Proclaiming the Mystery of God

I Corinthians 2:1-16
David A. Davis
February 5, 2017

“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The Apostle Paul to the followers of Christ in Corinth. “I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Not Jesus Christ, God with us… him crucified. Not Jesus Christ, Rabbi, Teacher, Healer… him crucified. Not Jesus Christ, peacemaker, boundary crasher, threat to power, kingdom bringer… him crucified. Not Jesus Christ, Son of God… him crucified. Not Jesus Christ, Savior of the world… him crucified. Not Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One… him crucified.

The Victorious, Triumphant, Risen Christ shall always be the one crucified. Remember how he showed them his hands and his side. The one who taught in such parables shall always be the one who was mocked and beaten and whipped. The Jesus who wept over the death of Lazarus and welcomed children into his arms and called down a sinner from a tree shall always be the one who suffered, and bled, and hung with his arms outstretched embracing all even in death. The Beautiful Savior of the world wrapped in swaddling clothes shall always be the one whose body was taken down from the cross by Joseph from Arimathea, who wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the tomb. Jesus Christ… and him crucified.

It is the mystery of God, the cross and its foolishness. “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,” Paul writes earlier in I Corinthians. “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are… God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1:27-30). The attributes of salvation — wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, redemption — through the cross of Christ. “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified.” That’s how Paul put it. “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” “So I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ… and him crucified.”

Jesus Christ. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of slave being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the power of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 2). Jesus, who turned the other cheek, forgave those who deserted him, betrayed him, killed him. Jesus, with a self-giving love, he loved until the end. Jesus, who actually could have saved himself and come down from that cross. But he didn’t. Jesus, whose agony included sweat that fell like drops of blood and asking God to take the cup away. “Nevertheless, not my will by thy will be done.” Knowing nothing except that Jesus.

It is to know that the Great Teacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the poet of the beautiful Beatitudes, willingly laid down his life — he willing laid it all down for the sake of others. The rabbi with a bit of anger, who muscled the moneychangers out of the temple? He refused to defend himself. He became a victim of violence. The one who came ushering in the kingdom of God and preaching good news to the poor and proclaiming release to the captives? He knowingly, intentionally found himself a prisoner, bound, sentenced to death. To know nothing except that Jesus is to know that before he rose from the grave and conquered death, he suffered and he died. Before he ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God, he was a lamb led to the slaughter. Before he was surrounded by the heavenly choir forever singing his praise, he was alone — hanging there, yet loving, giving, praying, serving until there was no breath left in him.

To know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is to believe that the God we know in Jesus Christ is the God who sides with the most vulnerable, and the outcasts, and those who suffer. It is to believe that God will always be on the side of the least powerful, not the most; the ones who have the least, not the most; those who are least important, not the most. It is to believe that God works to strengthen the weak, uphold the fallen, find the lost, touch the outsider, rescue the persecuted, welcome the stranger. It is to believe in the God who forever welcome sinners, love sinners, embraces sinners, because of, and in and through, God’s only Son, the One Crucified. It is, frankly, the only way to know that God is for you, that God welcomes, loves, embraces you. Because of him… him crucified.

To know, to believe, to see. To see the face of Christ in those who suffer, and the sick, and the dying. To look at those the world most wants to hate and see those who God most wants you to love. To see in the eyes of someone you can’t forgive, or someone you can hardly stand, or someone you know is just flat wrong, or someone who looks different, believes different, lives different, is different than you, to somehow see in those eyes something of the gaze of Christ coming back at you. To look out at the world and not be obsessed with finding winners and losers, or seeing those who are right and those who are wrong, but remembering that Jesus saw a world of the least and the greatest, the haves and have-nots, and he was always concerned more with the have-nots, and the really have-nots. And that in Christ, in the One crucified, we are not conquerors, we are never conquerors, we cannot ever be conquerors because we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Him who loved us, him who loved until Love was no more, and then he loved even more.

To know, to believe, to see, to live for nothing other than Jesus Christ and him crucified. To live and bear witness to Jesus Christ and him crucified. Not to be right. Not to be smart. Not to be rich. Not to win. Not be safe. Not to be strong. Not even to live forever. But to live in order to point to him in all of his fullness. “For He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to God’s self all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross.” (Col.1) In all of his fullness, yet still the One crucified.

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,” Paul writes to the Corinthians in the 11th chapter of this first letter. “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also after supper, saying “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. So do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Then Paul concludes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Proclaiming the Lord’s death. The One crucified. “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

Remembering and proclaiming. A table for remembering. A table for proclaiming. “On the edge of campus, in the heart of town, proclaiming the love of God in word and in deed.” That’s what we say around here. This week a graduate student interviewed me for a paper on evangelism in the church for the 21st century. “What’s your theology of evangelism?” was the first question. “Proclaiming the love of God in word and in deed on the edge of campus, in the heart of town.” I blurted it so quickly the student was a bit taken a back. “Nailed it!” I said to myself. What I said out loud was, “Are we done here?”

Our proclaiming out there, it starts in here. It starts right here. Remembering. Proclaiming. Proclaiming God’s love. God’s love given shape and form and substance in him. God’s love made known in him. God’s love poured out in him. God’s love for you in him. Remembering. Proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes. The One crucified.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good,” the psalmist said. Taste and see. Yes. But also know, believe, see, live. Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is the great gift of God given to us in this feast. To taste again of his dying love. For on the stormiest of mornings or the longest of nights, whether on a joy-filled mountaintop or in the darkest valley filled with the shadows of death, when the world’s chaos races at a fever pitch or the day’s news keeps you awake at night, whether there with your head on the pillow you lose count of the many blessings or you can’t seem to get past the fear of another day yet to come, Jesus Christ is the same, today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Jesus Christ and him crucified. The One crucified. Which means His love has no bounds. His love never ends. His love is for you.

So remember and proclaim. Here and out there. Proclaim here as you eat and drink. Proclaim out there as you live, as you love. Know. Believe. See. Live. Jesus Christ and him crucified.

© 2017 Nassau Presbyterian Church
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