Kruiz edited
Christ's Suffering
Wednesday of Lent 5
5 April 2017
Martin Luther consistently referred the suffering of Christ to the believer. It is almost as though he was reading "our suffering," when he saw the suffering of Christ in Scripture. At first glance, this appears "un-Lutheran" of Luther. We expect Luther to emphasize the substitution of Christ for us sinners, instead of our sufferings as those who are in Christ. But Luther considers both Christ's suffering and ours as a united experience. What belongs to Christ is mine. What is mine is Christ's.
 
Suffering can often appear to be a random experience in the life of the Christian. We wonder what it could possibly mean. We ask, "Why am I suffering?" The answer is often, and wrongly, "I must have done something to deserve this." Old Adam leads us into the despair that comes from this false self-accusation. This false accusation also leads many Christians to presume that their health and material success are signs of God's grace. This view has reduced God to a German shopkeeper who tots up the accounts with Teutonic precision meeting out punishments and rewards to his patrons according to their just deserving. If I am rich, beautiful, and healthy, God must love me. If I am sick, weak, or poverty stricken, God must despise me and is punishing me. This thinking hits a stop stake at the cross, where the despised, weak, poor, naked, and suffering Christ remains the blessed of God. Though He experiences the full weight of our sin and God's wrath against it, He is still the blessed Son of the Father and He knows that He is. His cry of dereliction, "My God, My God, why have your forsaken Me?" is still a confession of faith. The Son still has a God in the midst of suffering. Even in, and especially in, suffering this God is "My God."
 
The Righteous One's substitution for the unrighteous draws us into His experience of suffering and translates our suffering through His. Only in Him do we know what suffering means. His suffering means that we are considered righteous in the presence of our Father, for His suffering presents us to God. His suffering means that we are redeemed in flesh and spirit unto the Day of Judgment. His suffering means that our suffering has meaning. We do not seek suffering, just as He did not seek the cross, but it comes inevitably. Like Him, when it comes, we ought not flee it but drink the bitterness of suffering and even death down to the dregs, all the while confessing that this is a cup of blessing, proclaiming the Lord's death until He comes.
 
Only faith can make such a confession. Only in following His faithful example can we take up the cross of suffering which the Lord lays upon us. Faith is not merely acquiescence to facts or a knowledge of the Bible, it is the living power of God that enables us to say that our suffering is a blessing from God. Faith is a living and active thing. It grasps the suffering of Christ through which God accounts us righteous.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"'For Christ also died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous' (1Pt 3:18). Here St. Peter again presents the Lord Christ to us as an example and always refers to the suffering of Christ. He says that we should all follow this example, in order that it may not be necessary for him to suggest a special illustration for every status in life. For just as the example of Christ is suggested to everyone in general, so the apostle points out that everyone, no matter in what status of life he is, should pattern his whole life according to this example. He means: Christ was righteous. For doing right He also suffered for us, who were unrighteous. But He did not seek the cross. No, He waited until it was God's will that He should drink the cup. He should be the model for us to imitate. And here St. Peter's chief reason for citing this example is that he now intends to draw a conclusion and will now give a further explanation of the suffering of Christ.
 
"Actually, however, St. Peter is saying here: Christ suffered for us once, that is, Christ bore many sins on Himself. But He did not do this in such a way that He died for each sin. No, He rendered satisfaction for all at one time. By doing so He took away the sin of all those who come to Him and believe in Him. They are now free from death, just as He is free.
 
"'The Righteous for the unrighteous,' says the apostle. It is as though he were saying: 'We should sooner suffer, since we die for the Righteous One, who has no sin. But He died for the unrighteous on account of our sin.'
 
"'That He might offer us to God' (1Pt 3:18). The apostle says all this for the purpose of giving instruction concerning the particular nature of Christ's suffering, namely, that He did not die for His own sake but to offer us to God. How is this done? Did Christ not offer Himself? It is true that He offered Himself on the cross for every one of us who believes in Him. By this very act He at the same time also offers us, so that it is necessary for all those who believe in Him to suffer too and to be put to death according to the flesh, as happened in His case. In this way He presented us to God as living in the spirit yet dying in the flesh, as St. Peter says later (1Pt 4:6). On the other hand, we are one sacrifice with Him. As He dies, so we, too, die according to the flesh; as He lives in the spirit, so we, too, live in the spirit.

Martin Luther, Sermons on the First Epistle of St. Peter, 3.18
1 Peter 3:14-4:2

Even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. 
 
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 
 
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. (ESV)
Prayer
Most merciful and everlasting God the Father, who 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 hearts may be so fixed with steadfast faith in our Savior that we may not fear the power of any adversaries; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For Kirstyn Harvey, that the Lord Jesus would grant strength and healing to her
 
For all those who are traveling, that they would be kept safe and that their labors would be successful

For Cathy Pierson, who is gravely ill, that the Lord would be her strength in suffering
 
For all those who take suffering to be a curse of God, that the Holy Spirit would give them the faith to place their suffering in Christ
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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