That Glorious Scandal

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." 
-1Pe 2:7-8 ESV

'Paul’s theology of the cross involves his theology of the resurrection and is simply unintelligible apart from it.'
- Richard Gaffin, The Scandal of the Cross

“The Gospel is ‘the greatest drama ever staged … a terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero'"
- Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos, ch. 1

"It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do the Father's will - and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners like me. He really could not save himself."
- D.A. Carson, Scandalous- The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 30

"There is no better news for sad men, for distressed, desponding and despairing men, than this - the Savior lives, able still to save and willing to receive you to his tender heart."
- Charles Spurgeon, The Lord is Risen Indeed, Twelve Sermons on the Resurrection, p. 102

The drama of the gospel is a story unlike no other. In this story the hero is not hailed, but mocked. He is not sustained by superhuman powers…in fact, he dies. The accolades originally directed toward him give way to rejection and disdain. After all, heroes are not supposed to become the victim. The Creator succumbs to the malevolence of the creation, and this death comes willingly, not with reluctance. He does not save himself. In fact, it is death that brings life. The gospel, in all of its tragedy and offence, brings glory. Death becomes its own victim. Through the mystery and the glory of the crucifixion and the resurrection every enemy is finally overcome. This is the ultimate scandal and if it has no place of offense with us we’ve not understood it well. There is divine wisdom and human absurdity in the cross and resurrection. Surely God could have done it another way…or not. In these singular events God has revealed the very heart of the gospel. The Son has revealed His heart for His Father. God has revealed His own heart for the world. Because of His love God has inclined His heart for the world. By love God has directed His heart toward His creation. By love God sends the emblem of His love, His own dear Son, to die. By love God raises His Son from the grave. And by love God vanquishes every enemy and removes every obstacle to His love for people like you and me. Our redemption has been accomplished by a glorious scandal.

Today I’m rejoicing with you in the scandal signified by a cross, a cross saturated in gospel love.



Post Tenebras Lux

"Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” 
- Mark 16:6

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-21

“He alone has made a solid proficiency in the gospel who has been accustomed to continual meditation on the blessed resurrection.” 
- John Calvin, Institutes, III:xxv.I

“The issue (of the resurrection) is non-negotiable for Paul. The consequences of denying Christ’s resurrection are massive – for then Paul’s preaching is mistaken, their faith is vain, their sins remain unforgiven, and those who have died have perished.”
- Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, p. 457

“The resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the new and final world-order, an order described as spiritual and heavenly. It is the dawn of the new creation the start of the eschatological age. In terms of the conceptual framework with which Paul views the whole of history, it is the commencement of the ‘age to come.’” 
- Richard Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption, pps. 89-90

“Post Tenebras Lux” has often been used as the motto for the Protestant Reformation. In Latin it simply means, “After darkness, light”. It has also been used during the Easter season in association with Good Friday. Even today some Lutheran churches have Good Friday services that they describe as a ‘Tenebras’ service, where reflection is made upon sin that brought darkness. Then the following Easter Sunday is described as “Lux” or light. For the Christian the resurrection is that historically glorious and momentous event when the spell-bound darkness is finally broken by light. The curse is reversed.

In the comprehensiveness of Christ’s redemptive act Puritan John Owen called it the ‘death of death’, and John Calvin called the resurrection, “…the most important article of our faith”(John II:191). The resurrection is no small afterthought or appendage to our theological understanding. It is pivotal. Without the historical and bodily resurrection of Christ we are left without hope, we remain in our sins, our faith is in vain, and those who die face immediate corruption and finality. Many churches that call themselves Christian emphasize the cross and minimize the resurrection. For them it is much easier to believe Jesus was crucified, than that He was resurrected. The historical and corporeal (bodily) resurrection is too much for them. How glad I am for the Resurrection. In it Jesus has became the first to conquer death, sin, hell and the grave, and in His resurrection we are guaranteed the same. And if that weren’t enough, the resurrected and ascended Christ has bestowed the greatest of all gifts to His church in the giving of the Spirit (Acts 2:31-33 and Eph. 4:8). The Resurrection is the light after the darkness of the Cross. May we truly comprehend what has been done, and then rejoice in the resurrection of our Savior.

-       DJM



Loving Our Unemployed Neighbor

“No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.”
-       Deuteronomy 24:6

‘Thou takest his life to a pledge: that is to say, thou cuttest a poor man’s throat, when thou takest from him those necessary tools with which he gets his living.’
- John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, pp. 844-845, Banner of Truth, 1987

The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy contains lots of ancient wisdom. Given as different types of law God’s intention was to preserve and protect His people from harm, in addition to setting them apart from other nations and marking them out as His people. These laws were given for their benefit. In the context of chapter 24 there is a list of miscellaneous laws and among them is a brief law regarding making a pledge or a contract. In this example a pledge or contract is never to be made at the expense of jeopardizing the way a person is able to make a living. In other words, if such a pledge is made that results in a breach of contract the contracting party (debtor) would be left without a means of personal support and provision should the debt go into default. In the above example half of the millstone would be taken away and the debtor would be left with no way to grind his flour. He would be plunged into poverty…or even death.

In these days of COVID-19 I think there is something to be learned from this. While the example is not one for one I think there is a principle to be learned from this Old Testament passage. We must be very, very careful in our desire to protect lives from a virus, to not endanger lives in other ways, by removing the ability for a man or woman to provide for his or her family. The Apostle Paul's encouragement to Timothy makes an even more stark pronouncement...to not provide for one's family is tantamount to a denying the faith, even to the point of being an enemy of God (1 Tim. 5:8). For some, the prospect of losing everything has become a stark and potential reality, but consigning them to God's judgment for their inability to do otherwise is unfair and unloving. By governmental edict we have taken their upper millstone and given them no recourse...no way to provide for themselves or their family. 

It seems that those with loudest voice calling for a stop to all business and enterprise are those that continue to be employed, whether they are in government, or academics, ‘essential’ business, or by other income means. We have shut down large segments of the economy with little thought to the eventual and tragic fallout. The command to love our neighbor is comprehensive. We must love our elderly neighbor as well as our unborn neighbor. We must love our wealthy neighbor as well as our unemployed neighbor. This is an all-encompassing command to be wise in executing things like stay-at-home orders, with the necessary and forceful compunction to ask for how long? Keep those in quarantine who are immune-compromised, but allow healthy people to work to survive. To prohibit someone from working is to consign many to inevitable poverty. In these days of open-ended quarantines we must wisely weigh the risks of all parties involved and get our unemployed neighbors back to work as soon as we can. Quarantines are one way of loving our neighbor, and getting them back to work quickly and prudently is another.