Through the Cross
Joanna, Mary, and Salome, Myrrhbearers
3 August 2017
The theology of the cross means that God does not work in a way that comports with our fallen human reason. Nothing in the Bible makes any sense without understanding the theology of the cross. When confronted by the absolute compassion of God for the world in Christ the crucified Lord, human reason argues that there has to be some better, easier, more glorious way for the world to be saved. It complains, "Why did God permit Adam to fall? Didn't He create him perfect? What kind of perfection is subject to sin or error? Couldn't God have created Adam with absolute indefectibility?" Well, yes. He could have. But here is human reason telling God to do what human reason wants. When has that been a good plan for us humans? It didn't work out too well either for the fallen angels nor for Adam. Reason also cries foul because God does not remove the possibility of temptation from before Adam, "Why did God allow the serpent to slither into the garden? Couldn't God have destroyed the wicked angel?" Yes, of course. But He did not. And who are we to complain?
What would it have cost God simply to annihilate Satan and all his angelic rebels? What burden would have been placed upon the ineffable Trinity to turn Adam and his consort into moral robots, who could not fall? Measured by His absolute power, the cost and burden would have been nothing, if He had chosen to do these things. What price in power is He unable to pay without using up His reserve of divine energy? No, it was not weakness that caused Him to act in a way that contradicted our ruined reason.
His power He checked under His compassion for fallen humans. His heart burned with love for those who would without compulsion return love to Him. He would not take the easy way. God is not a teenager looking for the easy way out. He takes the hardest course of action, because it is the best for those whom He loves. The choice between enforcing His absolute will upon Adam, and His giving Himself up to the needs of His fallen children, was no contest. The Father sends the Seed of the woman that the fallen seed of man might be redeemed to the love of God (Gn 3:15). The Son takes up the burden of the cross that we who are burdened by sin exchange it for His light burden and His easy yoke (Mt 11:30). God will not take the powerful, easier, or more glorious way. His power is made perfect in weakness (2Co 12:9). That's the way God works. Through the cross.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"The sins of men and angels do nothing to impede the 'Great works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them' (Ps 111:2). For He who by His providence and omnipotence distributes to every one his own portion, is able to make good use not only of the good, but also of the wicked. And thus making a good use of the wicked angel, who, in punishment of his first wicked desire, was doomed to an obstinacy that prevents him now from willing any good, why should not God have permitted him to tempt the first man, who had been created upright, that is to say, with a good will? For he had been so constituted, that if he looked to God for help, man's goodness should defeat the angel's wickedness. But if by proud self-pleasing he abandoned God, his Creator and Sustainer, he would be conquered. If his will remained upright, through leaning on God's help, he would be rewarded. If it became wicked, by forsaking God, he would be punished. But even this trusting in God's help could not itself be accomplished without God's help, although man had it in his own power to relinquish the benefits of divine grace by pleasing himself. For as it is not in our power to live in this world without sustaining ourselves by food, while it is in our power to refuse this nourishment and cease to live, as those do who kill themselves, so it was not in man's power, even in Paradise, to live as he ought without God's help. But it was in his power to live wickedly, though thus he should cut short his happiness, and incur very just punishment.
"Since, then, God was not ignorant that man would fall, why should He not have suffered him to be tempted by an angel who hated and envied him? It was not, indeed, that He was unaware that he should be conquered. But because He foresaw that by the man's seed, aided by divine grace, this same devil himself should be conquered, to the greater glory of the saints. All was brought about in such a manner, that neither did any future event escape God's foreknowledge, nor did His foreknowledge compel anyone to sin, and so as to demonstrate in the experience of the intelligent creation, human and angelic, how great a difference there is between the private presumption of the creature and the Creator's protection. For who will dare to believe or say that it was not in God's power to prevent both angels and men from sinning? But God preferred to leave this in their power, and thus to show both what evil could be worked by their pride, and what good by His grace."

Augustine, The City of God, 14.27
2 Corinthians
I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows- and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You did not take the easy way to our salvation, but to Your eternal glory You divested yourself of divine power, taking the form of a servant, that we servants to sin might be rescued from our wickedness by Your perfect sacrifice. By Your Holy Spirit send us the wisdom to believe the weakness of the cross to be our strength and Your servanthood our freedom. Amen.
For the choirs of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they might find joy in the labor of leading the people of God in song
For Brenda Blackwell, that she would be strengthened in body and soul
For John Hatteberg, that he would fully recover from surgery
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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