The Fifth Sunday After Easter May 25, 2014
210, 207(1-4), 367, 191(5-6)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father andof Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
There is a humorous story that circulates about Henry Ford and famous electrical engineer Charles Steinmetz. The story is most likely a myth, but the point it illustrates still hits home.
The story goes like this: One day the generators on Ford’s assembly line ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t fix the problem. Ford called Steinmetz who tinkered with the machines for a little while and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life and Ford got a bill for $10,000. Astounded, Ford demanded to know why the bill was so high for only several hours’ work. Steinmetz’s reply: “For tinkering with the generators: $10. For knowing how to tinker with them: $9,990.” Ford paid the bill.
Knowledge is knowing facts. Wisdom is knowing what to do with what you know. Knowledge is knowing the parts of the generator. Wisdom is knowing how to take that knowledge and make it go.
King Solomon was one of the wisest men who ever lived. He asked God for wisdom and God granted his request by giving him wisdom that surpassed that of anyone else in the land. During Solomon’s reign, people came before him with a constant stream of concerns and troubles. He gathered knowledge about their problems, and then in wisdom he responded to the information in ways that benefitted many.
Wisdom is important in earthly matters like those Solomon faced, but wisdom in spiritual things is even more important.
There is basic spiritual knowledge that is common to everyone. For example, everyone has a certain knowledge of sin. All people by nature know that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. Coupled with this basic knowledge of sin is also the knowledge that when we commit particular acts of wickedness we are disobeying not only the laws of the land, but we are going against a higher power—a Creator, a God. God puts this basic spiritual knowledge into everyone—the knowledge of sin and a conscience that reminds us that we are disobeying Him.
Another piece of knowledge common to everyone is the knowledge of death. Everyone knows that no matter how well you eat, or how often you exercise, or how long your mother or grandmother lived, the day will come when your heart will stop and the breath of life will be gone.
Knowledge of sin and death can make people uncomfortable. They don’t always know what to do with this knowledge. What would you say, for example, to someone who had knowledge they had done something wrong and was distressed about it? Could you give a wise answer to calm the conscience? What about someone who had the knowledge that he did not have long to live? What wise response could you give to that?
What wisdom is there in the face of sin and death? Make no mistake, there is wisdom, but to the many who do not look in the right place, it is hidden wisdom. People throughout the world try to offer their own wisdom in these matters, but wisdom from those who do not know Christ is shallow.
The wisdom of the day regarding sin might sound like this:
None of this wisdom really addresses the problem. None of this wisdom takes away sins you have committed. It only tries to make you feel better by brushing the wickedness under the rug so it’s not quite so visible to you. But that will only work for so long and then the conscience will be back at it again. Disobedience will return and the knowledge of sin will return and you will be right back where you started.
What often passes for wisdom concerning death is even worse. Some suggest:
Everybody knows that death happens, but nobody can offer much response to it. Nobody is very wise about it.
The wisdom of this age cannot penetrate the matters of sin and death. It gropes around in foolishness, grasping at empty theories, and it comes away in the end with as many questions as it had in the beginning. The “wisdom” of Socrates and Plato and so many other famous thinkers becomes nothing but a confused jumble when it comes to these spiritual matters. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
God has, indeed, made foolish the wisdom of the world. The world that has no answer for wickedness and evil. The world that has no answer for the inevitable death of the body must fall in the face of true wisdom.
Jesus Christ showed Himself to be the wisest of all in matters of sin and death when He came out of His own tomb on Easter morning, rising from the dead.
Jesus proved His wise mastery of all knowledge. Jesus knew what to do with the knowledge that sin was in the world. He knew how to respond. He did not sit there and make lame excuses for us. He didn’t brush our guilt under the rug as the foolish wisdom of so many—including us—might do. Instead, He carried out a plan to remove the sin. This was not a plan just to make us “feel better” about what we had done. It was, rather, a plan to bear our sins and completely remove them from us.
To accomplish His plan, Jesus went to the cross and was Himself punished for our guilt. He was punished so that our sins could be erased from God’s record book. He was punished for us so that our slate would be clean, so that we could look God in the eye and say, ‘Jesus took care of it all.’ Jesus rose from the dead and appeared alive to prove that He was no longer carrying our guilt, that all our debt was paid.
This is wisdom. Jesus had knowledge of our dreadful condition, and then He did the wisest thing. He made the wisest decision. He did what needed to be done in order to take away sin. “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
What about death? There again, Christ holds all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He knew the human condition—that death was the result of imperfections in the human body and soul, the inevitable result of man’s sin. So having removed sin, He removed also sin’s result. The empty tomb again displaying the supreme wisdom of Christ.
Jesus knew what to do with the knowledge that man faced death. Jesus knew how to respond. His response was the greatest wisdom. He rose from the dead. He showed Himself to be the firstfruits of the resurrection, the pattern that others would follow. He didn’t spew out haphazard wisdom about death and what will happen to us. He showed us the wisdom of God. He showed us no annihilation, no reincarnation, no ghost bodies. Rather, we anticipate a return to life from the dead—the breath of life breathed back into bodies that were once lifeless. You and I will come back to life even as Jesus came back to life. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
This is wisdom. This is how Christ deals with the common knowledge that we will die. He takes that knowledge and applies His wisdom. His is the response of a life-giver.
The world has its own answer for sin and death, but it is not the voice of wisdom. When the Apostle Paul preached at the city of Athens, the people really wanted to hear what he had to say. They pressed him for information on Jesus; about who He was and what He did. Things went well until Paul mentioned Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Then the crowd became upset and they went away. They thought they wanted wisdom, but at the true wisdom of the resurrection—at Christ’s wise answer to their darkest problem—they threw up their hands and stomped out (cf. Acts 17:16ff).
Hopefully we will never do the same because the wisdom is there. God’s wisdom is found in Jesus. His resurrection from the dead reveals His wise answer to sin and death. In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom. Learn them. Be confident of them. Be glad in them. “He lives our kind, wise, heavenly friend. He lives and loves us to the end” (TLH 200:6). Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.