“The Foolishness of God”

John 2:13-22 / 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

There are many things that I have done in my life that others may have seen as foolish. When I was young and fresh out of High School, there were many who thought that my first step would be to enroll into pre-seminary. In fact, it was so much a belief that our church LWML group had worked on raising money for my tuition and had raised enough that I wouldn’t have to worry. A man I had always admired got me to be a member of the local Junior Toastmasters organization to hone my public speaking skills. Our pastor made no secret of what a great pastor he thought I would be one day. They even had me convinced for a while that this was the course that God had chosen for me. But then I turned it all down. At first glance, that was probably a very idiotic thing to do.

At 18, I fell in love with a beautiful 17 year old girl. We dated for a while and decided early that God had sent us each other, so we were wed before she even turned 20. People said we were too young and I look at my beautiful daughter who is almost 2 years older then her mother was when she got married and I can’t imagine her being married myself. Some thought we were unwise, and maybe we were.

 

At 48, I decided to finally enter seminary. My wife had an excellent job she loved. My daughter had friends she had cherished her whole life. Our finances were tapped and we had to move to the big city of St. Louis and hope everything would go according to plan. I had a job I loved already, doing what I would be going to school to do. It sounds crazy and I’d probably think the same had it been someone else.

But by the grace of God, everything worked out. I became the pastor many in my home church thought I would be. I’m still in love and married to my teenage sweetheart and had I not gone to seminary, I wouldn’t be speaking to you today. What had seemed foolish happened to work out somehow.

So, what is a fool? Is it someone who lives outside the norms of society? Is it someone who dares to do something different, even when the risk seems insurmountable? Is it the person who does the unexpected and unaccepted? Just who is a fool?

Was Noah a fool to build a huge ship in the middle of a desert? The people all around him sure thought so, maybe even his family at times. Was Moses a fool for going back to mighty Pharaoh for his people? Many thought he was, including Moses himself. Was Ezekiel the fool for challenging the 450 prophets of Baal? King Ahab and his wife Jezebel thought he was.

Was Jesus a fool to enter the temple with a whip and chase out the money-changers? You can bet more thought Him a fool then didn’t. Sometimes what looks foolish is the sanest thing of all.

Most of the time it is to our greater advantage to avoid foolishness. But in our New Testament letter today in 1 Corinthians we learn that there is a time and place for foolishness.  As Christians we are warned in verse 18 that “The Word of God is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  People find foolish what they don’t understand. It was true in Jesus’ day and it’s still true today.

People say we are foolish to put our hope into something we have never seen. They say we are crazy to love a God whose out there somewhere. People call us idiotic for investing so much of our time, treasures and talents into what they consider a fantasy. But sometimes what people find foolish can be the sanest thing of all. The foolishness of God is such a thing.

A first glance, many of the things that God had His people do look foolish. In fact, many of us have experienced those times when we ask God, “Are you absolutely sure this is what you want?” We even give Him time to think about it don’t we, until we finally commit. But what might seem foolish, we find out later, is filled with wisdom.

That’s what God means when He says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Those things that seem foolish to us are not necessarily foolish to God.

In 1 Corinthians Paul is contrasting two groups, the Jews and the Greeks and by Greeks he means mostly Romans, both unbelievers in Christ who find anything Christian to be foolish. The thought that an executed carpenter from Nazareth being the Savior of mankind seemed downright idiotic. What are these Christians thinking? How could they let their faith stray so far from reality?

They lived in a society that worshipped the achievements of man and the potential of man. They followed man’s rules and lived in manly ways. They respected those who were wise or strong or powerful, how could they come to respect this simple laborer from a nowhere town?

The rule of the day was that might was right. The mighty ruled over the weak and the scholars looked down on the uneducated. To accept that an apparent act of weakness such as being executed by hanging on a tree could be then somehow transformed into the greatest of powers of salvation for all mankind could not be believed by those who thought they knew better, including the Jewish religious leaders.

