Good Friday Homily by Peter J. Leithart

I have so much enjoyed this I wanted to share it:

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Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus and the cross. Was that enough? To answer that question, we need to answer another: What is the cross?

The cross is the work of the Father, who gave His Son in love for the world; the cross is the work of the Son, who did not cling to equality with God but gave Himself to shameful death; the cross is the work of the Spirit, through whom the Son offers Himself to the Father and who is poured out by the glorified Son. The cross displays the height and the depth and the breadth of eternal Triune love.

The cross is the light of the world; on the cross Jesus is the firmament, mediating between heaven and earth; the cross is the first of the fruit-bearing trees, and on the cross Jesus shines as the bright morning star; on the cross Jesus is sweet incense arising to heaven, and He dies on the cross as True Man to bring the Sabbath rest of God.

Adam fell at a tree, and by a tree he was saved. At a tree Eve was seduced, and through a tree the bride was restored to her husband. At a tree, Satan defeated Adam; on a tree Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. At a tree man died, but by Jesus’ death we live. At a tree God cursed, and through a tree that curse gave way to blessing. God exiled Adam from the tree of life; on a tree the Last Adam endured exile so that we might inherit the earth.

The cross is the tree of knowledge, the tree of judgment, the site of the judgment of this world. The cross is the tree of life, whose cuttings planted along the river of the new Jerusalem produce monthly fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations.

The cross is the tree in the middle of history. It reverses what occurred in the beginning at the tree of Eden, and because of the cross, we are confident the tree of life will flourish through unending ages after the end of the age.

The cross is the wooden ark of Noah, the refuge for all the creatures of the earth, the guarantee of a new covenant of peace and the restoration of Adam. The cross is the ark that carries Jesus, the greater Noah, with all His house, through the deluge and baptism of death to the safety of a new creation.

The cross is the olive tree of Israel on which the true Israel died for the sake of Israel. For generations, Israel worshiped idols under every green tree. Israel cut trees, burned wood for fuel, and shaped the rest into an idol to worship. Now in the last days, idolatrous Israel cut trees, burned wood for fuel, and shaped the rest into a cross. The cross is the climax of the history of Israel, as the leaders of Israel gather to jeer, as their fathers had done, at their long-suffering King.

The cross is the imperial tree, where Jesus is executed as a rebel against empire. It is the tree of Babylon and of Rome and of all principalities and powers that will have no king but Caesar. It is the tree of power that has spawned countless crosses for executing innumerable martyrs. But the cross is also the imperial tree of the Fifth Monarchy, the kingdom of God, which grows to become the chief of all the trees of the forest, a haven for birds of the air and beasts of the field.

The cross is the staff of Moses, which divides the sea and leads Israel dry through it. The cross is the wood thrown into the waters of Marah to turn the bitter waters sweet. The cross is the pole on which Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, as Jesus is lifted up to draw all men to Himself.

The cross is the tree of cursing, for cursed is every man who hangs on a tree. On the tree of cursing hung the chief baker of Egypt; but now bread of life. On the tree of cursing hung the king of Ai and the five kings of the South; but now the king of glory, David’s greater Son. On the tree of cursing hung Haman the enemy who sought to destroy Israel; but now the savior of Israel, One greater than Mordecai. Jesus bears the curse and burden of the covenant to bear the curse away.

The cross is the wooden ark of the new covenant, the throne of the exalted savior, the sealed treasure chest now opened wide to display the gifts of God – Jesus the manna from heaven, Jesus the Eternal Word, Jesus the budding staff. The cross is the ark in exile among Philistines, riding in triumph even in the land of enemies.

Jesus had spoken against the temple, with its panels and pillars made from cedars of Lebanon. He predicted the temple would be chopped and burned, until there was not one stone left on another. The Jews had made the temple into another wood-and-stone idol, and Israel must have her temple, even at the cost of destroying the Lord of the temple. Yet, the cross becomes the new temple, and at Calvary the temple is destroyed to be rebuilt in three days. The cross is the temple of the prophet Ezekiel, from which living water flows out to renew the wilderness and to turn the salt sea fresh.

The cross is the wood on the altar of the world on which is laid the sacrifice to end all sacrifice. The cross is the wood on which Jesus burns in His love for His Father and for His people, the fuel of His ascent in smoke as a sweet-smelling savor. The cross is the wood on the back of Isaac, climbing Moriah with his father Abraham, who believes that the Lord will provide. The cross is the cedar wood burned with scarlet string and hyssop for the water of purification that cleanses from the defilement of death.

