Midweek 2 Sermon
Sermon: The Crucified Lamb of God
(1 Corinthians 1:21–25)
1 Corinthians 1:21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
“Lamb of God, pure and holy”—that’s our theme hymn for this season of Lent (LSB 434). Tonight our attention shifts to the next line of the hymn: “who on the cross didst suffer.” “So what,” some might respond, “I’ve heard that all before.” But you see that’s precisely the problem! Are we in danger of losing sight of what St. Paul calls the very heart of the Gospel—the crucified Lamb of God?
There’s a certain sharpness to the Gospel as the apostle describes it. “It’s a stumbling block” and “foolishness” to those that don’t understand the preaching of Christ crucified. And often we don’t get it either. It’s almost as if we have heard this message so often that we have become desensitized to it. It seems perfectly reasonable to us that God should be nailed to a cross to die by the hands of His own creation. Have we been vaccinated with the cross so often that it has lost its power? Just look around. There are crosses everywhere: here in the chancel, there on the font, in our in the fellowship hall and in my office. (Point out various locations in the sanctuary.) And some of you in the pews this evening probably have one around your neck.
I’m not preaching against crosses, and I don’t want you to quit wearing one. Instead, I want us to come to grips with the full impact and meaning of the cross for us and for our salvation. We are all too familiar with the story. And familiarity, as we all heard, breeds contempt. It’s so easy to shrug off the message of the cross. After a while it becomes just another soothing mantra, empty of meaning just white noise. Tonight, however, the apostle brings the cross into sharper focus so that we may courageously approach it and ponder the astonishing depth of what it means. Jesus became the victim that we might win the victory.
First, it is important to understand that God’s ways are not our ways. The world has wisdom of its own, and that “wisdom” flies in the face of God’s wisdom. Skeptics are always complaining that the Bible doesn’t make any sense. They can’t figure out how God created the world in six days or why bad things happen to good people. The world expects God to behave like a famous scientist at a respectable cocktail party, patiently fielding questions from admiring fans, translating highly complex mysteries of the universe into language that makes perfect sense to mere humans.
But God will not be put into that box—not because He’s opposed to logic He created human reason. But God’s ways transcends human logic. That is, God is bigger than human understanding. Romans 11:33–34 says, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" No one can know the mind of the Lord or serve as His counselor, for He is the almighty Creator of the heavens and earth. Yet misguided people insist on measuring God by fallen human reason.
It just doesn’t work. God is a lot bigger than that. But people keep insisting that they want things their way, but their way is not God’s way. There’s a reason for that. Their way leads to death, God’s way leads to life.
Just ask Adam and Eve. Satan claimed it would be better to know both good and evil rather than being stuck with only good, and Eve bought into that lie. She thought the forbidden fruit looked pretty tasty, and besides that it would give knowledge. So she and Adam went for the knowledge that seemed to make more sense, rather than sticking with the wisdom of God. God had warned them what would happen if they ate that fruit. They would die. But Adam and Eve ate it anyway. And they did die—Adam and Eve and all their children after them. All of mankind ever since the fall is in the process of dying. That’s what human knowledge will get you—a plot in a graveyard.
But God’s wisdom is different. His route leads not to death but to life—in fact, it leads to eternal life. Not that you would know it up front. God in His wisdom was willing to make Himself appear foolish that He might rescue a world hell-bent on destruction. So Jesus went on a fool’s errand. God the Father set in motion a plan that would lead His Son to empty Himself of His divine glory and majesty and lower Himself all the way to become a tiny embryo in the womb of His virgin mother, to be cradled and cuddled and coddled like any other newborn child, fed and diapered like all the rest, completely helpless and vulnerable just like any human infant.
Foolishness—that is what it is. A crazy idea by any human standard. But that wasn’t all. Setting aside His divine power, the Lord of all life lowered Himself still further—all the way to death, even a cursed death on a cross. And this was not merely an agonizing death, but it was a shameful death. For when one was nailed to a cross, they are considered the scum of the earth. It was quite a long distance to leave behind His majesty of Heavenly glory to become the scum of the earth, but that’s how far our Lord God went to rescue us. That’s love!
