half life size crucifix worked in silver. The corpus of Christ was both pitiful and magnificent. His head was lowered with his chin resting upon his chest and His long hair hanging straight down concealing either side of His calm but sorrowful face. To look into that face the viewer had to bend down and look directly into the eyes of that Man of sorrow. Looking there the viewer could hardly help but be drawn into the meaning of His gaze, as though He were saying that every man at his best could expect no different, "if this is what they do to the green tree, imagine what would happen to the dry" (Lk 23:31).
Perhaps the reason we don't really appreciate the crucifix is not that it is rather too wickedly "Catholic," but that it tells us rather too much of the truth about our sin and the cost of its expiation. It tells us too much about our own suffering and the reality of the cross that we must bear. We would rather hide this from our view. "Keep the crucifix in the Catholic Church and I won't have to face up to it." But there is no way to hide from the testimony of the New Testament that this man of sorrows suffers horribly for us on the cross and is ever after described as the Crucified One. The Apostle Paul appeals to the Galatians because he has publicly portrayed Christ as crucified before them (Gal 3:1). This could refer to an image that was drawn on the walls of the Galatian worshiping communities. There is no way to improve the picture that the New Testament draws of the suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.
Sinners like us, who ought to have suffered what He suffered, need Him to have suffered for us. He took our "ought" and made it His "is;" not because He was under any compulsion; but out of sheer grace and unparalleled love for us. This is the sum and center of our faith. We can boast that God's Son has taken our place on the cross and thus filled our suffering with His meaning. His "is" becomes our "is" by faith. We take up our cross not because we ought to do so, but because it is His with all its blood-spattered richness. This is how the children of the church face the persecution that inevitably comes when the word of the gospel is proclaimed. For we know that we have the truth and no matter how the devil rages against us it is still the truth. Nothing in all the world can undo God's truth that Christ died for sinners like us. That's why He must remain the Crucified One.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"So today when the whole world persecutes us, cruelly damns and kills us, we should glory and exult in this. For we are not undergoing all this on account of our misdeeds as thieves, robbers, etc. (1Pt 4:15), but because of Christ, our Savior and Lord, whose Gospel we teach purely.
"Our boasting increases and is confirmed by two facts: that we are sure that we have the pure and divine doctrine and that our cross or suffering is the suffering of Christ. When the world persecutes and kills us, therefore, we do not have any reason to complain and lament, but only to rejoice and exult. The world regards us as miserable and abominable; but Christ, who is greater than the world and for whose sake we are suffering, pronounces us blessed and commands us to rejoice.  He says, 'Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad' (Mt 5:11-12). Therefore our boasting is far different from that of the world, which does not glory in its affliction, shame, persecution, death, etc., but in its power, wealth, peace, honor, wisdom, and righteousness. But sorrow and confusion lie at the end of such glory and rejoicing.
"'The cross of Christ' does not mean, of course, the wood that Christ carried on His shoulders and to which He then was nailed. No, it refers in general to all the afflictions of all the faithful, whose sufferings are the sufferings of Christ. 'We share abundantly in Christ's sufferings' (2Co 1:5); and 'I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church' (Col 1:24). Therefore 'the cross of Christ' refers in general to all the afflictions which the church suffers on Christ's account, as Christ Himself testifies when He says, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me' (Acts 9:4)? Saul had not done any violence to Christ, but only to His church. But whoever touches this, touches the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8). The head is more sensitive and responsive in its feeling than the other parts of the body, as experience teaches. When the little toe or some other tiny part of the body is hurt, the face immediately shows that it feels this; the nose contracts, the eyes flash, etc. In the same way Christ, our Head, makes our afflictions His own, so that when we, who are His body, suffer, He is affected as though the evils were His own.
"It is helpful to know this, so that we are not overly sad or even completely desperate when we see our enemies persecuting, excommunicating, and murdering us, or when we see the heretics hating us so bitterly. Then we should think that, following the example of Paul, we ought to glory greatly in the cross, which we have received because of Christ, not because of our own sins."  

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 6.14
Luke 23:26-38

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." (ESV)
Dearest Lord Jesus, give me the cross spattered with Your blood that as I bear my burden I might find myself smeared by Your cleansing vitality. Amen.
For those who will follow the Lord Jesus through the days of Lent, that they might be led to repentance and into the new life given by Christ's death
For all pastors who will lead God's people this Lent, that they might receive strength from God the Spirit to proclaim the Crucified
For all those struggling with the burdens of their sin, that they may be brought back to the grace given in holy baptism
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Isenheim Altarpiece (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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