18 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. 19 For it is written:  “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

:  You have probably thought about the way you’d like to die.  I think the best would be to simply and painlessly die in my sleep.  But, then I think about it and wonder if it would be better to enjoy the Lord’s Supper for the assurance of my sins and then simple pass out and die and then awaken in the glory of Jesus in heaven.  That would be nice.  If given the choice on how you would die, what would you pick?   So, have you every considered why couldn’t Jesus have died some other way than by hanging on a cross?  Would it have made that much difference if Jesus has lived to be a ripe old age and simply die in his sleep?  Or lost his life to cancer, or been run over by a Roman chariot, or killed by a Sanhedrin hit man? So let’s join St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 to consider why

It Had To Be The Cross

To Make Foolishness Wise

The question of why Jesus had to die on the cross can be easily added to the many other questions people have had about God’s plan of salvation. 1) If God is God, then why so much violence?   2) If Jesus is God then why let himself be so victimized to such an extreme?   3) If the Father so loved his Son, why allow him to be so bullied and abused?  4)  If Jesus’ death on the cross does what the Bible claims it really does—pay the penalty of all the sins of all people—then isn’t this really a blank check from God for sinners to go and do whatever sinning they want to do because they’re forgiven anyway?   5)  Isn’t that really what Paul is saying when he agrees,

 For the message of the cross is foolishness”

according to human standards.  Put the cross up for debate on Facebook or Instant Messenger, or between scholars and philosophers as the topic on CNN, or just a conversation between you and one of your skeptical friends and you’ll hear these kind of convincing arguments.  THE CROSS JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!  It really does frustrate human intelligence that forgiveness could be so quick and God could be so cruel!

And it gets worse!   When Christians make poor choices that go against God’s holy will that are witnessed by the skeptical world, then the skeptics are shown the open door through which they can raise their questions.   You think you’re so wise when you check your Christian ethics at the door and join with everyone else in the office scheme that everybody knows is wrong, but pretends to be right.   Are you really being wise when you win the religious argument, but shut the door on speaking to that person again about Jesus?   Are you really being wise to tally up all your church attendance so that some day you can start skipping worship so you can spend your banked-up time on yourself?   Sounds to me like the Greeks weren’t the only ones who

“look for wisdom.”

We think we have it all figured out until Paul says,

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

God makes worldly wisdom foolish and says,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

So, instead of leaving our Christian ethics at home, let’s leave our worldly wisdom at home.  Instead of trying to defend why God allows something to happen, how about we turn the conversation toward what he has already done to save us from sin through a Savior.  Instead of doing things for God so that he does things for you, how about we remember all the things God has already done for us and expect nothing in return.  I know, that sounds like foolishness.  And when it does, stop and take a look at the cross.  Don’t let Satan make God’s wisdom look foolish by showing you Jesus who as taken away by his enemies, mocked by soldiers, ridiculed by Pilate and nailed to a cross as a sign of weakness and defeat.  Look at the cross NOT to figure it out, but to simply believe that

“For message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”

How ridiculous that God the Father would let his Son be killed—that’s what I know.  But, what I believe is that the Father gave up his Son to be the sacrifice for my penalty for all my sins.  How ridiculous that Jesus would surround himself with selfish, weak sinners for friends—that’s what I know as I watch them all desert Jesus when the times got tough.  But, what I believe is that Jesus chose his disciples, chose you, chose me, not because we’re so good, but because he’s so good!   How ridiculous that Jesus would unlock the gates of heaven for a thief during this last hour confession!  That’s what I know, but what I believe is that at my dying breath, I’ll take rest in the arms of my loving Father for Jesus’ sake, just like the father in the parable that lavished his love on his prodigal son.

Here’s the thing—we must be aware of the potentially fatal flaw of needing to know, being fully tested and build upon self-acquired wisdom like the Greeks in Corinth.  The world then sounds so much like our world today,

“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom.”

So many want signs that the Bible is right, and that God is who he claims to be.   He is our Savior who died on the cross to save us from our sins to make God’s foolishness wise at the cross, and that Good News…

Makes our Weakness Strong

I’d like to tell you a little story about Maria and her daughter Christina.  They lived in a small village in Brazil.   Our missionaries in Brazil ran into this type of situation all the time.  Their home was a one room house on a dusty street.  Oh, they tried to add some color on the gray walls by hanging an outdated calendar with pictures of flowers, a faded picture of their family and a wooden cross.  They had no TV, no phone, and not even a bed—but only a couple of wooden pallets on the floor so they didn’t have to lie on the dirt floor. Maria’s husband died when Christina was three years old.  Now she was 15.  Maria’s income as a maid didn’t really provide enough income in order to have hope for a better life.  Christina was old enough to get a job of her own and attractive enough to have a line of potential husbands waiting in line, but she wasn’t interested in marrying young and raising a family.  She started talking about trading in her dusty town for the excitement of living in the big city.  Some said she got her independence from her mother.  That worried her mother who warned, “You don’t know people there.  Jobs are scarce and life is cruel.”  One morning Maria woke to find Christina’s bed empty.  She knew what happened.  She had gone to the big city.   She also knew what she had to do to find her daughter.  She quickly packed a few clothes into a bag, grabbed what little savings she had and went to the drug store.  There she had a photo taken of herself and printed as many pictures as she could afford and boarded a bus to Rio.  Maria knew her daughter had no way of earning money, but that she was too stubborn to give up.  When pride meets hunger, human beings will do the unthinkable.  So, Maria began her search.  Bars, Nightclubs, hotels, any place with a bad reputation.  Night and day she searched and at each place she left her picture on the mirror, taped on bathroom stalls, bulletin boards with a message on the back.  When Maria ran out of pictures and only had enough money to return to the village she headed home.  Sad.  Broken.  Longing for Christina.   It was several weeks later that Christina was coming down the stairs of the hotel with her young face tired.  Her brown eyes danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear.  Her dream had become a nightmare!   Oh, how many times she wanted to trade in these beds for her pallet back at her village—but the village was in too many ways, too far away.  Then at the bottom of the stairs she saw the familiar face on the picture.  Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she took the photo and read the back in her mother’s handwriting, “Whatever you have done.  Whatever you have become.  It doesn’t matter.  Please come home.” And she did.

You also know that sin doesn’t bring satisfaction.  Never!  It always leaves you empty and lost.  You have also had your days of sin, rebellion, sadness and weakness.  God also has a message for you.  God gives you a sign of that message.  He has put that his “cross-picture” up for you to see—there above our altar, or hanging around your neck, or shaped by the pastor at the beginning and end of the service or hanging on your walls at home.  Written on that picture is the Father’s message for you, “Please come home.”

18 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.”

Only Christ crucified makes our weakness strong.  Jesus is the power of God for you.  Don’t be afraid to be weak, to confess you have done wrong, to collapse with desperation into God’s arms where he loves to catch you.

God’s gracious arms are spread out in love poured out for sinners.  In love the forgives you fully.  In love that conquers death and opens heaven for you, Dear Christian!

There are lots of ways a person meets death.  But, Christ chose to meet his death through the cross because it proclaims foolishness and weakness.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

And now we have the answer to our question why it had to be the cross.   Where our wisdom would never think of finding God, he is there.  Where our strength would never expect to find God’s strength, he is there.  So, do you have a problem you could never solve?  A person you could never save?  A prayer you think God could never answer?   Return to Christ Crucified!  Return to the message of the cross that makes the foolishness of God eternally wise and makes our humans weakness strong in Jesus Christ.  Amen!