Christ is the power of God
Reading II : 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
- Signs are an important part of Israel’s theology, as Paul notes in today’s passage.
- In Israel’s life, signs always convey the message of the presence and power of God.
- For those who can see, Christ is the ultimate sign of the presence and power of God.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Feasting on the Word
Questioning the things we value
Though we know better, Christians sometimes fool ourselves into believing that we can rely upon our own abilities, our own expertise, our own planning and sophistication. Degrees, insurance policies, master plans, and systematic theologies are good things, unless we pile them up to convince ourselves that we have life all figured out and our future neatly planned. In the shadow of the cross, such “wisdom” and thinly veiled attempts at control seem foolish. God’s foolishness in the cross also calls into question what we value. So often we are starstruck by the beautiful, the popular, and the wealthy; but the cross is ugly, unpopular, and poor, representing the very poverty of Christ, who is emptied for the sins of the world. We are impressed with violent, ravenous power, but the cross means nonviolent self-giving. We are mesmerized by the eloquent, but the cross speaks God’s peculiar power and wisdom. The cross reminds us of our ultimate allegiance not to our country, not to our family, not to our work, but to Christ. For Christians, the cross declares that we embrace truth when lies seem easier, gentleness when force is attractive, justice for the oppressed when maintaining the status quo would be simpler, generosity when hoarding would be more comfortable, forgiveness when a hateful grudge would taste so good.
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
Life Application Study Bible
Believing in Christ sounds foolish to many
1 Cor 1:22–24 Many Jews considered the Good News of Jesus Christ to be foolish, because they thought the Messiah would be a conquering king accompanied by signs and miracles. Jesus had not restored David’s throne as they expected. Besides, he was executed as a criminal, and how could a criminal be a savior? Greeks, too, considered the gospel foolish: they did not believe in a bodily resurrection; they did not see in Jesus the powerful characteristics of their mythological gods; and they thought no reputable person would be crucified. To them, death was defeat, not victory. The Good News of Jesus Christ still sounds foolish to many. Our society worships power, influence, and wealth. Jesus came as a humble, poor servant, and he offers his kingdom to those who have faith, not to those who do all kinds of good deeds to try to earn his gifts. This looks foolish to the world, but Christ is our power, the only way we can be saved. Knowing Christ personally is the greatest wisdom anyone could have.
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDY
We proclaim Christ Crucified
by Michal Hunt
In the Second Reading, St. Paul complains that the Jews demand spectacular signs or miracles while the Greeks want wisdom or reason that makes everything understandable. Paul reminds us that Christ crucified and resurrected is both the sign and the wisdom of God for humanity. He is the Living Word of God who makes possible God’s gift of everlasting life in His eternal Kingdom.
Two Kinds of Christians
In this passage, Paul writes about the two kinds of Christians that made up the New Covenant Church in the 1st century AD: Jews and Gentiles.
- The first group is composed of Jewish Christians who want the supernatural in their worship services. They are the sort who keep asking, “What does the worship service do for me?” and not “what am I giving to the worship service of myself.”
- The second group, composed of Greek culture Gentile Christians, are the rationalists who want analysis and insight that gives wisdom. However, in only focusing on the rational, they do not grasp the value of the wonder of the mystery of faith that cannot be analyzed and defined.
It is human to want proof, whether for a message’s truth to be guaranteed by miracles or by a logical argument based on philosophical axioms. This desire is not in itself reprehensible, but it is unacceptable if it becomes a condition in which the mind refuses to submit to faith and belief.
The cross as a paradox
The truth is the Cross of Jesus Christ is a paradox; it is the weakness of Christ made strong in His glorious Resurrection. St. Paul counsels that both groups need to respond with faith and understand that the “sign” and the “wisdom” are found in Christ crucified. There can be no Resurrection without the crucifixion. Together these two events form the glorious manifestation (“sign”) of the wisdom and the power of God for the salvation of humanity.
