Kruiz edited
Death's Done
Tuesday of Lent 5
4 April 2017
Lent is not just about life and death but lives and deaths. It is not just a matter of His death and His life, but also our life and our death in Him. The writer to the Hebrews (whom Luther thought was Paul) brings us into the presence of God through the blood of Christ, which makes all the difference in the world. The veil has been torn down, shredding the old way into the presence of God (Lv 16:1-3). The shadows created by its curtain were illumined out of existence by Christ's entrance as the Light of the world. What the sons of God wove at God's command God's Son unthreaded, by pulling the scarlet messianic skein, which promised Him, in the woven work of the curtain (Ex 26:1). 

In that single thread the whole was held together and thus unraveled at His coming. All that hid God was now undone in the revelation of God in Christ (Jn 14:9). The blood of Christ marked the scarlet way. The signs upon the curtain were not the surest map into the messianic faith. The entrance to the sanctuary of salvation now is marked by the path of blood spread by the death of God's Son.
How important blood is. While sitting in the emergency room several tubes of blood are drawn from a patient for diagnostic purposes. In the blood there are the signs of life: health or disease. Our blood is full of disease; in need of cleansing after the Fall. Our blood, once pristine, now is a carrier of infection and a harbinger of death. AIDS and Hepatitis are only a couple of examples. The Old Testament testified that there is "life in the blood" (Lv 17:11). But this is only half the story. The wrong blood type will be harmful to us. There is only life for us in a certain type of blood, the blood of the innocent victim. In our blood courses only death. Only Christ's blood brings life with it. His is the universal blood type cross matched with the world's need so it might be matched to the cross. His blood is poured out to provide a life-giving transfusion to the world.

When transfused with the blood of His death we also participate in His very death. The early Luther calls this a sacrament of participation with Christ. While we might quibble with Luther about His use of the word "sacrament" here, He is emphasizing the real participation that the Christian believer experiences in communion with His Lord. That is why there are deaths and lives in this Holy Week. The deaths come through the constant life of killing the old Adam in the clutch of life where there is wrestling with sin and the wickedness of that wretched old man. The life under Christ is a life full with wrestling. Yet at the same time, our human nature passes through the curtain into a heavenly life with Christ. For what He does, he has done for us and we have done by imputation. This is what Luther means by a "sacrament." Meanwhile our conscience, all the more tender after conversion, is being put to death through recognition of our sin and its depravity. There is dying to be done as there is life to be lived.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Christ" (Heb 10:19).

"With these somewhat obscure, nay, I should rather say exceedingly beautiful and rich words, the apostle evidently wants us to imitate Christ, who suffered and by dying crossed over to the glory of the Father. The meaning, of course, is brief and clear, namely, what is written in Col 3:3: 'You have died with Christ, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.' But one must observe with what grace and power of expression the apostle discusses this. In the first place, that figurative veil of the temple was a sign of the flesh of Christ, as the apostle plainly shows here. But the removal of the veil by him who enters, namely, the priest, signifies the death of the flesh of Christ-the death by which He Himself was removed from us and entered the invisible sanctuary. And that way or entrance of the priest in former days was old and dead; it signifies that this way and entrance of Christ is new and alive. And in this manner He fulfilled the figure and took away the shadow.
"But at the same time this whole fulfillment and figure of the truth (for he beautifully connects them both at the same time and discusses them with the same words) has a meaning that goes beyond this and is the sacrament of the imitation of Christ. His flesh, of course, which He assumed, signifies the weaknesses of our flesh-the weaknesses which we assumed through sin and because of which it comes about that we walk on the old and dead way, that is, by following the lusts of the flesh. Therefore 'a new and living way' had to be prepared; and in order that this might come about, lust had to be slain. Therefore, the suffering of Christ's flesh, His death and removal, is the sacrament of the slaying of the conscience, of the same death.

"But Christ's entry into heaven through death is also the sacrament of our new life and way, by which we are to seek only heavenly things and love them with absolutely all our affection after entering into the heavenly things, so that, 'our commonwealth,' as the apostle says, 'is in heaven' (Phil 3:20). Of this mystical and exemplary suffering of Christ Paul is full throughout nearly all his epistles, as in  Rm 6:4; 8:10; Eph 4:22; Col. 3:3; and Phil.3:10; and everywhere he teaches about the slaying of the old man and the renewing of the inner man. Therefore what Christ did according to the flesh alone (for He did not cross over at some time or other from sins, as we do, but He was always in heaven, as John 3:13 says: 'No one has ascended into heaven but the Son of Man, who is in heaven'), through this He, with His single act, is in agreement with our double act, as Augustine says in the third chapter of the fourth book of his On the Trinity. For we cross over according to the flesh and according to the spirit, but Christ crossed over only according to the flesh. Therefore the crossing over of our flesh is an example-for we shall be like Him (1Jn 3:2)-yet by the crossing over of Christ's flesh the crossing over of the spirit is signified as by a sacrament.

"Hence arise those various concepts of lives and deaths (so to speak). For life and death at the present time is the workshop in which two other lives and two other deaths fight with each other, so that if love lives, lust dies, and this means to live to God and to die to the world. But if lust lives, love dies, and this means to live to the world and to die to God. For one of the two must either die or live. And these two are called spirit and flesh. Thus, in addition to physical life and death there are two lives and deaths, the death of the flesh and the death of the spirit, the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit. The apostle speaks of this very often."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Hebrews, 10.19
Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise. (ESV)
Almighty and everlasting God, grant us so to pass through this holy time of our Lord's Passion that we may receive the pardon of our sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Cantor Janet Muth, as she deliberates on a call to St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Columbia, IN, that the Lord Jesus would grant her wisdom
For Michael Staub, who has a call to Lutheran High South, St. Louis, that the Spirit would lead his deliberations

For true repentance that the children of God might not be blind to their own wickedness nor the great mercy of God in Christ the Crucified
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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