It’s Not About You…It’s About the Cross!

Lent 3 B, March 4, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 

Click here for audio of this message

“For the word of the cross is a scandal to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]

We Americans are no strangers to scandal, and we know a scandal when we see it. Just look at current affairs within our nation; whether it involves a politician, a Hollywood star, a sports figure, or even a church leader, scandals are, unfortunately, a common part of our society. Whether the Scandal involves shameful, distasteful, offensive behavior, or something that’s legally wrong and causing general public outrage, scandals in this day and age are common. That being the case, why would St. Paul refer to the cross of Christ as scandal or folly?

Our text this morning confronts the scandal of the Christian faith. God’s Word makes it clear that to this sinful world, the cross is a scandal, a stumbling block. St. Paul makes that clear in our text. Listen to the Word’s of our text again and hear this truth ring out: “For the word of the cross is a scandal to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” [1 Corinthians 1:18]

St. Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, which was smack dab in the center of a Roman climate that was engulfed in “godless morality.” The city was known for its depravity. The poor members of the congregation were tempted to either look the other way, or allow themselves to become comfortable in that climate of depravity while they waited patiently for Jesus to come again (1 Cor 1:7). And I’m afraid, from God’s point of view, we Christian Americans are in a very similar place today.

We Christians who are trying to hold onto our faith in the middle of this scandalous society can sometimes find ourselves looking the other way, or maybe we find ourselves questioning God for allowing all of this evil to not just live among us, but to even thrive. When God seems silent in times like these, we discover the truth that His ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours. We aren’t even in the same neighborhood. I mean, we’re worried about preserving our body and He’s working on saving our souls. We dream of a pay raise and He wants us to dream on the raising of the dead. We work hard to avoid pain and seek peace and God uses pain to bring peace. “I’m going to live before I die,” we say, and He says, “Die so you can live.” We love things that rust, He loves what endures. We rejoice in our successes and He rejoices at our confessions.

Our thoughts are not like God’s thoughts and our ways are not like His ways.

God has a different agenda. He dwells in a different dimension. But through the gift of faith, we can see through Christ’s eyes and see the cross of Jesus, which the world calls foolish, scandalous, and through it we can see God’s love for sinners like us.

Instead of being intrigued by the power and wisdom of the world, the cross captivates us with the power and wisdom of God as shown through Christ’s suffering and death…that is until we forget that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts; if that happens, well.. we’ll begin to think like the world.

Dear friends, God knows how easy it is for you to slip into that mindset. He knows what a strong temptation it is for you to follow the pack and eventually have your eyes turned from Your Creator and instead look to that which is created as your source of wisdom and strength. That is why he has repeated so many times that He will destroy the wisdom of the world. Listen to just a few of the ways God states this very thing: Through the prophet Isaiah He says, “therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish”. [Isa. 29:14 ] In the book of Job, God says that, “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. (And) He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.” [Job 5:12, 13] And through the prophet Jeremiah God says, “The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the Word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them?” [Jer. 8:9]

And how does God do all of this? Well, He does just as the prophet Jeremiah said, He does it through His Word; through the Law and Gospel.

God’s Law comes to us under two tables of stone that can never be broken.

One table demands that we must love God with all of our heart and mind, and the other demands that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This foolish world thinks they can do this through careful living and their best effort.

The business owners in our gospel lesson surely thought that they were honoring the first table of God’s Law by providing goods and services that the Jewish worshipers would need to worship once they entered the temple. They bought their permit to do business and began to sell livestock and birds that would be needed for private and corporate sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. There was one problem though…they forgot that they were already in God’s temple. You see, they set up shop in the court of the gentiles. This was a place where non-Jews who were in the process of learning about God went to pray and learn more about their new faith; now they had to worship God in a stock yard.

These same business owners also must have thought that they were fulfilling the second table of the Law by offering a service to their neighbors who needed to change their money into temple currency. There was one problem with that, they were charging outrageous exchange rates that God’s Law called usury!

Every time the unbelieving wise and powerful of this world thinks they are doing pretty well, God’s Law breaks in like a mirror and shows them their true condition…they are ugly sinners! Every time they feel pleased with themselves, God’s Law barges in and overturns their tables of comfort and deceit, and demands, “Take these things away!” “What things Lord,” they may ask? To which His Law responds, “Your self-righteous, and self sufficient attitude!” “But Lord” they reply, “we have done our very best”. And to that he takes the whip of His Holy Law and drives them from His presence.

Dear friends, when God’s Law terrifies the sinful unbelieving world, they run from Him just as the merchants fled from Jesus that fateful day in the temple. Just as the merchants were forced by the Son of God to run out of the sanctuary, so sinful unbelievers today run from their Holy and all-powerful Creator. So what can be done to free our society from this awful terror? The same thing that must be done for us; instead of running from Jesus and His law, we must run to Jesus and His forgiving and loving heart. We must turn to the very thing that dying sinners laugh at and belittle…

We must turn to the cross and our crucified and resurrected Savior Jesus Christ!

Friends, when the unbelieving world ridicules you for your simple faith in Jesus Christ, do not be discouraged or disappointed; they are not ridiculing you but instead they are laughing at the very means that God has provided for you and them as the sole source of rescue from the house of slavery to sin and the terror of His Holy Perfect and Accusing Law…and that is the cross of Jesus Christ alone! People out side of Jesus Christ cannot understand how something so simple and repugnant can take away the terror of sin and ultimately death. They cannot understand why you as a Christian feel no terror in God’s Law. They cannot understand how you can be thankful in situations where they would experience only fear and worry. They can never understand these things unless through God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit they are given the gift of faith to see that Jesus is not only God’s best way of saving them, He is God’s only way!

God would have us remember that while the unbelieving world may look down on us as being simple minded and weak, we must never do the same to each other. We must not let the ways of the world divide us. We must learn to put aside any personal, political, cultural, or economic differences that we may have with each other and be of one mind and one heart. The mind and heart we must have must be that of Jesus Christ! And where is His mind and heart? It is with those very same people that belittle His cross; the place where He suffered and died for them. For this is the will of (the) Father, that none should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (So) that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.

There once was a reporter who went to an asylum for the criminally insane to gather information for a story. He was a bit surprised to find that there were only three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “No were not, you see lunatics never unite.”
Perhaps lunatics never unite, but spiritual lunatics do! This sinful, crazy world we live in is united against our Lord and what they perceive to be the scandal of the cross and the folly of our faith. They want to shut us up, because they feel if they can do that, then they have shut out the message of the cross.

Isn’t it time that we too united with the sole purpose of taking God’s message of the cross to a dying world? How can we do this and succeed when we are up against such a powerful force? Well, it’s not about you dear friends, it’s about the cross! You see, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness to (the unbelieving world), but to those of us who have responded to God’s call of faith, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God unto salvation!

May God continue to lead us through His Word and continually to His cross as our sole source of strength and wisdom. In Jesus name…AMEN!


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