Text: Deuteronomy 32:36-39
Date: Passion/Palm Sunday 3/20/16
Could not God have brought salvation from sin, death and the devil to the world without this dreadful and violent end? Could not God save you and bring you into His kingdom of grace simply by kindly changing His mind and welcoming you in? No, He could not.
The message of redemption from the beginning had to come about by means of two declarations of God, namely, His Law and His Gospel. The very first promise of salvation announced to Adam included both, saying of the offspring of the devil and of the woman, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). His Law is called His “alien” work, His proper work the Gospel. But both are the work of God. For without the Law one can’t recognize, value, hear or appreciate the Gospel. Without the threatened punishment of sin, you can’t recognize, value or appreciate the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without this strange and alien work of God you can’t recognize, value or appreciate that one must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
When God said through Moses, “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand,” the prophet Isaiah said of this, “strange is his deed! and alien is his work!” (Is 28:21).
“He calls it the strange work of the Lord when He terrifies, because to quicken and console is God’s own work. But He terrifies, he says, for this reason, namely, that there may be a place for consolation and quickening, because hearts that are secure and do not feel the wrath of God loathe consolation.” “For the two chief works of God in men are these, to terrify, and to justify and quicken those who have been terrified. Into these two works all scripture has been distributed” (Ap XII).
So the Biblical word for salvation, the chief article of faith upon which the Church stands or falls (and therefore you do too!!) is justification. Beneath the idea of being declared or proving oneself to be right is the requirement of death. We use the word that way when we talk about means of execution of criminals or traitors. One may be justified by the sword, justified by firing squad or justified by hanging. To be justified in this sense is to be killed. As the chief article of saving faith to be justified by faith means to be killed in a way that you can live forever!
Jesus said it had to be this way for Him and for us. For Him: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Lk 9:22). Of course, knowing this ahead of time didn’t make His death any less tragic or painful. Jesus’ human nature recoiled at the prospect as He prayed to His Father, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Lk 22:42). After His resurrection Jesus said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:26). Then He showed them how this alien work of God was predicted in all the Scriptures.
So is it also that you must be reproved, condemned and terrified by your sin. You must die. But now it is because of Christ’s death for us that you die with Him. Or, “do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). But it’s even greater than that! For this death and resurrection are not mere metaphors for this life. For we have the promise that we will be raised at the last day to live in the new heavens and earth of God’s own making.
This is why we can sing the song that sounds so strange and alien to the world,
We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross.
The sinner’s hope let all deride;
For this we count the world but loss. (429:1)
And the strange Easter hymn:
Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands
And brings us life from heaven. (458:1)
And every time we gather for the Holy Communion:
The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
We celebrate with one accord;
It is our comfort in distress,
Our heart’s sweet joy and happiness. (634:1)
So does God’s salvation sound strange and alien to the world, but that only because they do not know and have not heard rightly of God’s proper work, the justification of the sinner by God’s grace through faith in Christ.