Wise Fools

1 Corinthians 1:23-25

Jesus once prayed, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” The leading theologians of his day had missed the things he spoke of, but Jesus rejoiced that God had revealed them to simple, unschooled people.

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Jesus once prayed, 

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Matthew 11:25

The “things” Jesus was talking about were the need for repentance and faith in the possibility of forgiveness. The leading theologians of his day had missed them. In fact, they had actively opposed them. But Jesus rejoiced that God had revealed them to little kids and to people like his disciples who were simple, unschooled people.

In today’s epistle lesson, Paul echoes Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians. They had seen and valued by eloquence, scholarship, and supernatural displays of spiritual power, but they had begun to stray from the simple truths of repentance and faith and their love for one another had grown cold. And so, Paul reminded them that it was not eloquence or scholarship or even miracles that had established and built the church in Corinth, instead God had drawn foolish, powerless people to his Son through the simple message of the cross.

Their faith and the salvation they received by faith were a work of God, who has chosen to save people by faith rather than by intelligence or social position or hard work. He chose to do this in order to shame those who would rely upon human strength to work out their own salvation.

In our lesson, Paul wrote that some people seek signs and others seek wisdom, but God provides only the cross, in all it’s seeming futility. “How,” people ask, “Can the death of this man improve my life?” What would you answer? And would such people be interested? Or is God’s purpose so contrary to their own as to seem ridiculous?

When you get right down to it, even though we have something everyone desperately needs, we do not have what most people are looking for, 

Consider the work and teaching of Jesus. 

Peter once noted that he traveled throughout Galilee and Judea teaching about the kingdom of God and calling everyone to repentance. What’s more, God bore witness to his teaching by through astounding miracles of healing and compassion. Yet, the leading priests and the Rabbis kept asking him for more signs. Did he heal a man born blind? Yes, but they were not convinced. Did he raise Lazarus from the dead? Yes, but they still did not believe Jesus. Like Pharoah had done so long before, each time a miracle was done that should have convinced them, they hardened their hearts and refused to believe that Jesus had been sent by God.

Of course, they also rejected Jesus’. It was not rejected because it was too difficult to follow, Jesus was capable of putting very profound concepts into simple stories. Jesus would say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” But they did not want to hear. When he told stories that revealed the murderous anger of their hearts, instead of repenting they set their minds even more firmly upon destroying him.

In short, though they would have claimed that they were seeking wisdom, they were seeking it apart from God. Though they would have claimed they were seeking righteousness, they generally felt they had already attained it. Though they demanded signs, they refused those that were given. Even when he rose from the dead, most refused to believe and as a result they perished in their sins.

Nothing has changed. Today most who seek wisdom still seek it apart from God. They scoff at the scriptures and those who believe them. Those who say they would believe if they saw a miracle close their eyes when one occurs. They cannot be convinced by arguments or miracles. For they have closed their eyes and ears to the truth.

The book of Revelation pictures men at the end of time finally realizing that God is behind the catastrophes that have come upon them. But instead of repenting they harden their hearts. 

For them it will be like it was for Pharoah’s charioteers. Who, having pursued the people of Israel into the sea, finally realized that Israel’s God was fighting for them. The Egyptians turned to flee, but the waters closed over them. So, in the last day’s people will see the Son of God returning in glory and they will call to the hills to cover them in hope that death will deliver them from the wrath of God, but there will be no escape.

But let us return to the present and to our text.

If people will not be convinced by miracles or logical arguments, what do we have we to give them? Paul says it is the simple preaching of the cross that makes believers. Listen again to what he wrote to the Corinthians:

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:23-25

Although it seems so foolish to many, God uses the simple message about the cross of Jesus to bring people to faith. Each of you has heard that message. You know that God the Son took on human flesh so that he could hold himself accountable for our evils and die as he took the punishment for them. Though he had no sins of his own, he became sin for us. Because God’s justice was satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ we can be reconciled with God and serve him without fear. Because Jesus rose again, we, too, shall rise and live in his kingdom forever.

And this, Paul says is what we should be boasting about and calling to people’s attention. What we think we have become is of little interest to them. They don’t believe in miracles, so save your breath. Paul says, instead, tell them what God has done for you in Christ Jesus.

Which is the whole point of the creeds and why we repeat them so often. Do you want to boast about what God has done? You have the most important things neatly summarized in the creed. 

In the creed we say “I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.” How could you say that to someone? 

You could say, God made me and he’s given me whatever sense and intelligence I may have. He has defended me from all kinds of danger, and he protects me from evil simply because he loves me. 

You could also say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, who was both God and man, who gave his life for me in order to atone for my sins and save me from the wrath of God. In fact, he died and rose again to save all believers. Forty days after he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven where he reigns with God until he returns to call us from our graves.”

“And I believe that even though I’m not smart enough to figure all this out on my own, God’s Spirit arranged for me to hear the truth about Jesus and has enabled me to understand and believe it and to share it with you.”

“All this God has done for people like you and me. For God loves you as much as he loves me and would love for you to receive all the blessings that he has for you in Jesus Christ.”

Occasionally, you may get to say all of that, often it will be a sentence here, a word there. But over time those words add up, and God ads his own power and punch to what you say.

So, keep it simple. Some people will turn away, but some will listen. Let us resolve to be fools for Christ and share the Gospel about Christ in a simple, straight-forward way whenever God gives us the opportunity. And God will use those opportunities to reveal his Son to those he has chosen.

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