Bearing Our Cross
This is a small section from the lectures on the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 1:18-25.
As Luther pointed out God “saves” by coming to us in the weakness of our human nature. Like all of us, he is born a vulnerable child who, as the gospel portrays faces significant threats to his life. Moreover, as the story unfolds, we see how God, in his son Jesus Christ, takes on himself the suffering, the sinful behavior, and the consequent threat of “nonbeing.” (Death). God does not “save” his people by coming in glory, with great power and overwhelming acts of violence that undo the evils of this world. In other words, he does not save us by directly defeating the evils and sinful behavior of the world so that he can pluck us out of our deadly predicament, as the unrepentant criminals on the cross wanted him to do. (Matthew 27:44). Had he done this, he would be no different than the sinful empires he intended to replace with God’s Kingdom of grace, mercy, and love.
Rather, God choose to overcome sin, evil, and death by actually suffering through them: by allowing them to do their dirty work on him. But the power of evil and death, so clearly visible in the media day in and day out, cannot destroy him as it seeks to do. Rather, after unleashing it’s full furor on him, he rises again in victory, thereby neutralizing the threat.
Clearly, his descent from heaven: his willingness to step into our shoes and walk with us in our suffering, in our vulnerability, and in our death, has nothing to do with self-interest. There is nothing in this for himself. He doesn’t need to be saved. He is already the eternally ruling sovereign of the universe. He does this on our behalf. He does this for you and for me so that we might inherit this victory of love and life as a gift of grace. Why else would the Son of God bother to take on weak human flesh and suffer innocently due to the sin of others? And why would he suffer a miserable death as a condemned criminal? With nothing in it for himself, there is no other explanation than that he did it for us. This is the definition of divine love: to act and die for our benefit: to become human so that we might have eternal fellowship with God.
Thus, the story of Jesus’ birth embodies for the eyes of faith a unique story of God’s grace. As the story unfolds, we will see how the threats of a sinful world are arrayed against him. We will see how a man who lives in union with God responds to evil with good. And we will see how those who believe in him must follow. This can be a struggle at times. But the goal of what Luther called, “the theology of the cross” is eternal fellowship with God in a bond of love and abundant life.
Merry Christmas: May the peace and love of Christ be with you this season and always.