It is good and right on this observance of Holy Cross day to affirm with the Apostle Paul: “We preach Christ crucified.” Amen. May it ever be so in this pulpit.
But we need to realize that preaching Christ crucified is foolishness. This is for different reasons. One reason is that it appears to be an oxymoron. The word “Christ” means the anointed One. This is someone who is a prophet, priest, or king, designated by God for a certain task. In the case of Jesus Christ, He was all three: Prophet, Priest, and King. This is a Man who spoke for God (and was God), a Man who was the one High Priest of all history, and was the royal King of kings, higher than any emperor, president, or czar. In other words, He has all power, dignity, royal majesty, and exalted status.
Yet He was crucified. Crucifixion was so vile that it was only for the very worst criminals. If you were seen as something less than human, only then could you be crucified.
Saying that He is Christ crucified is like saying that He is the royal peasant, or the lowly majestic One, or the shamefully glorious King, or the ruling Slave. It was like saying that He is God, yet subhuman. It simply does not make sense. Surely, says our common sense, no true Christ would be crucified.
But ours was. In fact, He is not ashamed of His crucifixion. He considers it His glory. He still bears the marks of His crucifixion, even after His resurrection. He showed them to His disciples on earth. Even after His ascension and exaltation, Saint John saw Him revealed as the Lamb who has been slain. Christ could have erased the marks and put the shameful experience in the past. But He did not.
This is the foolish message that we preach: Our King is the Crucified One. This kind of message is strange, and we should not be surprised when people are perplexed or refuse to listen. Although we may preach and teach other things that people readily agree with, the core of our message is the Lamb who has been slain.
People want something else. Jews demand signs. This characteristic of Jewish people, written down by a Jew, shows that they wanted something supernatural to convince them that Christ was their promised Messiah. But notice that He gave them plenty of signs while on earth. Why were they not satisfied? Because the self-centered sinful nature wants signs at the time and in the way that it demands them. People will believe in a savior who comes in exactly the way they want him to, but that is not really a savior at all.
Greeks demand wisdom. In other words, many people demand a reasonable savior. We might note here that Christ Jesus is the wisdom of God, full of all knowledge and truth. Yet that is not enough for people. They are only satisfied if he came in a way they approve, and only taught things they approve. Then they will accept him. But that also is no Savior.
What do we seek? What do people in our nation seek? There are many answers. Usually it is much the same thing. The sinful nature decides what it considers important, and then waits for a savior to meet its own self-determined needs. Sometimes we want our emotions satisfied, often happiness. Sometimes entertainment is the goal. Sometimes we want prosperity. What it all boils down to is that people want to be served the way they desire and demand. A savior must come to them the way they want him to.
But that is exactly the problem. Our sinful flesh wants itself to be god, to be worshiped and adored and served. The flesh does not think that there is anything wrong with it, so it does not need a Savior from sin, heavens no! But entertain me, dazzle me, thrill my mind and my heart, and maybe I’ll stick around and listen to your message.
Paul predicted this sort of thing. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” So many passions, so many preachers, so many itching ears getting tickled.
But only One crucified Christ. You are here to listen to His message. You are here to receive the Gospel that says that He was willing to be nailed to pieces of wood. He was willing to slowly suffocate to death while His lifeblood drained out of Him from many wounds. Hear this, that He who was invulnerable allowed Himself to be stricken most awfully. He let Himself suffer agony for one reason – to suffer in your place and to buy your redemption.
He let your sins crush Him on the Cross. This is the worst shame of all, the heaviest burden. Although the burden of sin by itself was invisible to the human eyes that looked at Him on Golgotha, the sky bore witness by its midday pitch blackness. Some heard the anguish He suffered in His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
This anointed King was punished as the worst criminal, even forsaken by God, all for you. He desired your salvation, and therefore suffered it all.
This Christ who has been crucified will not always please you. Sometimes His message from this pulpit will hurt you. Sometimes He will not tell you what you want to hear, or not give you the emotions you want to feel. Sometimes He will give you suffering which is your own cross to bear.
But always, always, He will give you what you need, just as He has insured your eternal reward. Always, He will speak to you as His beloved brothers, His dear saints, even His Bride, the holy Church. This is because He is love, and does all things for your benefit, even when you do not feel like He does. True love sometimes looks ugly. After all, the greatest love looked the ugliest on Golgotha. True love will not always feel pleasant. But this is the only true love, and the only true Savior, the One who was crucified.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
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