God Died
Priscilla, Aquila, Apollos
13 February 2019
The Apostle Paul gloried in the clash of impossibilities inherent in the confession of the biblical gospel. For example, the Apostle Paul reveled in the description of the crucified One as that Lord of glory (1Co 2:8). The Apostle to the Gentiles attributes to the One who is crucified a title of divinity. Of course, crucifixion can be attributed to humanity. Countless humans have suffered this horrible method of execution. It is only remarkable to us because of its horror, not because humans lost their lives when crucified. The Romans seldom allowed the victims of the cross to walk away alive. Humans die. There is nothing unusual about that. Does the Holy Spirit need to send us the divine faith to believe this? Not hardly. But the faith in the Crucified remains a miracle of faith. We are shocked by the clash of worlds represented by the statement that the rulers of this age crucified the Lord of glory. The true God of God was nailed to a cross and breathed out his last. God died.
Here is what the church believes about the crucifixion. Not that a mere man died in Christ, but that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2Co 5:19) in this crucified person. Many Christians today struggle with the contention that God died on the cross, arguing that it is impossible that God should die. At one level, they are right. To be God is to be immortal, by definition. However, God was unwilling to be shackled by human presuppositions about what was appropriate to His own nature. Instead, He took human flesh, flesh like ours, that in the ineffably united natures of His person He might suffer the ignominious death of crucifixion. Christ is God. Christ died. Therefore, God died. How this could be, I have no idea. Paul warns our doubting minds that no human could ever have conceived this plan for the salvation of the world. "No eye has seen. No ear has heard!"
How delighted we should be that God was willing to shatter our presuppositions and do what we needed to have done for the sake of our salvation in Christ. If God had pandered to our ideas the incarnation, suffering, and death of God's Son for the sins of the world would never have occurred. Thank God that we don't have a pandering God, who tells us what we need to hear, who proclaims that the Lord of glory died for poor sinners. The Master died for His servants. The King suffered for His subjects. The offense of the cross is not the death, but who is dying. God died.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  John Cassian
"The mention of the Lord's cross offends you. It always offended the Jews as well. You shudder at hearing that God suffered. The Gentiles in their error mocked at this also. I ask you then, in what point do you differ from them, since you both agree in this? But for my part, I not only do not water down this preaching of the holy cross, this preaching of the Lord's passion, but as far as my wishes and powers go I emphasize it. For I will declare that He who was crucified is not only the power and wisdom of God, than which there is nothing greater, but actually Lord of absolute divinity and glory. This assertion of mine is the doctrine of God, as the Apostle says, 'My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"' (1Co 2:4-9).
"You see how the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, and predestined before all worlds, was unknown to those who crucified the Lord of glory, and known by those who received it. And well does the Apostle say that the wisdom of God was hidden in a mystery, for never could the eye of any man see, or the ear hear, or the heart imagine this; namely, that the Lord of glory should be born of a virgin and come in the flesh, and suffer all kinds of punishment, and shameful passion. But with regard to these gifts of God, as there is no one who-since they were hidden in a mystery-could ever by himself understand them, so blessed is he who has grasped them when they are revealed. Thus all who have failed to grasp them must be reckoned among the princes of this world, and those who have grasped them among God's wise ones. He then does not grasp it who denies God born in the flesh. Therefore, you also do not grasp it, because you deny this.
"Do what you will, deny as impiously as you like, we rather believe the Apostle. And why should I say just the Apostle? Rather we believe God. For through the Apostle we believe Him, whom we know to have spoken by the Apostle. The divine Word says that the Lord of glory was crucified by the princes of the world. You deny it. They also who crucified Him denied that it was God whom they were crucifying. They then who confess Him have their portion with the Apostle who confessed Him. You are sure to have your lot with His persecutors. What is there then that can be replied to this? The Apostle says that the Lord of glory was crucified. Alter this if you can. Separate now, if you please, Jesus from God. At least you cannot deny that Christ was crucified. But it was the Lord of glory who was crucified. Therefore you must either deny that Christ was nailed to the cross, or you must admit that God was nailed to it."

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 3.8
Isaiah 64

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence - as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil - to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a wilderness; Zion has become a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. Our holy and beautiful house, where our fathers praised you, has been burned by fire, and all our pleasant places have become ruins. Will you restrain yourself at these things, O LORD? Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly? (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have been crucified for us poor sinners. Only because you are God of God does Your death benefit us. Keep us from doubt and unbelief. Send Your Spirit to us that we might believe always what You have told us in Your Word. Amen.
For William Fontenot, who has been diagnosed with liver cancer, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength in accordance with His good and gracious will
For President Michael Newman of the Texas District, LCMS, that the Lord of the church would grant him strength to confess the divine truth in its fullness
For all those who absent themselves from the gathering of the church around word and sacraments, that they might be called back to the true faith and rescued from the siren sound of the world's enticements
Art: DAVID, Jacques-Louis Christ on the Cross (1782)

Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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