Summary: This is based primarily on verse 22 of the pericope. The two divisions are: 1) Compare the Cross to Intelligence 2) Compare the Cross to Power
When I was in 4th or 5th grade, one thing that my Dad and I would do every morning during the summers was get up at about 5:30 a.m. and go bike riding. Our first stop during that ride was about half a mile away from our house, at a drive-in movie theatre. There, as the sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon, we would clean up cans that people had left there just a few hours before, when the late-night movie had ended. You see, dad had a box on his bike where the child-seat used to be, and at this first stop, we would spend 15-20 minutes crushing cans and throwing them in the box. Then we would bike to the city park, and look for cans by the 8 softball diamonds that had been used the previous evening. All we really were doing at these places were picking up other people’s trash, which we would turn in at the end of the summer to the recycling place and make some money. This experience taught me a few things: how to get up early (a lesson I’ve since forgotten), the value of bonding time with my father, it kept me active and fit, and it taught me one other lesson: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
If you’ve ever bought a used car, you have illustrated this truth. Someone got rid of that car for whatever reason: they got a new one, they wanted something bigger, or they simply just got tired of it. But that old car that they wanted to get rid of was just what you were looking for. It was trash to them, it was treasure to you.
Or you’ve been on the other side of it if you ever had a garage sale. As you’re going through the stuff in your house that you are preparing to sell, you run into dozens of things where you say to yourself, "well, I’ll try to sell this, and if no one wants it, I’ll just throw it out." That item is trash to you, but you are hoping that it will be treasure to someone else.
That’s exactly how the cross of Jesus is treated. To some, it is trash. To others, it is treasure. Sometimes we treat the cross as if it is the greatest treasure. But sadly, too often we act as if the cross is trash, compared to other things. So that’s what we will do this morning, we will compare the cross to a couple of things and see how it stands up. Let’s compare the cross to intelligence, and let’s compare it to power, and see where the trash is and where the treasure is.
Our text begins, "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." The Greek word for "foolishness" is "MOROS." It’s the same root where we get our English word "moron" from. When you were growing up, your mom probably told you that it wasn’t nice to call someone a moron, because a moron is someone who is stupid, they lack intelligence.
The ancient Greeks were no morons. Even today, in our modern, enlightened universities, Greek thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are taught in philosophy classes as some of the greatest minds the world has ever known. During the time of Jesus, the Greeks weren’t much of a military power, having been replaced by the mighty Romans, but even then, Greece, and especially Athens, was considered the capital of intellectual thought. One time, St. Paul tried to do some mission work in Athens. He had had some success in other Greek cities, but not in this university town. The atheinans were way too smart for the Gospel. They thought that Paul was a moron when he preached about a God who died on a cross so that people’s dead bodies would be raised to life. No wonder our text says, "Greeks look for wisdom." They wanted something logical, not supernatural.
Paul could have very well been writing about our day when he said that people placed the highest value on intelligence and technology. Watch a movie from about 15 years ago, when cell phones were just beginning to catch on. Back then, cell phones were so expensive that only the rich could use them, and they were so huge that you almost needed a briefcase to carry them. We laugh at how far we’ve come, when just about anyone who wants one can get one, and slip in into their purse or pocket without anyone even noticing the tiny little machine. We’ve come so far, that things from 10-15 years ago seem so out of date. We’re just smarter than that.