6th Sunday of Epiphany February 13, 2022
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
23, 354, 175, 53
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Merciful and everlasting God, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all that He might bear our sins on the cross. Grant that our eyes may ever behold our Savior and His cross, that we may not fear the power of any adversaries but rather rejoice in His victory for us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Amen.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV-84)
What would you think if your neighbor displayed a hangman’s noose in the picture window of his living room? Or what would you think of a woman wearing earrings stamped with the image of an electric chair? Or what if we were to paint a mural in our church of a Nazi death camp that depicted all the brutality of such a place?
None of these are pleasant images. They remind us of horrible things, and for anyone to openly display them would be shocking and repulsive.
But if we were living 2000 years ago, we’d find this same kind of shocked horror associated with the cross and crucifixion. The cross was associated with torture of the most hideous kind. It was not a pretty way to die. It was a type of punishment reserved for the evilest of the evil.
Yet today crosses adorn our sanctuaries and are displayed outside of our church buildings. They dangle from our ears, shine from our lapels, and hang around our necks. No one is shocked by these displays. But how many really understand what the cross means? How many realize that the cross represents something that is altogether repulsive to human wisdom and pride? Do you understand, beloved of God, how shocking the cross of Jesus truly is to human thinking?
Today’s Word of God forcefully reminds us that man has absolutely no room for the cross in his thinking. But it also shows us how tremendous it is that God has made room in our hearts and lives for the wisdom and power of Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. We’ve phrased our theme today in the form of a question. WHERE IS THERE ROOM FOR THE CROSS? 1. Is there Room in Human Wisdom? 2. Is there Room in Human Pride? 3. In there Room in the Human Heart?
We begin with the question: Is there any room for the cross in human wisdom? Notice that Paul uses the word wisdom throughout our text. He’s using the word wisdom in the sense of belief systems or world views which attempt to make sense of things. This is wisdom in the sense of a body of beliefs or ideals that try to answer the deep questions of life. Everyone has a belief system. Some may call their belief system religion, others may call it philosophy. There are many, of course, who don’t think too deeply about what they believe, but everyone—whether they know it or not—is trying to make sense out of life.
Two-thousands years ago, just as today, many people spent their time trying to make sense out of life. The Jews, for example, thought it made sense to believe in a god who would make all their dreams for earthly power and material wealth come true. Their belief-system was centered around the idea that God owed these things to them because of their outwardly exemplarily life. Paul tells us that “Jews demand miraculous signs…” (v. 22) The Jews of the first century wanted a god who did things on-demand, and so they rejected Christ because He wouldn’t play their game. He wouldn’t allow Himself to be their little puppet god.
This Jewish belief system, then, was the forerunner of what we might call the “IF RELIGION.” It goes something like this: God, IF you get me out of this mess, I’ll devote myself to you. Or: IF you heal my loved one, I’ll think seriously about following you. Or: IF I can live my life the way I want to live it, then I’ll give Jesus a place in my life. If God doesn’t dance to their tune, then they have no time for Him, no room for Him in their lives.
Paul also mentions the Greeks, who were famous for their ability to think and philosophize. “…Greeks look for wisdom” (v. 22). The Greeks believed their puny little minds could come up with structures of thought that could explain everything. They believed themselves wise enough to answer the deep questions of life.
Nothing has changed today. Our world considers itself to be very sophisticated and enlightened. Man considers himself to be so wise that if God doesn’t fit into the religions, philosophies, and ways of thinking he dreams up, then he, again, has no room for such a God.
So, when that tiny band of men and women of the first century went out into the world preaching a God who, of all things, was executed on a Roman cross, both the Jews and Greeks were offended. The Jews were appalled by the very idea of a crucified Messiah. An executed and cursed Savior simply did not fit with their religious ideas of earthly glory and grandeur. The Greeks thought the Gospel message entirely too simplistic for their “great” minds to accept. The teaching that God saved the world by sending His Son to pay for our sins was so simple that even a child can understand it! How can anyone believe in such an uncomplicated God like that!
So there is no room for the cross in human wisdom. What about human pride? Is there room for the cross in human pride?
Well, the cross certainly offended the pride of the Jews. They hated the idea of a God who pays for our sins Himself, because, remember, they, believed themselves deserving of God’s favors and worthy of His blessings. They were too proud to accept a God who did all the work to save them.
The cross also offended the pride of the Greeks. The cross told the Greeks that all their philosophies were as worthless as a wooden nickel. All their thinking was a waste of time when it came to answering the big questions of life. For all the belief systems of man lead to nowhere, nowhere but hell that is.
The cross offends man because its message is nothing he could or would have ever come up with on his own. This was by God’s design. If man could discover the secret of the cross on his own, then he would have reason to boast in himself. His trust would then not be in God, but in himself. “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (v. 21)
Now, if you think pride doesn’t live inside you, just ask yourself this: When you’ve had an argument with someone, do you later do a rerun of the argument in your mind, thinking up all the things you could have said to win the argument? On the other hand, after an argument have you ever conjured up a re-run in which you lost? Yes, my friends, our pride and self-centeredness run deep. All of us have an innate desire to be number one, to find our own way through life, to chart our own path to heaven. So, the cross of Jesus is also offensive to our inborn human pride. The message of the cross implies the fact that our very nature is altogether wicked and corrupt; that God would be completely fair in damning us to hell for our rebellion against Him; and that we are completely helpless to do a single thing to save ourselves. These are things our proud heart does not wish to hear.
So how could there ever be room for the cross in any sinner’s heart when all human wisdom and pride are dead set against it? Only one way. There is only room if God makes room for the cross in the heart of man.
This is precisely what God has done for you and me. We did not accept Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the only valid belief system because we were more wise than others, or less proud than others. Paul makes that point crystal clear when he says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (v. 18)
The preaching of the cross is not merely a message, or a proclamation of good news. It is that, but it’s also the very power which caused us to turn our backs on human wisdom and pride. Its image was stamped upon our hearts when we were baptized. It is impressed more deeply upon our souls whenever we hear that Word of Life or receive the Lord’s Holy Supper. The love of Jesus’ cross overpowered our stubborn hearts so that our faith, our world-view, our values, our outlook on life are now shaped by that shocking instrument of death on which the Son of God gave His life for our fallen race. How thankful we can be that God “…chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (v. 27)
The world thinks us fools for embracing a “foolish” cross as the great meaning of life. But where has all its wisdom and pride ever gotten it? What has it offered to us that can compare to the treasure we have in that beautiful blood stained cross?
In the cross we have a God…
In the cross we have a God…
In the cross we have also been given a new way to live…
So wear that cross proudly around your neck. Hang its image on the walls of your home. But remember it’s much more than a fashion statement. It’s your faith statement that you regard the wisdom of this world as useless. It’s your declaration that the only thing worth boasting about is a Savior slain for the sins of the world. It’s you telling the world that a once dead Savior is your very reason to live, your hope in death, and the best friend anyone could ever have. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked “NIV-84” are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.