Distinguished Person and Work
Thursday of Pentecost 13
23 August 2018
Christology is the study of the person of Christ. This study is the Christian's meat and drink, breath and life. Christology is not some esoteric study full of Latin words or nitpicking distinctions clear only to someone who has a Ph.D. in philosophy. We Christians, together with the Apostle Peter, desire to confess that Jesus is the Christ and to confess what that means for us Christians. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Mk 8:29). We too want to confess that with all its fullness. We get a hint about the fullness of that confession when Jesus explains to Peter and the disciples what it means that He is the Christ: "He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mk 8:31). His triumphal procession of life passes through the portal of suffering and death. This is why Christology may not merely be descriptions of the internal life of the incarnate Son of God. For the God-Man's is never separable from His work for us Christians. His psychological portrait is insignificant to us, except as He reveals the unity that He has with His Father.
Jesus is not content to bask in the accolades of the impetuous disciple, "You are the Christ!" Jesus' person is inseparable from his work and his work is inseparable from his person. "Person and work" may be an unsustainable Christological distinction. There is no disconnection among who He is, what is in His mind, and what he does for our salvation. Certainly, we humans are susceptible to precisely that disconnection; in that we often have in our minds something entirely different from how we act. That lack of self-possession is characteristic of the brokenness of human nature after the fall. Somehow, the human psyche is incapable of commanding human flesh (Rm 7:16-20). When we become aware of that disconnection, it is a cause for much grief.
To rescue us from our grief Christ truly becomes a fully integrated person whose work is who He is. He is able to rescue us because the grace that He procures for us is God's grace. It's not just the good wishes of a human. It does not mean the same thing as when we say to someone who's in the midst of suffering, "I am thinking about you." No, His concern for us always results in actions that arise out of the midst of His person as the eternal Son of God. In describing His work to Peter and the disciples He uses the word "must." He must be betrayed. He must suffer. He must die (Mk 8:31). Why "must" He undergo this? Who would ever attribute to God the verb "must?" He whom the philosophers have called "the unmoved mover" is not required by external circumstances to do anything. To be God is to be totally free. So, why must He? Because He is passionately driven to save us. He freely gives Himself and therefore He must do this. What is in his heart and mind must issue from his hands, feet, side, and mouth. To open His heart to us His hands were pierced (Jn 19:37). To carry our salvation to us His beautiful feet were rendered immobile on the footrest of our iniquity (Is 52:7). To cleanse us from our sin, water and blood gushed from His fertile side (Jn 19:34). From His mouth bruised by brutal blows comes the absolution of the world, "Father, forgive them" (Lk 23:34). His person and work can never be distinguished.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Cassian
"I want to say more on the subject of the divine grace of our Lord and Savior from the Holy Scriptures. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the Apostle James refuted those who thought that when they received the gospel they ought still to bear the yoke of the old Law. 'Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will' (Acts 15:10-11). The Apostle certainly speaks of the gift of this grace as given by Jesus Christ. Do you think that this grace, which is given for the salvation of all men, is given by man or by God? If you say by man, Paul, God's own vessel, will cry out against you, saying, 'There appeared the grace of God our Savior' (Tit 2:11, 13). He teaches that this grace is the result of a divine gift, and not of human weakness. Even if the sacred testimony was not sufficient, the truth of the matter itself would bear witness, because fragile earthly things cannot possibly furnish a thing of lasting and immortal value. No one gives to another that which he himself is lacking, nor supply a sufficiency for that which he admits he himself is deficient. You cannot help admitting that the grace comes from God. It is God then who has given it. Our Lord Jesus Christ has given it. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is God."

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 2.5
Acts 15:6-21

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."
And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, "'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.' Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues." (ESV)
Lord Jesus, because You are God of God Your sufficiency is shared with us in Your divine grace. Grant us all the blessings you have accrued by Your life, death, and resurrection for us. Help us to boldly pray for all You desire us to have from Your gracious hand. Amen.
For Ima Leach, as doctors and her family members serve her needs, that she would have peace and courage
For President Donald Trump, that the Lord God would watch over and protect him in all his ways, give him wisdom, and enable him to govern all persons in justice and equity
Those who are suffering difficult tropical weather, that they might kept safe as Hurricane Lane approaches the Hawaiian Islands
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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