Jan 26, 2020 – The Word of the Cross!
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Those words remind us that the cross is the sign of commitment that God made to us in Christ. The cross, St Paul tells us in this verse, the cross is the power of God for those who are being saved! It’s the revelation of the cross as God’s source of our salvation that we commit to as Christians.
What a thing! This cross, which, as a device of torture, is a symbol of defeat and death to this world. But the cross is for us the power of God. Only those who vanquish others have the power to use a cross against the defeated. So, to this world the cross is a symbol that those who are put on it, have been conquered. And yet, that same cross, for the Christian, reveals the victory of God for our salvation.
This cross reveals to us that Christ held nothing back. He was not restrained in His commitment to the plan of salvation for this world. From the OT lesson today, For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
The plan of God is to shatter the yoke of sin and to remove the rod of the oppressor, Satan. That is what the cross has done, that plan has been carried out. The plan of God to bring salvation to the whole world was laid out before the world began. But it had to be properly executed, for it to be fully realized.
In today’s gospel lesson the plan included the calling of disciples, the healing of sickness and disease and the preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God. God’s plan was, and still is, that all His creation worship Jesus. He came to fulfill God’s plan of salvation by allowing Himself to be defeated on the cross and to die the only innocent death, but then to rise victorious to new life again. And in that victory, again from the OT lesson, Jesus is the one Who rejoices as people do at the harvest. Only in that way could we see that God’s passion for us knows no limits or constraints.
In our sin and rebellion, we put crushing limits not only on ourselves but also on creation. God’s plan has always been to free us from that –to shatter the yoke that burdened us. And the only thing that could reveal that to us would be His commitment that shows His victory over sin, death and the devil. Only God can break the limits we put on ourselves in sin. Sin’s power must be destroyed if those limits are to be broken. And the commitment of God to breaking us free rests in the cross alone. That, defeat in the eyes of world, is victory for us under sin.
Many years ago the bishop, of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, had to check out a young woman’s claim that she had seen Jesus in visions. The bishop told her, “The next time you see Jesus, ask Him what sin your bishop committed when he was just a young theologian” The next time he saw her, the bishop asked, “Did you ask Jesus about the sin I committed when I was a young man?” She answered, “Yes, I did. Jesus said He didn’t remember!”
Whether or not the details of the story happened, the truth of this story is huge good news for us. Such is Christ’s commitment to us that He forgets our sins!! Only He can do that as He tells us in Is 43:25 & Jer 31:34. Only God can choose to forget sins, and only the blood of Jesus Christ makes that choice possible. And it’s only the commitment of Christ to go to the cross to shed His blood there that frees us from our guilt in God’s sight.
When Cortez landed his 500 men on the east coast of Mexico, he set fire to the ships that had brought them. His warriors, watching their means of return go up in flames, knew they were committing their whole life to the cause of conquering a new world for Spain.
So also with you and me. When our Lord Jesus Christ says to the disciples, and to you and I, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” – when the call of the Spirit sets our feet on the shores of commitment to the cross of Christ, our ‘ships’ are also burned. We are set free from all the worldly loves and loyalties that might come between us and Christ and between one another.
The commitment made in our baptism was, first from God to us. To redeem us, rescue us and to buy us back. We’ve then committed ourselves into the truth of God’s word and to the plan of what God has done for each of us. He has removed our sins from us. We are dead to them and they’re His responsibility now. As we said, He alone can forget sin, and for the sake of the blood of Jesus He does just that. We have relief in that, but for that relief to be experienced, we must trust what God has said He has done!
We think that since we cannot forget our sin, that God cannot either. What we really forget in all this is; we are not God. He has said what He has promised to do, and we tend to reduce Him to our level and say, ‘no… He surely can’t do that!’
But He can! And He does! And we now live and trust and commit to put our whole being into that truth, by following our leader Jesus Christ. The plan of following Christ is that we follow – not lead or walk our own way and indulge our sinfulness. If we do that, we deny the cross and its power to free us.
When Jesus asked the men to follow Him today that is what He was asking for, a commitment. A commitment of their life to His life. This was not simply asking them to go for a walk by the seashore with Jesus and they knew and understood that. They were being asked to follow the way of Jesus.
That meant then, and still means today, to follow in the / way / of the / cross. Jesus knew what He was asking of them even if they didn’t fully understand it. We however have an advantage; in that we know that in our commitment to following Christ we commit to the cross of Christ. And that cross ties us to God’s prior commitment, it’s His commitment that comes first and we see that in both the cross and the resurrection of Jesus as well.
God’s commitment to us – to raise us from the dead as He raised Christ, is His promise. We place our whole life in God’s hands – we trust Him to keep His promise of salvation that was made in the Old Testament lesson today. Vs 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
That’s God’s commitment to us. We’re called to die to ourselves and to then live in the light of the gospel alone. We too are called to be committed to the way of Christ, the way of the cross! And that brings us back to the verse from Corinthians. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The cross of Christ’s death is what we live by. And that is foolishness to this world. Our ships have been burned and there is no going back. So, we go forward. We go forward together caring for one another knowing that, in the power of Christ’s cross, God has washed away our sins and He forgets them all. We go forward together, Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #1068 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 9:1-4
9 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—
2 The people walking in darkness as warriors rejoice have seen a great light; when dividing the plunder. on those living in the land of deep darkness 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, a light has dawned. you have shattered 3 You have enlarged the nation the yoke that burdens them, and increased their joy; the bar across their shoulders, they rejoice before you the rod of their oppressor. as people rejoice at the harvest,
Epistle Reading 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
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.
Holy Gospel Matthew 4:12-25
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.