The cross is planted on a mountain, and Golgotha is the new Eden, the new Ararat, the new Moriah; it is greater than Sinai, where Yahweh displays His glory and speaks His final word, a better word than the word of Moses; it is greater than Zion, the mountain of the Great King; it is the climactic mount of transfiguration where the Father glorifies His Son. Calvary is the new Carmel, where the fire of God falls from heaven to consume a living twelve-stone altar to deliver twelve tribes, and turn them into living stones. Planted at the top of the world, the cross is a ladder to heaven, angels ascending and descending on the Son of man.

The cross tears Jesus and the veil so that through His separation He might break down the dividing wall that separated Yahweh from his people and Jew from Gentile. The cross stretches embrace the world, reaching to the four corners, the four winds of heaven, the points of the compass, from the sea to the River and from Hamath to the brook of Egypt. It is the cross of reality, the symbol of man, stretching out, as man does, between heaven and earth, distended between past and future, between inside and outside.

The cross is the crux, the crossroads, the twisted knot at the center of reality, to which all previous history led and from which all subsequent history flows. By it we know all reality is cruciform – the love of God, the shape of creation, the labyrinth of human history. Paul determined to know nothing but Christ crucified, but that was enough. The cross was all he knew on earth; but knowing the cross he, and we, know all we need to know.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Athanasius on the Incarnation

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The Logos, Athanasius teaches, is the image of the living, only true God. Man is the image of the Logos. In communion with him consist the original holiness and blessedness of paradise. Man fell by his own will, and thus came to need redemption. Evil is not a substance of itself, not matter, as the Greeks suppose, nor does it come from the Creator of all things. It is an abuse of freedom on the part of man, and consists in selfishness or self-love, and in the dominion of the sensuous principle over the reason. Sin, as apostasy from God, begets idolatry. Once alienated from God and plunged into finiteness and sensuousness, men deified the powers of nature, or mortal men, or even carnal lusts, as in Aphrodite. The inevitable consequence of sin is death and corruption. The Logos, however, did not forsake men. He gave them the law and the prophets to prepare them for salvation. At last he himself became man, neutralized in human nature the power of sin and death, restored the divine image, uniting us with God and imparting to us his imperishable life. The possibility and legitimacy of the incarnation lie in the original relation of the Logos to the world, which was created and is upheld by him. The incarnation, however, does not suspend the universal reign of the Logos. While he was in man, he was at the same time everywhere active and reposing in the bosom of the Father. The necessity of the incarnation to salvation follows from the fact, that the corruption had entered into human nature itself, and thus must be overcome within that nature. An external redemption, as by preaching God, could profit nothing. “For this reason the Saviour assumed humanity, that man, united with life, might not remain mortal and in death, but imbibing immortality might by the resurrection be immortal. The outward preaching of redemption would have to be continually repeated, and yet death would abide in man.”. The object of the incarnation is, negatively, the annihilation of sin and death; positively, the communication of righteousness and life and the deification of man. The miracles of Christ are the proof of his original dominion over nature, and lead men from nature-worship to the worship of God. The death of Jesus was necessary to the blotting out of sin and to the demonstration of his life-power in the resurrection, whereby also the death of believers is now no longer punishment, but a transition to resurrection and glory.—This speculative analysis of the incarnation Athanasius supports by referring to the continuous moral effects of Christianity, which is doing great things every day, calling man from idolatry, magic, and sorceries to the worship of the true God, obliterating sinful and irrational lusts, taming the wild manners of barbarians, inciting to a holy walk, turning the natural fear of death into rejoicing, and lifting the eye of man from earth to heaven, from mortality to resurrection and eternal glory. The benefits of the incarnation are incalculable, like the waves of the sea pursuing one another in constant succession.

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-590

Founding Father Elias Boudinot on the Demise of a People

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“Good government generally begins in the family,
and if the moral character of a people once degenerate, their political character must soon follow.”

Elias Boudinot (1740 – 1821)


Elias Boudinot is one of many of America’s forgotten “founding fathers”. He served as President of the Continental Congress (1782 -1783), the Director of the United States Mint (1795 – 1805), was the first lawyer admitted to the Supreme Court bar, was a trustee of Princeton University, founded the American Bible Society (which is still with us), and supported missions and missionary work.

Boudinot of New Jersey of Huguenot descent,was a devout Presbyterian, who wrote the tract “The Age of Revelation” in response to Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason”.

His tract “The Age of Revelation” can be found here

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As we look at the American landscape today we can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that Boudino’s words have proved true.

Yet, his words also tell us that if the demise of a people originates in “the government of the family” and it’s “moral character”, then certainly the converse is true as well. We must remember that the key to rebuilding the “moral character” of a people, begins in the same place, in the home and with “the government of the family”.