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
To those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike
Points to consider
- In just three sentences I hear a summary of the apostle’s stump speech. Because so many centuries have passed and Christianity is no longer mere foolishness to the onlooking world, many in the assembly may wonder what it’s all about. I need to pronounce everything distinctly.
- The first sentence: Jews demand signs – because the Messiah would come in fulfillment of ancient foretellings. – And Greeks look for wisdom, just as today we look to purveyors of the keys to eternal truth for answers to our own anxieties. The two audiences sought different answers, and in my reading I will pause briefly between them to make this clear.
- The second sentence: But – we proclaim Christ crucified. For me, the first word but shows the contrast intended by the apostle, and I will make a brief pause. He did not give either party what they were seeking, and so they could not – or would not – accept the message. By the way, this is the first time in Lent that we announce in our assemblies the mystery of the cross.
- The final sentence: The weakness of God is stronger than human strength. I affirm this as I recall the little people of history who were murdered for Christ but whose witness and fame lives on.
- Climax: To those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike. The apostle is referring to everyone who accepts the good news, in Corinth and in the other cities of the Empire, and in every nation and time since then.
- The message for our assembly: The scandalous life and shameful death of Christ are inconvenient for many and nonsense to others. We keep faith because through them we have found Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
- I will challenge myself: To say the entire reading boldly and with triumphal voice. Let me remember that we celebrate every Lent from the perspective of Easter.
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
For the people of ancient Corinth, following the way of Christ was only one of many options. Saint Paul outlines the differences among them.
Our Liturgical Situation
Today’s gospel portrays Jesus as causing scandal (“Scandal” comes from a Greek word literally meaning “stumbling block”). Even without the literal “scandal” in this passage from 1 Corinthians, it’s a stark call to choose the way of Jesus over the conventional way. So it fits nicely with the first reading’s call to change, with the gospel, and with the season.
The Historical Situation
Paul had established a church in Corinth. Though it was not Athens, this cosmopolitan Greek seaport had plenty of rival religious and philosophical movements. When Paul came there, he had just been laughed out of Athens (See Acts of the Apostles, chapter 17) for his doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. So in Corinth he decided not to compete for anyone’s mere philosophical allegiance, as he reminds the Corinthians in the verses of this later letter prior to today’ reading. Those verses deserve quotation here:
- The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.” Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom …
Proclaiming the Passage:
This powerful passage has great contrasts which you should emphasize with your pauses and variations in your pitch.
Three groups contrast. There are the Jews (the old religion), the Greeks (philosophical types), and finally, “those who are called” (us Christians).
Then two “ways of life” contrast: God’s folly and weakness versus human wisdom and strength.
And since lent is all about Christ, I would emphasize the climactic expression:
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God
by pausing before and after it, lowering my tone of voice, and speaking it more slowly than the surrounding verses.
Folly to the Gentiles
St. Paul speaks of the Cross as Folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to his contemporary kinsmen.
Check out this video with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more about this topic from St. Paul’s preaching of Christ Crucified.
Dr. Edward Sri – No Greater Love: The Wisdom of the Cross
Dr. Edward Sri delivered this talk, “No Greater Love: The Wisdom of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:22 25),” at the 2019 Applied Biblical Studies Steubenville Conference.
Thing in a Pot Productions
The Meaning of the Cross – Fulton Sheen Timeless Wisdom
The cross is an absurdity, a fulfillment and the autobiography of each one of us. To explain the instrument of our salvation, master teacher and theologian Fulton Sheen takes us back to the Old Testament story of Moses and the Serpent of Brass. Then, Sheen uses those lessons to show how our modern lives are sanctified and saved by the Crucifixion.
This video is the sixth episode of the “Fulton Sheen Timeless Wisdom” project. The audio is part of “The Crucifixion and the Meaning of the Resurrection” from the Fulton Sheen’s lessons on Holy Week. Listen to the whole talk at http://www.fultonsheen.com. Watch all the episodes at http://www.thinginapot.com/category/videos/fulton-sheen/