It Has To Be That Way
Tuesday of Pentecost 15
24 September 2019
After the incarnation there is no time when Christ can be said to be divine and not human, or human and not divine. Christ's two natures are undivided and indivisible, although never mingled into a mélange. He remains always human and divine in one person. What He works, he does as the God-man, a single united person. Thus it is impossible to separate His "human works" from His divinity or His "divine works" from His humanity. He uses His human nature to touch, embrace, and show compassion to humans, but He does so by granting divine gifts and blessings in the united activity of His person.
 
Such a unity of action by Christ does not derive from some abstract philosophical necessity, but from the divine desire to work salvation for fallen humanity. Christ, the God-man, is always working toward the goal of giving us eternal fellowship with Him. What He suffers is suffered to redeem us from our sins. Athanasius is deeply committed to the idea that the Bible's teaching of the person of Christ is shaped by the divine desire to save us. His humanity did not demean His divinity, but raised His humanity, that we who share human nature with Him might by Him be elevated.
 
What He suffers He suffers as the God-Man; as a single person. There is no "outside" of His person to which He slips away to avoid suffering. Otherwise, the certainty of our salvation would always be suspect. Who dies on the cross? Who slips away? Christ dies. There is no Houdini-like disappearing act performed by Christ on the cross. The nails pierce the hands of God's Son, because there is no dividing the two natures in Christ. God's blood trickles down over his temples from His thorn-pierced brow. To this person is attributed all the actions of the incarnate Christ. Athanasius calls all that the God-man suffers "affections." We use this word primarily to refer to fondness or love for another. But Athanasius is using the word to refer to the result of being acted upon. Christ, the God-man undergoes suffering and death and also rises triumphant over those same foes. He vanquishes our every enemy that way. Such a one is alone worthy of being invoked; for He is not merely a man. It has to be that way. For us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Athanasius of Alexandria
"When the flesh of Christ suffered, the Word was not external to it; and therefore the suffering is said to be His. When He did divinely His Father's works, the flesh was not external to Him, but in the body itself the Lord did them. Therefore, when made man, He said, 'If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father' (Jn 10:37-38). And thus when there was need to raise Peter's mother in law, who was sick of a fever, He stretched forth His hand humanly, but He stopped the illness divinely. In the case of the man blind from birth, human was the spittle which He gave forth from the flesh, but divinely He opened the eyes using the mud. And in the case of Lazarus, He gave forth a human voice as man; but divinely, as God, He raised Lazarus from the dead.
 
"These things were so done, were so manifested, because He had a body, not in appearance, but in truth; and it became the Lord, in putting on human flesh, to put it on whole with the affections proper to it; that, as we say that the body was His own, so also we may say that the affections of the body were proper to Him alone, though they did not touch Him according to His Godhead. If then the body had been another's, to him too had been the affections attributed; but if the flesh is the Word's (for 'the Word became flesh'), of necessity then the affections also of the flesh are ascribed to Him, whose flesh it is. And to whom the affections are ascribed, such namely as to be condemned, to be scourged, to thirst, and the cross, and death, and the other infirmities of the body, to Him too is ascribed the triumph and the grace. For this reason then, consistently and fittingly such affections are ascribed not to some other, but to the Lord; that the grace also may be from Him, and that we may become, not worshipers of any other, but truly devout toward God, because we invoke no created thing, no ordinary (koinon) man, but the natural and true Son from God, who has become man, yet is not the less Lord and God and Savior."

Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, 3.32
John 9:1-12, 34-41

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, "Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he." Others said, "No, but he is like him." He kept saying, "I am the man." So they said to him, "Then how were your eyes opened?" He answered, "The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, 'Go to Siloam and wash.' So I went and washed and received my sight." They said to him, "Where is he?" He said, "I do not know."
 
They answered him, "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out. Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains." (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You willingly underwent arrest, scourging, mockery, and bitter death for us. Send us Your Spirit, that we might boldly and gladly proclaim You the God-man who dies for the sin of the world and none other. Amen.
 
For all police and firefighters, that they may be kept safe as they protect the people whom they are called to serve
 
For all students, that they might learn for the pure joy of knowing both created and revealed things
 
For Mary Lewis, that the Lord might keep her in the palm of His hands
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
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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