1 Corinthians 2:1-16: Christ’s Cross Casts Its Beams

The night engulfs the day sky, a blanket descending upon the earth. Death looms in the afternoon, the sun retreating its rays, ashamed by the spectacle. On two rough-hewn beams of wood hang a man who transcends our shadows and frees us from our darkness. Final gasping words pierce the gloom, declaring no sin is mightier than the Almighty’s grace. Condemnation’s tongue, silent and rendered mute.

The hymn, “Thy Strong Word,” expounds on the rest of the story, not on the cross’s bleakness, but its brilliance. Its luster gleams in lucent glory as a beacon of hope. Its sheen and burnish eclipse the confines of time, glimmering our Lord’s timeless love across the centuries. Past our physical realm, its splendor pierces into our souls, encircling us with salvation, beaming its unyielding rays of redeeming light.

The Lord’s mercy is unfathomable, taking our transgressions and placing them upon His Son, Jesus Christ. “Behold, God’s Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.” The cross dominates as the central truth of our faith, enlightening you and me with heaven’s grace, granting life unbounded beyond our every mortal boundary.

The Apostle wrote, “I concerned myself with nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Of course, Paul didn’t avoid other topics, being fervent on many matters. In 1 Corinthians, he discusses the sacred bond of marriage, the sanctity of the Lord’s Supper, and its proper practice. Why, he delves into lawsuits, strife with parishioners, the resurrected life, spiritual gifts, and the grander gift of love.

To speak only of Christ crucified doesn’t mean avoiding other essential subjects. No, this singular focus brings us to behold our Savior’s cross intertwining into every issue. So, we, too, should let the brightness of its beams shine on everything.

Let’s explore a few topics to discover how Christ’s cross works. The splintered cross shows us the dreadful weight of unrighteousness, so pervasive it sullies the best among us. “If you think of sin but lightly, nor suppose its evil great, [on the cross] you view its nature rightly, [there] its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, glimpse who bears the heavy load; it’s the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.” So blighted is our corruption that only Jesus’ precious blood can cleanse us from its stain.

In Christ, God’s heart expresses itself on the cross: of surrender, love, and mercy, speaking to us of unending grace. In unfailing devotion, He didn’t “withhold his own Son but gave him up for us.” So “how will he not, with him, give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32).

So, if God spared not His Son for your forgiveness, He must enjoy forgiving. The cross gives us a glimpse of the resounding joy in heaven when one sinner repents. Eternity is ringing with praises borne of grace while we rejoice here, relieved by being released from the shackles of our sin.

Each of these truths leads to another, for if Christ forgives us (and He does), His actions reconcile us to His heavenly Father. What follows? Peace with God. No more are we in the Devil’s kingdom, held in his thrall, for he can claim us no more.

Jesus guides and shepherds us, for we are His own, and we belong to God! So, we’re part of His family, now heirs and recipients of His eternal treasures. So our bodies shall rise from death since Jesus will renew and restore us as God first fashioned us—as sinless, immortal beings with bodies and souls.

Consider how Christ embodies His love for us. From heaven, He descended to embrace the robe of our human flesh, to suffer, bleed, and die. Later, He rises in His same body—with skin, bone, and blood as a physical being. So, He won’t stop short but save our entire beings when He returns in glory! Yes, He will raise us forth righteous on the Last Day.

The sin-laden cross is the key to true enlightenment, unlocking Gospel truths, one after the other. Jesus’ cross not only teaches us Jesus saves but instructs us on the Law, enabling us to view life as sinners made holy in Him. The grace of His cross draws us closer to God, a journey Jesus began for us with His sacrifice and love.

Those who don’t understand the cross perceive the Law as an enemy, loathing its presence. To them, the Law is a relentless reminder of their failings, of how they can’t meet the required standard. Without grace, we, too, will despair in the Law’s shadow, bereft of joy for too often failing.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from those feelings. What’s different is Jesus—and His undeserved kindness, which empowers us to view the Law with fresh eyes. How? First, we can delight in the Law, recognizing it comes to us by Jesus’ cross, by what He did to free us from condemnation on the forsaken wood. From there, His actions flow toward us—including His saving Sacraments for our lives of faith. So, the Law isn’t bad but wondrous because it shows us Jesus.

