Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Week Dualities

Holy week punctuates the love of God in Christ. To see Jesus' love for us is to be enabled to sing the hymn, "What Wondrous Love Is This," with sincerity and truth. The LORD's love through His passion, however, is better recognized when we see the dualities involved the climactic moments throughout the week. Consider first Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday which we observed just a few days ago. What came form the lips of the people? First were the shouts of Hosanna! To have called on Him to "save us (the meaning of Hosanna)!" was to imply, "You LORD Jesus are the One ABLE to save and who WILL save!" This was sheer laud and honor! See, however, the shift that occured. To call it dramatic is painful understatement. The shouts morphed from Hosanna! to Crucify! And while not everyone in Jerusalem knew this startling fickleness that first Holy Week, nevertheless we are reminded of the powerful duality that abides in us. To confess Jesus Christ is to daily call on Him to save -- to keep us in His life and grace -- and yet, that is not all we do, because the born-again is not all we are. Our sinful nature-flesh also cries out Crucify! Even this flesh that is to be crucified (Gal 6:24), is the same flesh that creeps out of us causing us to sin causing us to behave as those who cry Crucify! Here then is what we do: speaking and proclaiming out of both sides of our mouths. What contradiction! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God thorugh Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 8:24-25)! The Gospel is that even in this contrariness, I am still loved by Christ...that is why His love is wonderous! 

Then there is the mandatum duality, that is the one occuring on Maundy Thursday when Jesus commanded (mandatum = command) "Do this!" What was He referring to? The Holy Sacrament. But here we recognize what might cause confusion. The famous painters entitle their renditions of the first supper as The Last Supper and yet at the same time, it is what the Holy Church also knows as The Ongoing Feast. Talk about a paradox. Which is it? Last or Ongoing? Answer: Yes! It is in analyzing the first Maundy Thursday -- when Jesus was present with His disciples in His body -- that seemingly makes the memorialist argument compelling: "how can one say that the bread is His true body, when as He instituted the Supper, He was in His true body? Rather, the very fact that Jesus was in the body when He referred to the bread as His body demands that his words be metaphorical as in, 'this is the bread that represents my body.' Consider for example, someone pulling their identification out of their purse or wallet and upon presenting their picture-ID pronounces, 'this is me!' We all know what they mean: the ID is a reprsentation of themselves!" The actual text, however, will not bear these mental gymnastics. Among the many figures of speech the LORD used throughout His teaching ministry were indeed metaphor and simile, but whenever these were employed, there were accompanying textual signals and/or explanations of these. Furthermore, the context of the Supper is in the form of a last will and testament. In such a context, the LAST thing one does is use figures of speech; the testament demands straight-forward clarity and legal precision. Lastly and from a more theological consideration: consider the source. Who was it exactly speaking? It is was Jesus Christ, true God and true man. There is one afterall who can be in two places at once. It is Christ. The duality is that the Supper was once established and continually celebrated and administered! Why make such arrangments? For but one reason: to keep you in His ensure you of His real presence...constantly. The wondrous love of Christ for you was not only expressed at Calvary 2000 years ago, but it is expressed every single time you partake of the very same body and blood that hung on the cross keeping you steadfast in the forgiveness of sins. This is truly wondrous love that time cannot restrict nor restrain.

Then there was the duality of Good Friday. The most horrific, grueling, agonizing event in the history of man, not merely for the indescribable physical -- out-of-the cross excruciatiing -- pain, but for the One it was applied to, because this Innocent One was bearing upon Himself the sins of the world...thus He felt the judgment and condemnation for all sinners. On that Good Friday cross was the One who "became sin for us (2 Co 5:21)" and "a curse for us (Gal 3:13)." To confirm the drastic condemnation of this moment on the cross was the LORD's fourth word: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me (Mt 27:46)?" It was true, He became in the eyes of God sinner and curse. God had to turn away since God's eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13). And yet even in the face of all of this darkness (indeed it became dark at 3 pm), we call this day Good! Are we insane? And this is precisely where the paradox comes in: as Gregory of Nyssa and Luther also described, Christ in the Body was the "Worm" that concealed "the hook" of the Divinity of Christ so that when Satan and death swallowed Christ, they also swallowed the LORD of LIFE. That is death received a death sentence; death received a deadly virus; and its otherwise always effective darkness was overcome by the One whose light and light are utterly inextinguishable. Death was destroyed on the cross of Jesus. And this -- indeed without question -- is why the day is GOOD! What wondrous love is this? That He would die to destroy my death! This is love. This is good. This is the duality of death and life on one cross; and life won...for you, and for me.

My book Faith That Sees Through The Culture on understanding biblical dualities so as to help us live out our faith more effectively is coming together! We are at the stage of gathering endorsements. The release date by Concordia Publishing House is still June 13th. Watch for it! Soli Deo Gloria!

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