WORSHIP VIDEO LINK (delayed beginning)







Lent 3 2024
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 3, 2024
Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Cor. 1:18-31, John 2:13-22


Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship


            My morning routine is when I first get up I turn on the TV news and then pause it.  When I get back later to eat breakfast I can watch the news and fast forward through the commercials.  I mostly just want to hear about the weather for the day and the commercials feel like a waste of time.  Plus they can make me want something that I did not desire before I saw the ad.  Advertisers are smart.  So often commercials will appeal to our attraction to beauty, intelligence, success and power and they are effective because we like things that are beautiful, intelligent, successful and powerful because we want to be beautiful, intelligent, successful and powerful.  The world is all about these things because these things are attractive… it is only natural.  As a citizen of the world it is easy to believe these are the most important things of life. 

            The world tells you that life is all about becoming more beautiful, more intelligent, more successful and more powerful, and then you come in here on a Sunday morning and you are confronted by Jesus on the cross. Jesus on the cross is ugly.  There is nothing smart about the brutal violence and humiliation and suffering of the cross.  It is utter failure and helplessness.

Being far removed from actual crucifixions you can lose the complete sense of how awful crucifixion was and how it was only used against the worst rebels and criminals.  By design, it is one of the most shameful, degrading, agonizing ways to die.  The one being crucified is completely at the mercy of those around him and little mercy is shown.  The arms of the condemned are stretched out and nailed to a beam so that his hands are useless and his shameful nakedness is on display to all.  Hanging like that, the prisoner’s chest juts forward and he is forced to work at exhaling instead of inhaling and he will quickly grow exhausted and die of suffocation. So, in order to slow down the process the Romans nail the prisoner’s feet to a board so the condemned can push up against the nails and catch a small breath before being overwhelmed by the pain.  They might also perhaps put a small piece of wood under his backside so the one being crucified will squirm in agony against the nails; desperate to catch a breath; feeling always like he is on the verge of suffocation hour after hour.  The Romans perfected this horrifying method of execution so they could get prisoner to last two or three days on the cross constantly praying to die.  Through this process the condemned one is so broken and humiliated that anyone observing would declare, “Whatever happens, I do not want to die like that.”  Crucifixion is utter powerlessness. 

            When you think about God and what is God like, what words come to mind?  God is good, gracious, faithful, eternal, immutable, almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just, love.  When you think about how you expect God to act, it is easy to want to think that God is all about beauty, intelligence, success and power.  It is easy to fall into thinking like the Jews that you want God to work signs.  Like King Herod you want Jesus to perform at your command.  You want to see Jesus’ beauty, intelligence, success and power.  It only makes sense… but then there is the cross. The bloody, awful cross slaps you in the face with the truth that God’s ways are not your ways.  The ways of the world and the ways of God are different. As you are repulsed by the cross and are tempted to seek a cleaner, more beautiful savior, the words Jesus used to rebuke Peter echo in your mind.  Mark 8:33 (ESV) 33 … “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

            The cross is awful, but to want Jesus to skip the cross is satanic.  The wisdom of God is found at the cross of Christ.  The power of God is found at the cross.  Jesus’ strength is found in His weakness. 

            You come to the throne of God in weakness.  The world is impressed by beauty, intelligence, success and power, but Jesus is not impressed.  Jesus does not care about that.  Mark 10:13–16 (ESV) 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. 

            You come to Jesus as a helpless, needy child.  You come to Him not based on who you are but based on who He is.  You come to Jesus poor in spirit, empty handed, with nothing but your sin and guilt. 

            Being a Christian is not about being beautiful, intelligent, successful and powerful.  It is admitting that you are an ugly, stupid, weak, failure.  This is why Christianity is foolishness to the world. The word of the cross is folly. How could anything good come from something so awful?  The world rejects Christ on the cross because it exposes their failure and weakness when trying to be good enough. 

            So many churches, especially it seems the mega churches, have pushed the cross of Christ out of its center place and instead teach a message that if you are faithful enough God will bless you with beauty, intelligence, success and power.  Joel Osteen teaches that you can speak these things into existence by your words.  “I am beautiful.  I am intelligent.  I am successful.  I am powerful.”  Sadly there was a shooter that came into his church a couple of weeks ago, but I bring him up because he is one of the most prominent preachers in one of the biggest churches in America.  But it certainly seems like the cross is foolishness to Joel Osteen. 

            The message of the cross is foolishness to these folks because they are teaching that the good news of Christianity is achieving the American dream.  In a gospel of success there is no room for the cross and often there is no cross visible in their worship space.  The people come to church not because they know they are broken and weak, but so they can find out how to be successful in life.  What they receive is not the Good News; not the Gospel of Christ.  They receive a damning message of “try harder, do more, do better.”  Each week they return to hear again how they can improve if they just do better.  They hear how they can achieve beauty, intelligence, success and power.  The world seeks after these things but they are all temporary things of this life – just fleeting objectives that quickly disappear like a morning mist. 

Paul warns Timothy that this will happen.  2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV)  3 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, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Jesus covers over your ugly, stupid, failing weakness with His perfection.  Jesus clothes you in the robe of His righteousness.  He gives you heavenly beauty.  He gives you eternal wisdom.  He makes you His own child, a member of the King’s family.  He gives you the crown of eternal life and the unsearchable riches of Christ.

            When people make up a new religion they take Christ off the cross or minimize the cross.  Muslims teach that Jesus did not die on the cross, only someone who looked like him. Mormons teach that Jesus atoned for sin in the Garden of Gethsemane and not on the cross.  Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus died on a stake and that the use of a cross is idolatry.  They want nothing to do with the cross.

            We preach Christ crucified. 

You come into the presence of God here, by getting on your knees and confessing that you are a poor, miserable sinner who deserves punishment, now and forever.  You come to God on your knees admitting your ugly, stupid, failing weakness.  Somehow I don’t think that will make for a very pithy church sign.  You come to God in ugly honesty.  You come to the cross of Christ and Jesus pours out His forgiveness on you.  His weakness is His power.  His foolishness is wisdom for eternity. 

            Jesus covers over your ugly, stupid, failing weakness with His perfection.  Jesus clothes you in the robe of His righteousness.  He gives you heavenly beauty.  He gives you eternal wisdom.  He makes you His own child, a member of the King’s family.  He gives you the crown of eternal life and the unsearchable riches of Christ.

            The cross is offensive to the world, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  And so we preach Christ crucified even though it is a stumbling block and considered foolishness.  We have no other option.  You called me to be your pastor to preach Christ crucified to you. 

            Christianity is not a set of philosophical principles to help you get along with others and improve your life.  Christianity is not about making you beautiful, intelligent, successful and powerful.  Christianity is Christ on the cross for you.  It is Christ risen from the dead for you.  Christianity is you bringing nothing but sin to Jesus and receiving from Jesus forgiveness and eternal life.  It is not about you.  It is about Jesus for you.  Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.  Amen.