 

This was a time of “high thinking.” People were deeply involved in philosophical discussions and reason. This was a time for studying Plato, Socrates and Cicero. To think that Christ’s sacrifice is what the Jews had been waiting for, for thousands of years, was just irrational. It just didn’t measure up to the pictures in their minds they had formed of the Messiah. They were waiting for a mighty warrior king to save them from the heavy hands of the Romans, not for some small town Rabbi preaching a message of peace. To think otherwise would be foolish.

The Jews were looking for someone to shake things up in a way that was equal to the world’s idea of power. They considered themselves to be the wisest race in the world and they were more than willing to tell you why. Surly salvation would come through military might. They just could not reconcile the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to what they expected from the coming Messiah. They considered His death a failed attempt at fooling the people, just another charlatan who professed to be something He was not. How foolish do they think we are?

What neither group, the Jews or the Greeks, was ready to see is that God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that the world considers foolish and weak. He picks flawed people to do mighty things. He accepts the poor, the weak and the disenfranchised. He eats with sinners, He heals lepers and reaches out to beggars. He brings the chance of salvation to all people no matter their position in life, warts and all.

Christ’s sacrifice went right to the root of the problem the world was facing. It grabbed them where they suffered most. It addressed their sinful nature past, present and future. His war was not with the Romans, it was with sin. He attacked the root of all the world’s dilemma’s – evil, rebellion and deceit, and in doing so, he allowed people to experience what true freedom really is. The freedom from sin and all its trappings, the freedom from the evil that encumbered them, and He did it out of His love for us and not His hate for the Romans. Finally the light was to show in the darkness. He didn’t come to fight a temporary foe but to conquer, once and for all, the wicked darkness that had plagued mankind since Adam and Eve. The foolishness of God brought sin its death blow, allowing us to be free.

So, were those who decided to follow Jesus foolish? We know now they weren’t but when it was happening I’m sure they even felt sorry for Jesus’ disciples wondering how they could fall so far from reality as to believe the words of this simple man.

Furthermore, it seemed that those who were responding to this man were the outcasts of society with nothing else to grasp onto then the words of a man who thought He was God. They were the undesirables who others had cast off. “That’s fine, He can have them,” they would say, “no one else seems to want them.”

What they failed to understand about God is that he doesn’t play favorites. They failed to understand that God can use all people, no matter their perceived weakness, to do mighty things in the world.

It might seem foolish to us that God would choose us to do anything let alone influence others. It might seem foolish that God would use such flawed people as us to spread His good news when in His infinite power He could have found a better way. It might seem foolish that God would send His only Son to be executed in such a terrible way so that we might gain freedom from sin, but God’s ways are not our ways and He has shown us more than a few examples of how His way is the best way.

Mankind likes to tell God that they can handle it and they even try to coach Him on how to do things. Last week in our Gospel lesson, Peter thought he knew better so he saw fit to chastise Christ. Christ responds saying, “get behind me Satan!” Today we look at our own lives and can see examples how we continue to do the same things by our thoughts and actions.

Despite the scorn God gets, He continues to do things His way and we can thank Him for that. Those who are like the Romans of Christ’s day, seek salvation through their own terms, but, just as in Jesus’ time, they will be very disappointed at the results. Because their faith is put in things apart from God, that is where they will ultimately end, apart from God.

If you’ve regarded the work of God foolish in the past, hopefully now you see that His way is the only way toward salvation. Only through the sacrifice of Christ have we won the battle over evil and sin. I encourage you to put your trust in the wisdom of God and not in the foolishness of man. I encourage you to re-examine your relationship with Jesus Christ and experience the true wisdom and love of the Savior who knew exactly what He was doing when He so willingly faced the cross.

God has great plans for all of us and He has great plans for Redeemer as well. At times it might not come about in ways we might see as wise, but that’s ok because God is in control. He invites you to place your whole trust in Him because, someday we will come to understand His ways, even those ways we thought at one time to be foolish. He wants you, no matter your faults, your shortcomings or your dilemma’s. His kingdom has plenty of room for all believers, even us cracked pots. Amen

 

 

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