Messianic Leaders…

Hitler holds a fascination for us because his dictatorship enjoyed such wide support of the people.  Perhaps never in history was a dictator so well liked.  He had the rare gift of motivating a nation to want to follow him.  Communist leaders such as Lenin or Mao Tse-tung arose to power through revolutions that cost millions of lives; consequently they were hated by the masses.  Hitler attracted not only the support of the middle class but also of the university students and professors.  For example, psychologist Carl Jung grew intoxicated with “the mighty phenomenon of national Socialism at which the whole world gazes in astonishment.”

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Hitler arose in Germany at a time when the nation was a democracy.  He obtained his power legitimately, if unfairly.  The nation was waiting for him, eager to accept a demagogue who appeared to have the talent needed to lead her out of the abyss.  The people yearned for a leader who would do for them what democracy could not.

Erwin W. Lutzer in Hitler’s Cross

The Federal Government has taken the place of God

….the Federal Government has taken the place of God. It has arrogated to itself the privilege of defining what is right and wrong, good and evil. When God is not acknowledged, man becomes the sovereign. When man becomes the definer of liberty, liberty is lost.

Thus we find that we have lost what our forefathers called liberty. We have grown up in a world where no one truly “owns” property (you may think you own it, but try not paying your property taxes one year and you will see who really owns your land).

Further, we do not have liberty to use our property in lawful ways. “Environmental” laws limit the freedom of use as well. We can kill our unborn children, but are forbidden to cut down a tree on our own property without a permit. The Federal Government as if it was God, asserts a pre-eminent claim on the earth and the fullness thereof. One peculiarly blatant expression of this is “eminent domain.” Whatever and whenever the Government desires the use of your land, it claims the prerogative to it. God destroyed Ahab for doing what the modern Government does every year.

We are no longer free to exercise our gifts and talents. More and more the Federal Government limits how and when and where we may labor. Licensing laws, labor regulations, minimum wage legislation, unemployment taxes, social security taxes, union standards, federal health and safety regulations, racial quotas, anti-discrimination legislation, environmental regulations, and a well-nigh endless host of others laws, fees, prohibitions, limitations, regulations, and specifications, severely restrict the exercise of God-given gifts and abilities.

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(A zillion little bureaucracy’s bind us hand and foot)

Need I mention that by means of the income tax, the Federal Government has claimed the right to the fruit of our labors. By it, the Federal government exalts itself over God (by claiming more than God does in the tithe).

In recent years we have seen how this is in fact a claim on all the livelihood of an individual. Tax exemptions are now viewed as “subsidies.” The argument is, to be granted a tax exemption is the same as being given a subsidy. The implication is that all your income belongs to the National Government and the Government could take it all should it so desire, but by means of tax exemptions, it graciously allows you to keep some of your earnings.

In education: certification, accreditation, and educational standards set by Federal bureaucrats continue to limit educational freedom. The Government continues to view the children as belonging to itself by asserting a “compelling interest” in this or that aspect of our children’s upbringing.

Freedom of religion has come to mean “freedom to believe whatever you want, so long as you do not act in a way contrary to public policy.” Practically this means, our freedom of religion has been confined to the space between our ears.

We have now lived to see what our Founding Fathers thought impossible in this land. The Congress regularly legislates immorality, lines its own pockets, makes decisions based upon self- interest rather than upon what is right and best and then brags about its public-spirited generosity and compassion. We live in a country where the Constitution has no more real authority than the Royal Family in England. We like to be able to refer to it and trot it out on patriotic occasions, but we have no desire to take it seriously and find those who would suggest that we should, fearfully flatheaded.

We live in a land in which the people expect the government to protect them and provide for them and secure their futures. We have not freed the slaves, we have simply extended the plantation. Now, we are all slaves, captives to our liberators. We think we are free only because we have never known true freedom.

From Steve Wilkins in The Great Civil War Debate available on DVD


Patrick Henry on “Christian” America

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

“The Bible is worth all the other books which have ever been printed.”

Patrick Henry

Saviors of the World…

Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save the world – others have sacrificed others in order to save it…

Our world is full of ideological  “isms”. Marxism, Nazism, Feminism (abortion), Environmentalism (see my post below) etc. What many of these “isms” have in common is that they see themselves as “saviors” who are either fighting some sort of injustice or saving us from some impending disaster.

People who are driven by these ideological “isms” are willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to bring about the needed salvation or utopia…

Sacrificing himself for the sake of an idea, he does not hesitate to sacrifice other people for it. Among his contemporaries he sees either merely the victims of the world’s evil he dreams of eradicating or the perpetrators of that evil . . . This feeling of hatred for the enemies of the people forms the concrete and active psychological foundation of his life. Thus the great love of mankind of the future gives birth to a great hatred for people; the passion for organizing an earthly paradise becomes a passion for destruction.

Semyon Frank quoted by Michael Burleigh

For more on this subject I recommend this article titled “The Abusive Exploitation of the Human Religious Sentiment”:Michael Burleigh as Historian of “Political Religion”.