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Sermons > 3rd Sunday of Lent

The Cross of Christ - A Stumbling Block & Foolishness
7 Mar 2021

THE CROSS OF CHRIST - A STUMBLING BLOCK & FOOLISHNESS

"Brothers and sisters:  the Jews demand signs and the Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”         - Romans 1:22

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus:

     As we continue to walk these forty days with our Lord, during this holy season of Lent, we are reminded today by St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, that the very essence of the Christian faith, can be summed up in just four words: “We  preach Christ crucified.”

     Over the millenniums, since the time when the “Word became flesh,” there has been countless books and millions of words written concerning Jesus. I remember one of the subjects that I studied in the Seminary was “Christology” or the study of Christ. From the four Gospel accounts, to the writings of St. Paul and the various writings of the Apostles in the NT; from the writings of the Early Church Fathers, to modern day contemporary writings, all have sought to define Christ and the religion of Christianity.

     From the very beginnings of the OT, God sought to establish a relationship with mankind. We see this in the lives of the patriarchs to the writings of the prophets. In today’s first reading, we read of Moses, the giver of the Torah, or the Law.  The Torah, in its broadest sense is the writings of the first five books of the OT, known as the Pentateuch, which God revealed unto Moses on Mt. Sinai. In a more  limited way, the Ten Commandments were the decrees of God on the moral behavior and the correct relationship with Him and  with each other.

     Throughout the OT, there were many examples of God revealing Himself through various signs and wonders to the children of Israel. He was always there to lead and to guide them, whether it was from the story of Noah and Abraham, of whom we read about, in the previous two weeks of Lent, to the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt and their exile in the desert.

     In the NT, Jesus makes several references where the Jews continued to seek signs and wonders for proof of His divinity. Even after His many miracles and teachings, there were those who still doubted His Messiahship, even leading up to His own crucifixion, In Luke 23:35-we read: “And the people stood by, watching; but the religious leaders scoffed at Him, saying, “He saved others; let him save Himself if He is the Messiah of God, His chosen one!” 

     Paul states that the “preaching of Christ crucified” is a stumbling block unto the Jews. There were those who expected an earthly Messiah, who would restore an “earthly kingdom,” instead of first understanding that Jesus taught of a “spiritual” kingdom. Even the teachings of the Prophets were ignored by most of the religious leaders who pointed to the Anointed One.

     The impact of  Greek thought  upon the world in the fields of philosophy, science and mathematics were unmatched, while Greek literature and poetry were unparalleled. Great thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, Socrates as well as many others, helped defined logic, ethics, and the need to “know one self.” Paul would declare that “Christ crucified” was to the Gentiles foolishness. One example of this is found in the Book of Acts, chapter 17, where Paul who is in Athens, addresses Greek philosophers with the Gospel of Jesus.

     It has been said that “The greatest truths are the simplest” and the essence of Christ being crucified  could bring even the simplest and the most  uneducated person to salvation and eternal life through the cross.

     You see, my brothers and sisters, one doesn’t need to possess a PHD in theology or philosophy; one doesn’t need to be a Rhodes scholar to understand the essence of Christianity. Jesus made a comment in Matthew that even the “beggars and the prostitutes are entering into the kingdom before the religious leaders and scribes of His day.  He explained that they have eyes, yet they do not see; they have ears but yet they do not hear, and have hearts but yet they do not perceive.

     Do you know that the cross did not become the symbol of Christianity until the 4th century. hundreds of years after the crucifixion of Jesus?  It was during the reign of Constantine the Great, that the cross became associated with salvation, regardless of one’s status or background. That is why Paul states that“to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

     So, what does Christ being crucified bring to those who search for meaning in their own lives? The answer can be found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever should believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

     Could it all be that simple? You see the crucifixion of Jesus was the ultimate manifestation of God’s  love  for all of us, for God we learn from the 1st Letter of John “is love.” The very act of Christ being crucified brings about not only divine love but also the ultimate lesson of divine forgiveness.  The author, John Rice wrote: “In His brokenhearted cry on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,’ shows God's heart toward all sinners.” Franklin Graham, the son of the late Rev. Dr. Billy Graham wrote: “It was Christ who willingly went to the cross, and it was our sins that took Him there.” Another author, Walter Chantry wrote: “As Christ struggled up Calvary's hill and bled upon it, His aim was to eradicate self-love and implant the love of God in the hearts of men. One can only increase as the other decreases.” Finally, Michael Yousef wrote: “Only in the Cross of Christ will we receive power when we are powerless. We will find strength when we are weak. We will experience hope when our situation is hopeless. Only in the Cross is there peace for our troubled hearts.”

     My dear brothers and sisters; The path of the great sacrifice of Jesus on Golgotha shows us the way to total reconciliation and atonement with God. Understand that every sin that man has committed was carried on the shoulders of our Lord, who out of love, pointed the way to new hope, and a fresh beginning in God.   Amen.

 

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