The preaching of the cross has never gone over very well among those who don’t believe. Stupidity and idiotic, the Greeks called it. Shocking and humiliating, the Jews considered it. What weak kind of God would allow Himself to be manhandled and defiled in such a way? They just couldn’t fathom it, this foolishness and weakness of God. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
Many people still today don’t get it, just like the Greeks and Jews before them. The cross just doesn’t have much curb appeal. That Lamb of God “who on the cross didst suffer” isn’t a top selling single amongst today’s seekers. “Our God is an awesome God,” now that’s what people like to hear. He will give you a happy, fulfilling life if you just turn things over to Him. Isn’t that special? The very notion of a crucified God doesn’t fit into our “can-do” world. For that reason, there’s been a lot of backpedaling going on concerning the message of Christ crucified. Jesus as hero, Jesus as example, Jesus as paradigm for living seems much more attractive to practically minded folks like us with inquiring minds. Give us a purpose driven life. After all we want to know what we can do to improve our own lot, and the cross doesn’t seem to make much sense when it comes to self-improvement.
It’s precisely on the point of Gospel outreach that we can learn a lot from our text. “Because Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, therefore we deliberately preach Christ crucified,” writes St. Paul (1 Corinthians 1:22). There needs to be an intentionality about preaching a crucified Christ, especially when you are dealing with people who are looking for everything but a crucified Christ. Why? Because through what those people think is foolishness and a stumbling block, God is at work to rescue and to save. Precisely in the foolish, offensive message of Christ crucified, God calls sinners out of death and into life.
So the crucified Lamb of God may not be trendy, but that’s all right. We Christians don’t mind being labeled outdated and out of step with the world when the world is marching to the wrong drummer. We don’t care if others reject as foolishness and weakness the Gospel we have heard and believe, because “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In the weakness of His incarnation, the Son of God has shouldered our humanity that He might ransom us from the tyranny of sin and death. In the foolishness of His lowly, degrading death by crucifixion, Jesus Himself became the ransom price.
Lent may seem like a downer, but that is okay. Actually, we all need to be taken down a few notches. We need to repent of our sin, not learn to live with it. If you are tempted to think that sin is no big deal, look to the Cross. If you begin to feel that God doesn’t care about sin, look to the cross. And not just a bare and empty cross, but the cross upon which hangs the body of Jesus, who is God made flesh. There the enormity of our sin comes into focus. There the pure and holy Lamb of God was made to be sin for us; there He bore the just penalty of our sin. There Jesus’ sacred body and most precious blood made payment for us. He died that we might live. At the cross Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice, exchanging His righteousness for our guilt, His holiness for our shame, His purity for our filth. He became sin for us, dying our death on the cross
Because Jesus suffered, you need not fear any suffering that may come your way. No matter how grievous the sorrow or heavy the load, no suffering of yours will ever be able to drive a wedge between you and the gracious love of God. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, can ever sever us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39). And this is true precisely because Christ is the Lamb of God, “who on the cross didst suffer.” Nothing can touch you because you belong to Him.
When you were baptized, you were signed with a cross, to mark you as belonging to Christ the crucified. Then and there you were put to death with Jesus on His cross, buried with Him into His death. By the power of God’s Word within that water, all that Jesus earned for you by His bitter suffering and death was transferred to your account. There you not only died with Him, but you also were raised with Him to live again by faith in His own never-ending life.
So what if some people reject the Gospel because they consider it offensive and foolish? So what if some people consider the preaching of the cross to be weak and ineffective? “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). The cross is not just the emblem of your salvation, but it is the sign and seal of God’s redemption, the stamp of His approval. The cross is the indelible mark that your sins are gone and the power of Satan is broken, that the tyranny of death and the grave is over and done. Come what may, therefore, we preach Christ crucified. For this crucified Christ is our only hope in this world and the next. Since the pure and holy Lamb of God suffered once for you on His cross, now all His purity and holiness are yours. Take heart this night and live in Him who died yet lives forevermore. And because He lives so will you. In Jesus name, amen and amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.