March 6, 2016: But We Preach Christ Crucified!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, the shame, the pain, the anguish of the cross is an affront to our minds. The last thing we want in life is to face such dishonor and such a fate. And when we think of You, our God, suffering so—well, it’s like a huge body blow. And yet, the cross still draws us to You because it fully reveals the depth of Your love for us. And it is for that reason we glory in Your cross. Yes, thank You for suffering in such a manner to save us. Amen


Text: I Cor. 1: 18-25

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Let’s time travel today. The year is 56 AD and you find yourself in Corinth, Greece. It happens to be a Sunday morning, late morning, about like now. The markets are bustling with sellers hawking food, clothing, and “magic” amulets from many of the local Greek temples. You notice that some of those temples have people going into them. The followers of Artemis, Mercury, and Zeus are trying to entice you to go and pay homage to their particular “god.”—He or she will grant you your fondest wish—all for a donation. There are Roman temples about, too. Similar temple shills are out front of those, as well. Maybe if you go in there the local officials will notice and you’ll get better treatment when it comes to negotiating that contract to feed their troops? You’re tempted.

But then, you go down a little back alley and there is a small, nondescript building housing a Christian church. There is no sign on the door and no loud-mouthed proponent out front trying to entice you in. All there is singing coming through the door. You’ve heard about these Christians. You’ve never been to their meetings before. Why not go in and see what it’s like? So you do. It’s small, but crowded with people. Their priest, preacher, leader is just about to read a brand new letter written to them by someone named: Paul. You’ve also heard a little about this man. He’s traveled extensively throughout the empire, especially Greece, and is known as a rabble-rouser. The preacher, or pastor, as they call him, is now reading this: “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.” Whoa! You know all about crosses. You’ve seen those Roman torture devices along the highway with criminals hanging on them. It’s awful. It’s shameful. It’s something to be avoided at all costs. How can the cross “save” anyone? That’s a paradox. It makes no sense to your mind.

Yet, this apparent nonsense still intrigues you, so you listen some more. “For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

Whoa, again! This man Paul just insulted literally every other temple and philosophy known throughout the Greek and Roman world! The “how to sell anything” book you read by Demetrius Carnegie, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” certainly wasn’t on Paul’s reading list! This Paul is saying all of them are dopes, no nothings, ignorant fools. Ah, he must think he has a corner on the market into godly insight.

The preacher goes on: “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 (a scandal) to the 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.”

You’re a Greek. You’ve been schooled since day one that knowledge is power and that humans can sort of control their destiny by learning more and more and more. This Paul is saying that’s all wrong! How can these other Greeks here listen to this? As to the Jews present, well, you know a little about them since they sell alongside of you. You know they are into realism, they expect their god to do miracles and other fabulous things to make their lives better and more complete. There’s a reason for that Greek phrase about them: “Deus ex machina” or God is like a puppet master, a machine from the heavens, that controls our strings. You also know that Christians believe in someone named: Jesus Christ. Supposedly, according to them, He was God’s Son who died on a cross in Jerusalem about 25 years ago to pay for their sins and make them right with God. A dead God? How can that be? A God Who rose again after being dead? How can that happen? And a cross having life-changing power? All you’ve ever seen a cross do is snuff life out. These people must be deluded. Perhaps you should go to the temple of Artemis and ask for a favor instead?

And then, the preacher reads some more and says: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” Those words give you pause. They hit your heart. If there really is One God Who is all-powerful that has to be true. The logic of it is inescapable. Of course, the clever Paul put that statement in the form of a conditional sentence which is a contrary to fact sentence. This means God really isn’t foolish at all or weak at all—and putting Him up against humans shows how small and ignorant we really are. Suddenly, your heart is laid bare. Suddenly you feel that you’re pretty small. Could God really use a cross to change people? Obviously everyone else present believes so. They’re all nodding in agreement.

In your travels you’ve seen placards beneath some public crucifixions where the person was identified as a Christian. Those still alive never bad-mouthed their God. Those dead always had slight smiles on their faces. You always wondered: why? Could this be the reason? Are they tapped into something beyond human comprehension? Did they really see their risen Savior before they breathed their last breath? Is this the reason those other Christian merchants don’t cheat the people or overcharge or falsify contracts?

You leave when the little service is over unsettled yet amazed. How different this service is from the heathen temples. They didn’t ask or demand anything from you. They only sought to give you God’s peace and their love. As you walk out the door one thought continues to plague you which you cannot get out of your head. It is this: BUT WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED! Maybe you’ll have to come back next Sunday and learn more…….Amen