Christ Wrapped in Sin
Thursday of Pentecost 17
15 September 2016
In the communion liturgy we extol Christ the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." These are among the most comforting words ever heard by humans. For if Christ bears the sin of the world and I am in the world, then He bears my sin. If He bears it, then I do not. I am free of sin and its guilt, because He has taken my sin and its guilt upon Himself.
 
This is the great divide. Either I must bear my own sin or Christ by bearing my sin must take it away from me. Either I must atone for my own sin or Christ is the atonement cover for my sin. Either I believe that I can take care of my own sin or I believe that Christ has taken care of it. Any religious teaching that claims that I bear my own sin, that I atone for my own sin, or that I take care of my own sin is false, misleading and non-Christian. All attempts at piety apart from wrapping Christ in our sin will fail miserably and leave us mired in our guilt.
 
The doing must always be Christ's. The receiving must be ours. He takes my sin. I receive his righteousness. He is the Lamb of God who takes away my sin. I am the sinner who gives Him my iniquity. He takes my poverty. I receive His riches. My sin is wrapped in Him. I am wrapped in His righteousness. All He has done, He has done to take away sin.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"John the Baptist called Christ 'the Lamb of God' (Jn 1:29). He is, of course, innocent, because He is the Lamb of God without spot or blemish. But because He bears the sins of the world, His innocence is pressed down with the sins and the guilt of the entire world. Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have committed or may commit in the future, they are as much Christ's own as if He Himself had committed them. In short, our sin must be Christ's own sin, or we shall perish eternally. The wicked [legalists] have obscured this true knowledge of Christ which Paul and the prophets have handed down to us.
 
"Isaiah speaks the same way about Christ. It says: 'God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all' (Is 53:6). These words must not be diluted but must be left in their precise and serious sense. For God is not joking in the words of the prophet; He is speaking seriously and out of great love, namely, that this Lamb of God, Christ, should bear the iniquity of us all. But what does it mean to 'bear'? The [legalists] reply: 'To be punished.' Good. But why is Christ punished? Is it not because He has sin and bears sin? That Christ has sin is the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Psalms. Thus in Psalm 40 we read: 'My iniquities have overtaken me' (Ps 40:12); and 'I said: "O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!"' (Ps 41:4) and in Psalm 69: 'O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you' (Ps 69:5). In these psalms the Holy Spirit is speaking in the person of Christ and testifying in clear words that He has sinned or has sins. These testimonies of the psalms are not the words of an innocent one; they are the words of the suffering Christ, who undertook to bear the person of all sinners and therefore was made guilty of the sins of the entire world.
 
"Therefore Christ not only was crucified and died, but by divine love sin was laid upon Him. When sin was laid upon Him, the Law came and said: 'Let every sinner die! And therefore, Christ, if You want to reply that You are guilty and that You bear the punishment, you must bear the sin and the curse as well.' Therefore Paul correctly applies to Christ this general law from Moses: 'Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.' Christ hung on a tree; therefore Christ is a curse of God.
 
"And this is our highest comfort, to clothe and wrap Christ this way in my sins, your sins, and the sins of the entire world, and in this way to behold Him bearing all our sins. When He is beheld this way, He easily removes all the fanatical opinions of our opponents about justification by works. For the papists dream about a kind of faith 'formed by love.' Through this they want to remove sins and be justified. This is clearly to unwrap Christ and to unclothe Him from our sins, to make Him innocent, to burden and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins, and to behold them, not in Christ but in ourselves. This is to abolish Christ and make Him useless. For if it is true that we abolish sins by the works of the Law and by love, then Christ does not take them away, but we do. But if He is truly the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who became a curse for us, and who was wrapped in our sins, it necessarily follows that we cannot be justified and take away sins through love. For God has laid our sins, not upon us but upon Christ, His Son. If they are taken away by Him, then they cannot be taken away by us. All Scripture says this, and we confess and pray the same thing in the Creed when we say: 'I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.'"

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.13
Isaiah 53

Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;and as one from whom men hide their face she was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.  (ESV)
Prayer
O Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us. Amen.
 
For the many young people who are visiting our church, that they might be comforted by the proclamation of the Lamb of God who takes away sin
 
For children who are being catechized by their pastors, that they would lead these children to the arms of the Lamb of God
 
For those who have been taught that they must bear their own sin and guilt, that God would send them true preachers of the holy faith to proclaim the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and free them from the burden of sin and guilt
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016