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Stripping Roses from the Cross

A passage from the chapter titled Luther’s Theology of the Cross in Christian Dogmatics by Braaten/Jensen

Particularly important is the manner in which Luther moves to strip the roses from the cross. Christ comes among us and dies a real death “wrapped in our sins.” He is not paying God according to some celestial bookkeeping scheme. He is dying — suffering the punishment of being found “among thieves,” because he willed it so. Nor is he a religious hero, demonstrating the potency of his God-consciousness or his faithfulness to his calling to the end, thus becoming the example for all our religious aspirations. He was dying: feeling in himself and in his conscience the agony of the ultimate separation. God is hidden in his death; indeed, God dies. What that means is that all the systems by which theology has sought to rescue Jesus from death, making a meaning of it which obscures the fact of it, are suddenly cut away. Our theological theories cannot save Jesus, just as they cannot save us. Only God, the God who creates ex nihilo, who is the power of life itsef, can do that. The resurrection alone saves from death. A cross without roses brings something new: it puts to death and it raises up.