Apply this perspective to God’s commandments. Consider the Commandment not to commit adultery, to abstain from illicit love, of sexual fidelity. Many think this to be burdensome. Ah, but as believers, we can rejoice in this command, which pictures the bond between Christ and His Church. Jesus does more than not leave His holy bride for another—He is so faithful He sacrificed Himself for her. This reality we live out in our relationships as we revel in our Lord’s faithfulness.

Every commandment becomes an opportunity to display your Savior’s affection and forgive somebody else’s faults. “Let your light shine before others,” Jesus taught. Why? “So [other people] may recognize your virtuous works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Distinguish Christ’s love in each Commandment, and you’ll rejoice because He fulfilled them for you. The Law points us to His grace in the Gospel.

So, our Lord’s cross pierces our darkness, clarifying everything and casting light on more than our eyes can see. To involve yourself with nothing but the cross doesn’t mean limiting yourself to one subject. No, this opens the door to an infinite love surpassing all understanding.

The cross’s radiance shines on every concern but speaking best to our times of adversity. In our afflictions, we often protest, “Why, Lord?” The problem of suffering is complex, entangling deep into our being, but our fall into sin is always at its root.

Let’s unravel the riddle. First, Christ on the cross wipes away our false assumptions, such as anguish and torment happen because God is cruel, or He is callous and doesn’t care. The grand truth is this: God isn’t malicious but prefers to show us His love. Remember, He didn’t hold back, giving His Son as the ultimate gift, His dearest treasure.

Consider the possible “yeses” God echoes to us from those wooden crossbeams. These might include God taking our difficult moments and turning them into lessons of redemption. Can He not use another’s misdeeds so we take solace in His saving embrace? Is He helping transform our sin-stained lives so we may mirror His grace and herald His truth? Oh, He’s leading you to yearn for the next life, not burdened by sin, but basking in the radiance of His love.

Two millennia ago, the winds wept as the killing darkness descended, casting its long shadow on a sorrowful Friday. To gaze on ancient rulers exacting their cruel punishment on a man may cause us to conclude our existence is horrible and meaningless. Didn’t the enemy, death, appear undaunted and victorious? “How can a God allow such pain and anguish?” Of course, we can’t satisfy every such question, but do not doubt the actual answer dwells in God’s love for you.

Unknown to Christ’s crucifiers, God laid bare something better, “according to God’s set plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). God understood what evil strove to do, yet no insidious plot of treachery will destroy the plans of the Almighty. God thwarted the eternal intentions of iniquity, showing in death a strength it could never bear, turning wickedness into our everlasting well-being.

Do you imagine God didn’t foresee your life’s sadness and strife? The Devil seeks to seize your hardship and desperation, to drive a wedge between you and God. But God can turn your tribulations to your gain. God stands with you in the storm, working all things, including your darkest hour and valley of weeping, for your eternal prosperity. Such is His essence.

Allow the cross to cascade its light on everything; first, to expose your sin. Bow before its gracious beams as they break through your barriers, bringing you to confess your sinfulness. Don’t scamper and flee when it unmasks the depth of your ungodliness, for those rays blaze as each stroke of grace breaks sin’s power again. Blame and shame wither away as Christ’s saving work shines through to forgive and restore you.

Let the cross radiate God’s steadfast love and generosity. Can you spot His face reflected off the wood? Is He not smiling, beholding you, not with condemnation, but compassion? Gone is your sin, pardoned in its splendor, for your Redeemer’s forgiveness runs deep, who paid your sinful debt. In His death, you are blameless before God: the Law fulfilled, freed from your guilt.

The magnificent cross stands tall, glowing with hope and grace, unyielding in strength amid our tempests of life. May its blessing forever illuminate our lives and bring peace to our souls. With Paul, we stand firm and claim no knowledge but Christ Jesus and Him crucified. Amen.

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