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“We Preach Christ Crucified”
1 Corinthians 1:18-31


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Third Sunday in Lent—March 11, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

In today’s Epistle Reading the Apostle Paul says, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.”

There is nothing more irritating that someone else trying to tell you how to do your job.  A carpenter doesn’t like someone else telling him how to build a house.  A teacher doesn’t like someone else telling her how to teach her class.  A businessman doesn’t like someone else telling him how to run his business.  Perhaps you’ve seen the sign posted in a mechanic’s garage: “Price per hour $40.  If you help, $80.”  But, the odd thing is, as much as we don’t like other people butting into our business, we still have the habit of trying to tell others what they should do, and how they should do it.

In today’s Epistle Reading, Paul says that we sinful humans even dare to act this way toward God: “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  The Jews and Gentiles in that verse are representative all humanity.  We don’t like the way God does things.  We reject God’s way and God’s plan. We want things done differently.  We want God to do things our way.

“Jews demand miraculous signs . . . but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews.”  Christ crucified wasn’t the message the Jews wanted to hear.  That wasn’t the way they thought things should turn out.  That wasn’t the way they wanted it done.  Because the Jews expected the Messiah to be a mighty worldly warrior and political leader, the powerful ruler of an earthly kingdom.  That’s why they ridiculed Christ as he hung on the cross: “He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”

“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews.”  They could never accept Christ crucified.  The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the hated Roman government that had occupied their country for nearly a century.  But, instead he suffered under Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, was crucified, dead, and buried.  That wasn’t the way they thought things should turn out.  Such a failure simply couldn’t be their Messiah.  They rejected God’s way, God’s plan.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  Christ crucified also wasn’t the message the non‑Jewish Greeks wanted to hear either.  That wasn’t the way they thought things should be.  That wasn’t the way they wanted it done.

Greek mythology had mighty, powerful gods: Zeus, Apollo, the great gods of Mt. Olympus, not the dead God of Mt. Calvary .  They could never accept a God so weak, so powerless, that he would allow himself to be crucified.  For them the very thought of God being put to death was ludicrous, nonsense, foolishness.  And worst of all, not to die in some glorious way, but to die on a cross!  A Roman citizen couldn’t even be crucified, because in their culture crucifixion was the most shameful way to die, reserved only for the lowest scum, the worst of criminals.  The Son of God, put to death like lowlife scum, by some second-rate governor in the backward province of Palestine?  That wasn’t the way they thought it should be.  Christ crucified simply couldn’t be their god.  They rejected God’s way, God’s plan.

“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  Like the Jews and Greeks of old, we also are guilty of rejecting God’s way, God’s plan.  The Ten Commandments in today’s Old Testament Reading tell us God’s way, God’s plan for your life.  But, as we go through the commandments, we must confess that we violate the First Commandment by putting other things before God in our lives.  We violate the Second Commandment by taking the Lord’s name in vain.  We violate the Third Commandment when we do not remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy as we ought.  We violate the Fourth Commandment when we do not honor and obey our parents and other authorities as God commands.

Right now in Adult Bible Class, in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday morning after Coffee Hour, we are studying the Sermon on the Mount.  Last week we discussed what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about the Fifth Commandment: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This morning we will discuss what he says about the Sixth Commandment: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

We also violate the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Commandments by stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting what belongs to others.  In the Ten Commandments God’s tells us the way he wants you to live, his plan for your life.  But, like the Jews and Greeks of old, we are guilty of rejecting God’s way, God’s plan.

“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.” 

Good Friday wasn’t a mistake.  Good Friday was the climax of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world.  The book of Revelation says that Christ was “slain before the foundation of the world.”  That means it was God’s plan all along, as good as done, even before creation.  Since before the beginning of time, God had a plan to bring us salvation—his way, according to his wisdom.  Paul sums up God’s plan of salvation in 2nd Corinthians: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”

“We preach Christ crucified.”  That’s God’s way, God’s plan for your salvation:  Your sins are not counted against you, because you have complete forgiveness through the death of his Son.  Complete forgiveness, not earned or deserved by you, but earned for you, by your Savior, Christ crucified.  “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.”

Amen.

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