Summary: How do we view the cross during this Lenten Season that speaks to us in a meaningful way? Is the cross applicable to our 21st century life?
Iliff and Saltillo UM Church
Third Sunday of Lent
February 27, 2005
“God’s Foolishness and God’s Wisdom”
INTRODUCTION: Story: When a group of churches advertized their Easter services, no reference was made to the cross. This omission was deliberate. One church official explained, “The cross carries too much cultural baggage.
The cross has always been offensive to some people. In today’s scripture Paul said, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (I Cor. 1:18). Without that cross, the empty tomb, however, would be meaningless.
Crucifixion is said to be one of the most excruciating forms of death that we can imagine and it is hard for us to comprehend Jesus dying on such a cross. Today the cross, to many people, is little more than a fashion symbol worn around their neck. No thought is given to its spiritual significance. Maybe we don’t give too much thought to it either as we rush through our daily lives.
STORY: There is a Cross that stands in Greenwich, Connecticut made out of raw, unpolished steel. When it rains, red rusty drops roll of the cross like blood. On sunny days in winter, rust-red holes dot the snow at its base.
What do you suppose goes through the minds of those who pass by that weathered symbol? And more important what is their response to its message? Is it mere foolishness or does it point to Christ’s work accomplished on the Old Rugged Cross? Does it make any impack on persons as they walk by? Why have people always had such different reactions to the cross--both favorable and unfavorable?
1. Figure Out Salvation: One reason is that people try to figure out salvation through human reasoning. The Jews had to always have a “sign” or a miracle before they would believe. Paul said, “we preach Christ crucified and it is a stumbling block to the Jews.” Do you know what a stumbling block is?
A stumbling block is the stick that holds the bait in a bird trap. Once a bird perches on the stick, the trap springs. What were the stumbling blocks to the Jews? The Jews were looking for an earthly king who would deliver them--not one who would die on a cross. They were always asking for a sign as proof. Paul said the Greeks look for wisdom and knowledge and to them the cross is foolishness. The Greeks prided themselves in philosophical language. They were people of wit and reading who had cultivated the arts and sciences. They laughed at the story of a crucified savior and dispised the apostles way of telling it. They wondered what hope was there to be saved by one who could not save himself. The Greeks and Romans both looked on anyone crucified on a cross as the lowest of criminals--how could he be a savior? How could they trust one who were condemned and crucified like a common criminal? The pride of their human reasoning could not accept it. The Greeks thought it was just stupidity to believe such a doctrine.
People today search in all different ways to figure out salvation with their own human reasoning and overlook the cross as well.
Why didn’t Paul adapt the message of the cross to suit each of these groups? Paul insisted on preaching “Christ and Him crucified” in a plain and simple language because he didn’t want the flowing, philosophical wors to overshadow the cross. He didn’t want to use beautiful persuasive words lest the cross of Christ have no effect. It wasn’t that Paul could not have preached in eloquent language because Scripture tells us that he was an educated person who sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the teacher.
I Corinthians 1:17 Paul said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel not with wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
The NIV says “lest the Cross of Christ be emptied of power.”
2. Different Effects of this Preaching: Each of the groups of people heard the message differently. During this Lenten season how do you hear the messsage of the cross? What does it say to you? Is it something you have always heard but haven’t given much thought to it? Is the cross just something that is a part of the church calendar and religious traditions? Is it something that people couldn’t possibly believe today? After all, times have changed. As you sit here today, what does the preaching of the cross mean to you? Is it foolishness? I hope not.
Although Paul says it is foolishness to those who are perishing, there is another side to the cross. He says it is “the power of God to those who are saved.”