Martin Luther teaches us to make the sign of the holy cross when we wake up, when we go to bed, before we eat a meal, and after we eat a meal. Then there are the many times the cross is signed over one being baptized. Count the number of times the cross is made by a pastor in the Divine Service. Count how many crosses are in church or in your home. Crosses, crosses everywhere.
Consider also that Luther says, “The cross alone is our theology.” Hearing today’s Epistle confirms Luther’s words. Saint Paul says, We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Step back for a moment and figure that out. Paul calls the preaching of the crucified Christ the foolishness of God. It’s a scandal, isn’t it? God dies on the cross for you to atone for the sin of the world. No wonder Jews and Greeks couldn’t get behind that proclamation. They were too busy demanding signs and wisdom. In Matthew chapter 12 some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you. He responds, An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. That sign is death and resurrection. Three days in the ground after a torturous death.
Looking for a sign from God? Here it is: the cross. The cross with Jesus laying on it. An empty cross, while more palatable for those who aren’t comfortable with blood and shame, just doesn’t cut it. We preach Christ crucified says Saint Paul. A bloody, dying Jesus is the power and wisdom of God. It’s the only way you are bought back from sin, hell, and death.
Some may object by saying, “An empty cross shows me that Jesus didn’t stay on the cross. He’s alive!” Better to have a picture of an empty tomb, maybe with Jesus standing outside of it with His wounds still fresh. That’s the resurrection scene. The crucifixion scene has Jesus on a cross, hanging there as a spectacle before the world. This is why our churches see fit to have crucifixes. The cross alone, with Jesus alone hanging on it, is our theology.
It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. What sounds forth from this pulpit, what you are baptized into, and what goes into your mouth under bread and wine is not folly. The fruit of the cross, the Tree of Life, goes in you in this place. The fruit of the cross, Jesus Christ, goes in your ears, sounding your salvation. You are all wet in the crucified Christ. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? The Lord’s Supper is eating and drinking Jesus broken and shed for you. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The world laughs and mocks the cross. The God of the Bible would never do what He did to save someone like you. He did. That is why Paul says the word of the cross is the power of God compared to those who are perishing, who call the word of the cross folly. To the Jews it was a joke, a necessary way to silence the King of the Jews and His radical message of repentance and forgiveness of sins for the worst of society. To the Greeks, the Gentiles, the word of the cross does not make sense. Greek logic is a cold and callous thing. It needs evidence, proof, and facts. All of these things are before them, yet they will not believe it because it is folly. God must not die. Yet He does die. He dies for the Jew, the Greek, and for you.
As Doctor Luther says, “The Gospel is not Christ.” The Gospel is the proclamation of Christ. The proclamation of Christ is the proclamation of the cross, the proclamation of the cross for you. Thus the delivery of the cross and with it all that was there achieved for you that day long ago. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” No. You are not there. Nor need you attempt to get back there with some sort of getting contemporary with it.
Our Lord is not back at the cross today, but here, where He is having His words spoken, the words that deliver Him. Doctor Luther said if you want your sins forgiven, don’t go to Calvary. There forgiveness was won for you, but there it is not given out. You go to the Lord’s Supper. There forgiveness is not won for you, but there it is given out. The Lord’s Supper has always a specific place and time. For there to be a delivery to us, it cannot be otherwise. We go on only as we are located at a particular place and time. The Lord has appointed the place and time for the delivery of His gifts, means of grace, the external Word, located words, water, wine, and bread.
Today is Holy Cross Day. And so is tomorrow. And, as the Lord wills, every day. For every time the folly of the cross is brought to you in the external Word, there is Jesus for you, putting forgiveness in you, bringing what happened then into your now. The foolishness of God makes perfect sense in the word of the cross, for Jesus has spoken his τετέλεσται, his it is finished, from the cross for you.