Lessons from Holy Week: Luther’s Theology of the Cross

With Holy Week and Easter complete, but before we hit Pentecost, meditation on The Cross should continue to be a part of our daily practice.  Through it, we were shown what it means to be a Savior – derision, shame and ultimately, an extremely painful death.  Woodrow Kroll, in his message a week ago described what took place on Golgotha as The Father’s forbearance to choose humanity over His Son to continue this plan laid forth in eternity, between the heart of the Trinity.

Martin Luther put a fine point on this, in his Ninety-Five Theses against Indulgences in October 1517.  He expanded upon Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, although he didn’t intend for the drama that ensued after nailing them to the door.  What became known as the “Theology of The Cross,” Carl R. Trueman summarizes that Luther was saying God is: merciful to humanity, Incarnate and completely revealed in the Cross.

This was not supposed to be God.  The ruling elite were convinced they were right and that they were doing everything to get to God.  They had the right of way.  Jesus was crucified for being God coming in the wrong way: down to us.  Trueman elaborates,

(He was) against every assumption that human beings might make about who God is and how he acts, he requires no prior loveliness in the objects of his love; rather, his prior love creates that loveliness without laying down preconditions.

Jesus on the Cross is the absolute contradiction of all we supposed God to be.  He is:

  • Power in the midst of weakness;
  • Wise in the midst of foolishness;
  • Gracious in the midst of shame;
  • Control in the midst of chaos;
  • Loving in the midst of hate;
  • Righteous in the midst of guilt;
  • Pure in the midst of iniquity;
  • Obedient in the midst of defiance.

What spilt the Church after Luther’s Ninety Five Theses was not because of what Luther or because of Luther himself.  What split the Church then and now is the Cross itself.  It is hard to accept what Jesus died for.  Who He died for is even more shocking: murders, despots, rapists, child molesters – we believe these people should pay because we think we know the right way to handle them.

Once again, God shows us to be in the wrong.  We are all ranked the same at the foot of the Cross.  Some of us are enabled to see past the gruesome violence of the tortured man hanging there.  If we follow Luther’s thought – regardless of how we practice our faith as Roman Catholics or Protestants – we are connecting through Him, with The Father.

He came to give sight to the blind – so we shall see Him hanging there as beautiful.

He came to set the captives free – so we shall be able to declare the truth of who He really is.

He came to forgive our sins – so we shall be able to forgive those who sin against us.

What seems foolish and grotesque is truly the image of our God.  The Cross is the example of the lengths He will go to in order to get close to us.  As we wait for the high of Pentecost, we must remember with joy, His pain.  We are to think upon His sufferings (and our own) with gladness.  It doesn’t make sense in the eyes of the world, but when we chose this path, we find out just how right He is.

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