Walk though Weak

I Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

Today’s Gospel passage begins with these words: “Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.”

Just three hundred years before this time, Alexander the Great, a Greek, had conquered the entire known world. But now—now!—they were mostly slaves and freedmen under the authoritarian hand of the ruling Romans. The Greeks, the insiders, had become outsiders and outcasts. They lost the lives that they had once loved. They once were strong; now they were weak.

So some Greeks, who had gone up to worship at the festival—which festival? the Passover!—wanted to meet Jesus. They saw Philip, one of Jesus’s followers, and told him, who then told Andrew; and Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus about it.

Jesus then responds with some very telling words.

For these weak Greeks, who had died to their old lives, were really very much like many of the Jews. Like the Greeks, the common Jewish multitudes had an extremely rich heritage. But, like the Greeks, they now had to live under the authoritarian hand of the Roman rulers. They were outsiders and outcasts. Like the Greeks, they had lost the lives they once loved. They were now weak.

And Jesus responds to this with some words about resurrection:

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

So that’s from today’s Gospel. Now let’s turn to the epistle, today’s other reading; for it offers something of an explanation to the Gospel passage:

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The crucified Christ is something of a paradox.

Christ, God incarnate in the man Jesus, was actually executed in a brutal, bloody, base manner.  Yet Christ as God is the creator of all the universe, the creator and sustainer of the very human instruments that tortured and executed him.  How can this be?

Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”  Nevertheless, this apparent paradox is the wisdom of God.

But this is not the only paradox in God.  Paul talks of God’s foolishness—as if such a concept could even be possible!  Yet even if there were such a thing it would be wiser than the highest human wisdom.  Also, there’s God’s weakness.  Is such a thing even possible?  Well, if it is, even it is stronger than any and all human strength!

In fact—and here’s Paul’s main point—God has chosen the weak in the world to shame the strong; and the foolish to shame the wise.

In God’s economy–not the world’s; not Rome’s–the weak shall prevail over the strong. There will be no slave or free, male or female, wealthy or poor; the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

This is what new life in Christ looks like!

Now put it together.

Weakness is all around us. Do you know that today marks the one-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon? This year also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the standoff at Tiananmen Square. And we all know what happened to the man Jesus nearly two thousand years ago! At times we want to cry out, “Why is there so much evil in the world?”

But it is in just such times of weakness that the light of Christ shines brightest. It never fails to amaze me how a tragedy always becomes the bugle call to raise an army of mercy and grace. Heroes emerge from the rubble. Humanity is roused to do good once again. Hope in Christ prevails.

Isn’t this a paradox?

Let’s bring it to a personal level. We all experience times of weakness. These could be internal, matters of conscience; these could be interpersonal, matters of relationship; or these could be external, like a social issue. It doesn’t really matter. Point is, these are times of struggle for all of us. We stumble under the weight of it all with a heavy heart.

But we live in a new age, an age of paradox, an age when great strength is to be found in our weakness.

The trouble, I know, is how to access this strength. How do we find it, especially when we feel so weak?

I think you know the answer: we walk.

We’re tired, yes. But we must keep walking! It’s already Holy Tuesday: Lent is almost over! Keep walking. We keep going on the journey; we keep praying; we keep reading the Bible; we keep studying; we keep worshiping; we keep going with Christ. Yes, we may not always feel it. But it’s right here: the light of Christ, our strength in weakness, is right here!

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