Sermon Audio


Lent 3 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
March 4, 2018
Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, John 2:13-22


On Monday afternoon I had the privilege to go to the hospital to visit Shari and Lukas Bickel and their new baby, Faith.  It is always nice to be able to make a visit to the third floor at Fort Hamilton to see a newborn.  As I held little Faith in my arms I got to marvel once again at the miracle of life.  One cell from mom and one cell from Dad joined together and from that one cell grew this 7 pound 5 ounce baby girl; and that is just the beginning.  This is miraculous.  From one cell grows this incredibly complex little baby with her eyes and ears and mouth and skin and all her different body systems.  The utter volume and complexity of the information contained in that first cell is beyond our comprehension.  The wisdom of God is incredible.  1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV) 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.[1]

Now, the wisdom of the world says that the utter volume and complexity of the information contained in that first single cell of human life is just a cosmic accident.  It is just the accidental byproduct of an endless series of random mutations from life formed spontaneously 3.8 billion years ago.  They say God had nothing to do with it because there is no God.  Among the cultural elites it is considered the height of idiocy to believe that God created the world.

The wise people in the world look with scornful contempt on anyone who thinks they were created by a loving God.  Instead they believe we are the product of a cosmic, accident of star dust.  The “smart folks” firmly believe that the wisdom of the world trumps the wisdom of God.

We live near an excellent university full of people with great wisdom, but that wisdom changes.  In many areas of study what is being taught today is very different than what was being taught 20, 40, 60 years ago.  The wisdom of the university changes.  The wisdom of the world evolves over time.  The wisdom of the world adjusts to change with society.  Sometimes it is a kind of amusing to watch universities trying to keep up with their own pace of change and tripping all over themselves in the effort to be the most current and most relevant and most so-called “woke” university.

The wisdom of God is unchangeable.  God is not adjusting to the latest thing and that is not very exciting.  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  God’s wisdom is unchangeable.

It doesn’t make sense… Jesus on the cross.  That isn’t the way that I would do it, and yet in God’s wisdom we are left with nothing except Jesus on the cross for our sins.

Unchangeable wisdom?  That is pretty archaic.  That’s boring.  That kind of stagnation isn’t going to be very attractive to the hip and cool folks.  Unchangeable wisdom could put you on the wrong side of history.  And if it does, so be it.  Because God’s wisdom is truth.  God’s wisdom does not change.  God’s wisdom does not evolve with society.  The wisdom of God is not the wisdom of man.  The wisdom of God is beyond our understanding.  And not understanding God can trouble us.

Why did God allow evil to exist?

Why did God allow Adam and Eve to be tempted?

Why would God use animal sacrifice to atone for sin?

Why would God demand the sacrifice of His Son Jesus to pay for the sins of the world?

It doesn’t make sense… Jesus on the cross.  That isn’t the way that I would do it, and yet in God’s wisdom we are left with nothing except Jesus on the cross for our sins.

We desperately want something different; something more beautiful; something more intellectual; more philosophical; more understandable.  We want something we can figure out as we ponder it.  We want some kind of spiritual puzzle that we can be a part of and we can solve.  But God’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[2]

We don’t understand God and we are tempted to say, I can’t believe in a God who would ….fill in the blank…do something or allow something that I don’t like.  We can get so full of the world’s knowledge that we reject the simple truths of God.

We want to be in control, but we are left not being in charge.  We are left without complete understanding.  We are left only with Christ crucified… and that is enough.  God’s truth is enough.

God gives us the Ten Commandments.  These are simple, but powerful truths.  The Ten Commandments teach us how we should live.  The Commandments give us God’s law for our lives and they are our guide for living.  But in honesty, we know that we have failed to keep the commandments.  God’s wisdom shows us to be sinners, but our wisdom tries to overcome God’s wisdom.  In our wisdom we rationalize our sin, we make excuses, we look for loopholes.  But there are no loopholes.  The Ten Commandments do not bend.  We need Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.

In the Gospel reading today we see Jesus deal with those that added something new and different to God’s Temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus gets angry, makes a whip, and drives the money changers and those selling animals out of the temple.  The temple is not there to conduct business.  The Temple is not there for the religious leaders to make money. The Temple is God’s house; where God is present with His people.

The Jews demand a sign of Jesus’ authority to clear the temple and Jesus responds, John 2:19 (ESV)  19 … “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[3]  Jesus is speaking about His body which will be the new temple.  God’s presence with His people will be in Jesus, the Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  This sounds like foolishness to those who hear Jesus that day at the temple.  Still today, Christ crucified and raised from the dead sounds like foolishness to so many supposedly wise people.  Even those in the church can start to think they need something more.

Far too often pastors and churches start looking to the world of business to find ideas to try to be “successful”.  We seek after the next, best, latest, greatest thing that will bring people to church.  There is always someone selling a new plan or program that promises to be the silver bullet to save the Church.

But we do not need the latest and greatest.  We don’t need something new. There is only one message that will save the church and it has not changed.  We have the cross.  We are only given to preach Christ crucified.  This is not glamorous.  This will not teach you to dream big dreams and achieve your big dreams.  We preach Christ crucified and Christ crucified for you is not received any better now than it was in Jesus’ time.

The cross is a stumbling block to people.  The cross is a scandal.  What kind of God puts his own Son to death on a cross?  What kind of God is whipped and stripped and nailed to a wooden beam to slowly suffocate and die?  What kind of God is that?

The cross is folly to so many.  So many people are convinced that they are far too smart for Jesus on the cross.  So many are convinced that they don’t need Jesus.  They don’t need His forgiveness.  Their sin is not a big deal.  What is sin anyway?  In this world that so cherishes worldly wisdom there is a great temptation to leave the Ten Commandments and  Jesus behind and look for the next, best, latest, greatest, newest thing.  Chasing after the newest religious fad is pretty exciting; always something new to learn; always some new or some revived ancient practice by which to be impressed.  During NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics one of their reporters visited a Buddhist shrine and knelt down to pray to seek enlightenment.  It is such an exciting world out there in cutting edge new and old religions.

The true Church is left preaching Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins because that is what you need.  You have the cross, the power of God for salvation.  The world thinks you are a fool, but you have the cross, the power of God and the wisdom of God.  You have the cross.

Just as Faith took her first breath of life on Monday she will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit next Sunday at her baptism.  At your baptism you received the Breath of Eternal life in the Holy Spirit.  You are born again in water and Spirit.  You are baptized into Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  This is more profound than you can comprehend.  Just as you cannot comprehend the incredible complexity of a single fertilized human ovum, you cannot understand the depth of love shown in the grace given you through Christ crucified.  Even though you do not fully understand, you have Christ crucified for you.You have the cross.  You have Jesus.  Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001