Folly of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1)

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Service Notes

Fifth Sunday after Trinity + July 1, 2018
  • Order of Service: Divine Service 1
  • Hymns: LSB #688, 454, 619, 924

Theme Verse

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Sermon Text

“Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle” is one of the most ancient hymns in our hymnal. It is one of the two main Good Friday hymns.[1] This hymn is a very solemn praise of what the world sees as folly but Christians see as God's almighty power. Almighty power given through the seemingly insignificant.

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
As a victim won the day.[2]

Jesus' Crucifixion is the “glorious battle” that ends the fray between good and evil, light and darkness. Although we continue to live in a world ruled by darkness, we have the victory because Jesus “as a victim won the day.”[3] Light has overcome the darkness. Jesus has destroyed Satan's power. He has given the ultimate sign which Jews seek. Yet that very sign is a stumblingblock.[4]

The cross is a trophy. It stands before us in our worship as the sign of our redemption. We follow it in and out of our services because it is the trophy—the banner—under which we fight in this world. “His banner over me is love.”[5] Love seen as the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.[6] Love seen as the One who could take Himself off the cross refused. Instead, He stayed on the cross to give Paradise to those who repent.[7]

Tell how, when at length the fullness
Of the appointed time was come,
He, the Word, was born of woman,
Left for us His Father’s home,
Blazed the path of true obedience,
Shone as light amidst the gloom.[8]

Good Friday is not the beginning of the story. Neither is it the end of the story. The cross is merely one step along Jesus' “path of true obedience.”[9]

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[10] Jesus came into the world at just the right time. He came in to do one thing: to blaze “the path of true obedience.”[11]

The path of true obedience began at God's right hand, where Jesus had sat from eternity past. At the right time, Jesus came down to earth, took on human flesh, shone the true Light in the midst of the darkened world.[12] He shines His Light so that we might have His example to follow. We follow the path He has blazed through this world into the world to come. That path goes through the cross.

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,
He went forth from Nazareth,
Destined, dedicated, willing,
Did His work, and met His death;
Like a lamb He humbly yielded
On the cross His dying breath.[13]

At the age of thirty, Jesus began to publicly fulfill His predestined course. Just as He left His heavenly home, He left His earthly home of Nazareth. His course as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”[14] Jesus' course ran through the cross. He did His work of salvation by meeting death so that He might give life. The Psalm reminds us, “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[15] Jesus left that realm of eternal pleasures so that He might bring you and I back into it with Him on the Last Day.

The humble Lamb of God willingly yielded His life for us. Jesus died so that we might not perish. “The cross is folly to those who are perishing.”[16] Jesus presents Himself to all men, but His appearance is not what we expect. We expect a Savior who is like King Saul, standing head and shoulders above everyone else.[17] We expect a Savior who thrives on victory. We expect a Savior who is a lion like Aslan. But we get a Savior who is a lamb. We get a Savior who submits to death.[18] We get a Savior who speaks in whispers.[19]

But His whispers are louder than the world's shouting. Just as “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”[20] These whispers come as gasps as the Savior of the world hangs on the cross. A cross that had conquered so many before Him, but it could not conquer Jesus. The cross becomes the sign of Jesus' triumph.

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit Your equal be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For Your burden makes us free.[21]

Greeks celebrated the accumulation of knowledge. But these words make them scratch their heads.[22] They see the message of the cross as moronic.[23] They look at the cross and see a dead tree. A tree that had all its branches chopped off. A tree stripped of all fruit and leaves. And this is “the noblest tree”?[24] It's absolutely ridiculous! But it's absolutely true.

However, the cross is not a talisman or good luck charm. The cross shows our redemption and our victory over death and the grave. We use it in our worship when we invoke the name of our Triune God at the beginning of the service.[25] When we speak of the resurrection of the dead in the Creed.[26] When we receive the Lord's Benediction at the end of the service.[27] It does not ward off evil spirits. It declares our independence from death, Hell and the devil. It declares us to be the victors in the “glorious battle” through Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected.[28]

Unto God be praise and glory;
To the Father and the Son,
To the eternal Spirit honor
Now and evermore be done;
Praise and glory in the highest
While the timeless ages run.[29]

We stand for the doxology. Father, Son and Holy Spirit receive our praise and glory because of the wondrous way that they have brought about salvation. Jesus' death on the cross grants you the ability to praise God now and forevermore. You receive the gift of forgiveness here in this world. You will receive the gift of everlasting life on the Last Day, when He calls you home to enjoy with Him “the timeless ages” in Heaven.[30] Amen.

References

  1. LSB #454, “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle,” and #455, “The Royal Banners Forward Go,” have prominent places at the end of the Chief Service for Good Friday.
  2. LSB #454.1
  3. LSB #454.1
  4. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23
  5. Song of Solomon 2:4
  6. John 10:14-15
  7. Luke 23:39-43
  8. LSB #454.2
  9. LSB #454.2
  10. Galatians 4:4-5
  11. LSB #454.2
  12. John 1:5
  13. LSB #454.3
  14. John 1:29
  15. Psalm 16:11
  16. 1 Corinthians 1:18
  17. 1 Samuel 9:2
  18. Philippians 2:8
  19. 1 Kings 19:12-13
  20. 1 Corinthians 1:25
  21. LSB #454.4
  22. 1 Corinthians 1:22-23
  23. 1 Corinthians 1:18
  24. LSB #454.4
  25. LSB p. 151
  26. LSB p. 158
  27. LSB p. 166
  28. LSB #454.1
  29. LSB #454.5
  30. LSB #454.5

References