The Cross as an Altar

Pentecost 27 Tuesday

Luke 23:34

Yet Jesus said:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they do.”

While Jesus is in such distress and torture, he is concerned more about our distress than his suffering. For you hear that he asks God for us sinners, not for himself, that God would be gracious unto us and forgive our sins. Hebrews 5:7 talks about such prayer, stating that in the days of his flesh, Christ “sacrificed prayer and supplication with loud cries and tears to him who could help him from death; and he was also heard because he honored God.” We should take comfort in such suffering and prayer. For just as he suffers, so he also prayers, not only for those who were present at the time and who seized him and nailed him to the cross, but also for us. For the people back then were only the servants of our sins. For if your and my sins had not nailed him to the cross, they would have had to leave him in peace. Yet since Christ exists as the true Priest and the Lamb of God to pay for the sin of the entire world by his sacrifice or death, Jews and Gentiles gained power to act against him. Therefore, when he prays for those who crucify him, he asks for all of us whose sins are the cause of his cross and dying. Therefore, we should consider the gallows and cross where Christ suffered as an altar where Christ offered up his life and where he carried out his priestly office also by praying, so that we would be free from sins and liberated from eternal death. For he who takes away sin takes away death as well. Why? Because death has lost its power where sin is gone; this is also true for hell. This is what Christ, our one and eternal Priest, accomplished on the cross, reconciling us to God without our works, by his own suffering, so that he became a curse for us and died for the sake of our sins on the cross where he finally even for the sinners. Remember to thank him wholeheartedly for this…Our opponents are like those who, as Isaiah 43:8 calls those who despise God’s Word, are “blind although they see, who are deaf although they hear,” who have a hardened, ignorant heart. For how else could it be possible that they appreciate this
sacrifice so little that they should place their trust also in their own works, indulgences, and elusive monk’s cowls? Why do people not instead seek the better comfort here where Christ offers up his suffering and life and asks for us, saying,
“Father, here I am, a Mediator between you and the poor sinners. I die for them; I sacrifice myself for them; have mercy on them,” etc. Our opponents hear and see this; still, they are to scream and rage against it and condemn us as heretics. This is God’s horrible wrath. May God graciously protect us from this! Yet if he allows us to fall, may he allow us to fall in the kind of sin we feel and confess, not in the kind that is totally counter to grace while it is adorned and praised as holiness.

St. Louis ed., 13.1:472-474.

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