He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
Good Friday Message Brought to You by Chaplain Timothy Swenson.
“The cross alone is our theology,” so said Martin Luther himself as he summed up his theological breakthrough. This declaration came in his Lectures on the Psalms (1519-1521). The cross was shorthand for the entire event of Jesus’ life—his Incarnation, his Crucifixion, and his Resurrection. Luther’s chosen label, “the cross,” kept people from skipping over the Crucifixion entirely. They sentimentalized Jesus’ life: a cute and cooing baby to a brilliantly arrayed risen Lord. People love sentiment and if anything detracts from the sentiment of Jesus’ life, it’s his death.
First off, he died… he died a mean, ugly death… he died a death meant to shame and horrify both its victim and its bystanders… Jesus was crucified… “lifted up” as that day’s euphemism would have it. This man, Jesus of Nazareth died. This God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, insofar as these two natures were united in one person… this God died. Jesus died because the humanity he came to save wanted him dead. That humanity used a corrupted court, power-coveting officials, and an expression of mob violence, but they got the job done. Jesus died.
Secondly, as nowhere else in all of scripture or human history, the murder of Jesus by an ungrateful humanity exposes human sin and its depths in the most dramatic of ways. Humans—you, I, and every person—are god-killers. We might say that we love God, but that’s simply a lie we tell ourselves about ourselves. We don’t love the true God… we don’t love the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… we hate the true God. Hence, we can only love some sentimentalized projection of our imagination… that god becomes the personification of our idols. Every confrontation with Jesus in his person confronts us with our god-killing identity. I sinned… you sinned… people sinned. Jesus died. All humanity will die in its sin.
But God would not let sin have the last word. The will of a corrupt, sin-broken humanity does not prevail over the divine intent. God raised Jesus from the dead. God raised Jesus from dead, a decisive victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. By defeating them, God broke their yoke of bondage holding our corrupt, sin-broken humanity in thrall, binding our wills to themselves. By raising Jesus from the dead, God made him the first born of a large family—that is, all those who believe in him are to be raised to eternal life with him. Jesus was raised from the dead. So, too, will we be raised from the dead.
But that resurrection is not yet. For now, that resurrection lies ahead of us. It lies on the other side of our own going down to the dust of our mortality—that is, our physical death. We have already gone down beneath the water and the Word of baptism, being joined to the death of Jesus—that is our sacramental death. Between these two deaths—the sacramental and the physical—we walk only by faith, still assaulted by that trio of bondage: sin, death, and the power of the devil. They have been defeated but they have not ended. Against their assaults and in opposition to their lies, we hold the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection together as one salvific event… an event summarized by saying, “The cross alone is our theology.”
Theology in Residence Gathering
The inaugural meeting of the Christ School of Theology’s Theology in Residence Gathering is taking place on June 12-17, 2023, in Brookings, SD.
Christ School of Theology students are invited to join with fellow theologians, scholars, and faculty as they engage in personal theological research. Participants will pursue their individual, theological research efforts while refining their research through conversations with fellow scholars and on-site faculty, combined with guided academic coaching and research support from the Christ School of Theology Dean of Library and Research.
The emphasis for this year’s gathering is Theology and Science. Students in the Ph.D. program are encouraged to join us this year to study the relationship between theology and science, the degree to which these scholarly disciplines and compatible, the potential complementarity or incompatibility of scientific and theological inquiry? Student research in theology and science will serve as preparation for a Seminar in Theology and Science offered this summer.