Text – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:
18 For the message about 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,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
The way of Lent leads to the Cross. Paul was painfully aware that the message of the Cross was hated by his first-century audience. Jews hated the Cross because their own scriptures said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” Deuteronomy 21:22-23.
Gentiles hated the Cross because it violated Greek notions of heroism and victory. In fact, the Greeks were much more enamored by the idea of the philosopher and the pursuit of wisdom.
Yet, the Cross defies human “wisdom” and Paul calls it the “very power of God.” What appears to be foolishness to mankind is in Isaiah’s words, “the wisdom of God.” What seems to end in weakness and defeat is actually “the strength of God, and it defeats the powers of sin and death.
Even today, it is difficult for Christians to grasp the truth of this. We live, after all, in the scientific age and are taught daily about the importance of human autonomy, human rights, and human wisdom. We think, “How can someone who dies in such a horrible, criminal way be the answer to human sin and failure?”
In the honesty and transparency of Lent we admit that we have not done very well attempting to exert our strength and only by relying on Christ’s weakness can we hope to win our battle and share in the victory that Jesus brings.
Father of the Cross and weakness. We know that what we see is failure and defeat is actually victory. In his submission to death, Jesus strode into Satan’s Kingdom of power and overthrew it. Christ left on the cross all the sin that mankind has and will commit and brings victory clothed in what looks like weakness. For this we give thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen.