by The Rev. Mark T. Buetow
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Do you know how foolish you are? According to the world, you are morons! Think about it! You get up early on a Sunday morning, a day that most people are sleeping in, or out having a communion of coffee and donuts, or just relaxing or whatever. You come out to sit on the sort of bench you only sit on once a week. And you come to hear a guy wearing what amounts to a dress, almost, stand up and talk to you for 20 minutes about something that happened 2000 years ago. Every week. The same thing that happened 2000 years ago! Don't you see how ridiculous you look? Don't you realize how silly this is? Don't you get it, that it's a waste of time? That's the world's way of thinking! And St. Paul demolishes that sort of thinking with these words from our Epistle for Holy Cross Day: "We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength!" For we know that what happens here, in Christ's holy church—while it looks utterly stupid to those outside—to those who are being saved this preaching of Christ crucified is exactly how God saves us from our sins!
So thanks be to the Father that He is so foolish as to send His Son to die for sinners! Thanks be to Jesus who is so foolish as to obey the Father and be crucified for our sins. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit whose foolish message of the cross preached into our ears gives us eternal life!
Paul says that "God was pleased to save us through the foolishness of preaching Christ crucified." Think about that! God saves us by preaching into our ears the Good News that Jesus, true God and true man, was nailed to a cross for our sins! When some Greeks come looking for Jesus at the Feast, all Jesus does is point them to the hour of His death. It's no good having a Jesus who is a good teacher or a best buddy. He's not here to make friends and have parades thrown for Him. Here's here to go to that hour, the hour of His death for sinners. He is here to be lifted up on the cross and take away our sins. He is here to accomplish our salvation by obeying the Father, keeping the commandments, and shedding His blood as the ransom price for setting us free.
Everything Jesus is about, everything He came to do, comes down to the cross. To the suffering He suffers and the death He dies on that horrid instrument of Roman torture. Everything in heaven and earth and all creation and all time and history past and present comes down to this hour of Jesus, the "hour," the time of His suffering and death. All that God has done and will do is centered on this hour, this moment, this time of the Son of God taking our place in death under the judgment against sins. All of our hopes for any mercy from God rest on Jesus being the perfect Son and the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And having accomplished that salvation, and been raised from the dead, the Lord sends His preachers out to preach nothing else. Because nothing else saves us but the delivery of what Jesus did on Calvary. Delivery through preaching and the sacraments.
But the world doesn't want THAT sort of religion. The world doesn't want THAT sort of Jesus. It doesn't want a dead and bloody Jesus. It doesn't want a cross covered in Jesus' blood because WE are sinners! Even most so-called Christians don't want that! What do people want? Well the really rational and intellectual and thinking people want some "wisdom." They want preaching that challenges their thinking. They want preaching that stimulates their minds, you know, gets 'em thinking. This stuff about Jesus dying for sinners and miracles is silliness and nonsense. Just give them something practical for their everyday living. Those are the Greeks who seek wisdom! Others are like the Jews: they want signs. They want a Jesus who is knocking people on the ground and making them shake and shiver! They want every disease to disappear instantly. They want miracles and wonders and a changed life! They want a religion they can SEE!
But St. Paul is clear. Wisdom, cleverness, facts, data, information—these things don't save people. Neither do miracles and strange tongues and preachers slapping sick people on the forehead. None of this is salvation. It's only true foolishness! No, what saves us from our sins, what makes us Christians, what our religion is all about, is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. St. Paul won't let us have a "Jesus, my buddy. Jesus, my pal. Jesus, my guru or life coach." No, it's Jesus, and Him crucified for us. THAT is our salvation. Repent of wanting any other Jesus than the one who hung on the cross in your place!
On Holy Cross Day, we celebrate the cross, not for its own sake, but because, like many earthly things, God has attached His Word to it so that it accomplishes or delivers our salvation. We remember, of course, that Baptism is water combined with God's Word. The bread and wine, when Christ's Word is spoken, are the body and blood of Jesus. The cross, with the Word—literally, Jesus, the Word!--attached to it, is the means by which our salvation is accomplished. When Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the Tree of Knowledge and brought death, misery and the curse into the world, the Lord kicked them out of Eden so that they could not eat also from the Tree of Life. What would have happened? They would have lived forever cursed and cut off from God! A horrid eternity!
But there IS a new Tree of Life. That tree is the cross. And it is a tree, it's logs cut from some tree and placed in the ground as a place to hang criminals. But the tree of the cross has fruit that is even better than the original Tree of Life. The tree of the cross has as it's fruit, hanging on it's branches, the body of Jesus, and it drips its fruit of blood and water right into the church where we wash and eat and drink and hear His Word and our sins are forgiven and we are saved. The fruit of the cross, it's bounty, its produce, is the forgiveness of sins!
So why are you here? I think it's obvious that if it were up to us, we would go the way of the world. We would look at the church and what goes on here and laugh and say, "That's foolish! What a bunch of morons, those Christians!" But Jesus says, "When I have been lifted up above the earth, I will draw all people to myself." You have been drawn to Jesus. The whole world has! Some are drawn to Him and all they can do is laugh and make fun of Jesus, the Son of God nailed to a cross. But others, like you, have been drawn, brought to faith by the preaching that St. Paul calls foolishness.
You have been drawn to Jesus by the fruit of His tree, the water that poured from His side into the font. Drawn by the Lord to the font, you were washed and named with the Lord's own name. When you hear the preaching of the cross, you are being drawn to Jesus. When you are forgiven of your sins, when you despair, when you are troubled, it is the preaching of Christ crucified that draws you to the wounds of Jesus where you have certain and lasting peace. When you come to the Lord's Supper, you have been drawn by the Lord to eat more of the fruits of that tree, the cross, by eating and drinking the body and blood that were broken and shed on Calvary now given you to eat and drink.
By His gifts, Jesus, brings you to Himself and bestows upon you and gives to you all that He won for you on the cross. In a sense, Holy Cross Day is a celebration of preaching and Baptism and the Lord's Supper because it is by those holy means of grace that what was accomplished on the holy cross by the Son of God is given to you and made yours. It is by those gifts that you live by the cross and what happened there: the death of Jesus for your sins.
I know, it's pretty silly. It's foolish even! But God's foolishness is way wiser than any wisdom and knowledge of man! What a crazy and outlandish thing that the Son of God would become man and then be beaten and nailed to a cross! That saves us? It sure does! What a crazy thing, foolish even, that the Lord would take that salvation and splash it on you with water or feed it to you with body and blood given with bread and wine. It's crazy, isn't it? But it's life! The world doesn't know anything about it! The world is dying in its sins because it thinks it's so smart! Jesus prayed to His Father that He would glorify His name. The Father replies, "I have glorified it and will glorify it!" To glorify His name doesn't mean that the Father says, "Oh, I'm God, I'm so great!" No, God's name is glorified when Jesus hangs on the cross and sinners are saved. So you are here today, brothers and sisters, because God's name has been glorified in you. You have been drawn to the cross and made a child of God by Jesus' holy gifts. All glory be to Jesus who hung upon the holy cross that it became the new Tree of Life and by His death we sinners are saved! Amen.
Rev. Mark Buetow is Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Qoin, IL. Pastor Buetow is Editor of the Higher Things Reflections and Internet Services Executive.
Created: September 15th, 2008