4 Sunday in Lent Foolishness of the cross 1 Cor 1_18-25
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ? Good, even the demons confess that, as James and the gospels testify! Do you believe that Jesus is the chosen one from God, his prophet? Good, even the Muslims believe that! In fact, the Muslim faith believes quite strongly that Mary was chosen by God as a woman of noble birth, to bear the Christ child Jesus; the Christos, the Messiah; the anointed one. They believe in Jesus’ virgin birth and the Koran, their ‘bible’ mentions Jesus 25 times as a prophet of God. Can you argue against that? Of coarse not!
Wow, we might say! We have a common faith; we are one. After all, Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says ‘No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.’ The Moslems say he is Lord. I also hear many Christians say ‘anyone who believes in Jesus is a Christian’.
Is a Muslim Christian? Are the demons Christian? Is everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ welcome into the kingdom of God? No, not according to Jesus own words in Matthew ‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘
What is it then that separates the true believers from the false prophets?
Jesus death on the cross to pay for our sins and his resurrection for our salvation , as Paul writes in Romans 4:25 ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’ is what separates ‘Christians’ from Muslims, demons from the Spirit of God, true believers from false prophets.
‘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 cross, the payment Jesus made for our sin, is foolishness to many; its ludicrous that an innocent man would die for the guilty. I have little to say on this, rather, let a Muslim cleric, who was once a Christian minister, speak clearly on this.
Are St Paul’s words speaking loudly to you now ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…It is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.’ Utter nonsense that God would send his only innocent Son to the cross to die for the guilty. We are the guilty ones and so we must pay for our sins, we must deal with our guilt.
This is what religion is all about, a system of works to pay our dept; a system of laws to obey in order to please an angry God. Religion is God’s way of making people righteous through obedience to strict laws and commands, through our worship and bowing down to him.
Religion yes, Christianity no! We preach Christ crucified. We proclaim the cross because through the cross is salvation and the power of God to forgive sins. It seems foolish and ludicrous because we are actually still guilty in our sin. You and me have not payed for our sins Jesus has; we have not suffered the wrath of God’s anger against sin, Jesus has. We don’t obey and fulfil any laws to be saved, Jesus does. Foolishness in the eyes of those perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. Justification, or put simply, our salvation is totally God’s doing in Jesus.
This is the good news of the cross. The free gift of being made right with God because Jesus died to pay for our sin and guilt. We are given this at no cost to us. Not even our little finger is raised in an effort to help in our salvation. No works, no obeying of God’s law, not even any of the laws Jesus spoke of and commanded us to obey. Nothing!
Our justification is a gift given to us freely because ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life’. The foolishness lay in the fact that we take hold of this free gift of God by faith. That is, we believe Jesus, by dieing on the cross, made us right with God and nothing else matters or counts towards this.
You heard in the DVD, the Cleric criticises Christianity for being the easiest religion in the world. All you have to do is hope that God is merciful. How true is that! True, it is easy because Jesus has done everything for us and gives us everything, forgiveness, life and salvation, but it is only a half truth.
The hard part for us, harder than doing any works towards paying for our sin, is to simply trust Jesus at his word; to believe gospel of the cross. Yet, even in this, God assures us and comforts us of his mercy by giving us his Spirit in baptism; a down payment of the things to come. He gives us his Spirit through his word to strengthen our faith and actually forgives us in Holy Communion…grace upon grace from the cross to you.
Let me close with the words of a hymn written by Charles Wesley
‘And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain –
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me!