Monthly Archives: March 2016



The Lion Roared
It was dark throughout the land
When Judah’s Lion made His final stand
His throat was parched and dry
When the Lion made His last cry
Into the sky it soared
“It’s Is Finished,” the Lion roared
His best friend was standing there
As He gave His mother into his care
And Mary Magdalene was on her knees
When the Lion made His final plea
Into the sky it soared
“It Is Finished,” the Lion roared
Family and friends witnessed the end
Soldiers and thieves were part of the din
Enemies mocked His urgent prayer
“Father forgive them,” was met with cold stares
Into the sky it soared
“It is finished,” the Lion roared
Hopes and dreams seemed to cease
As blood covered the Lion’s fleece
But as they took His body down
And removed the woven thorny crown
The grave told a heartbreaking story
Until Sunday revealed the Lion’s roar of glory
Rick Burdette, Easter 2016


4 views from the cross

4 Views from the Cross – A Savior Sees a World That Needs Forgiveness
Luke 23:32-49 (p. 737) Easter Sunday – March 27, 2016


Edwin Thomas was the master of the Shakespearian stage in the latter half of the 1800’s. At 15 he made his debut in Richard III, as he gained acclaim he starred in Hamlet in New York City for 100 consecutive performances…Edwin Thomas was a master of tragedy on stage.

Tragedies were his trademark…but unfortunately his life would mirror his on stage persona…Edwin Thomas had a brother who was also a famous actor named John…In 1863 they performed together in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar…John portrayed the role of Brutus, Caesar’s assassin. Ironically this would foreshadow what would happen 2 years later in 1865.

John would become a real life assassin. On a crisp April night, John would enter the presidential box in Ford’s Theater and shoot President Abraham Lincoln in the back of the head with a 44 derringer. Edwin Thomas and John Wilkes both share the same last name…Booth.

We know John Wilkes booth was hunted down and shot while hiding in a barn…but Edwin Booth is another story….Shame from his brother’s crime made him quit acting…he would have become a virtual recluse except for another incident in his life…while waiting for a train on a crowded platform in a New Jersey Station…he witnessed the crowd swell and accidentally push a well dressed young man onto the track in front of an oncoming train…with no thought for his own safety…he hooked a leg off a railing…reached down are rescued the young man…This young man recognized Edwin Booth, but Booth didn’t recognize him…until he received a letter two weeks later from the Chief Secretary of the United States thanking him for saving the life of Abraham Lincoln’s son…Robert Todd…Edwin Booth returned to the stage after this incident and was buried with this letter in his pocket.

Two brothers with the same parents, same background, same passion…So what made the difference in the direction of their lives.

I believe it can be summed up in one word…CHOICES. One chose to take a life, on chose to save a life.

My dad told me this story one time about twin brothers who grew up with an alcoholic abusive father…one of the son’s studied hard, stayed in school, refused to drink, He married a Christian girl and became a doctor.

The other son started fighting early, dropped out of school, began to drink and had several broken marriages…when both were asked “How’d you end up where you are?” They both gave the same answer…“How could I end up any other way…look at my dad!”

There are certainly things that impact our lives and can shape who we are…tragedies and lucky breaks…but regardless of whether we are born with a plastic fork or a silver spoon in our mouth we will all make choices that determine whether we selfishly take a life or sacrificially save one…whether we become victims or victors.

We’ve examined who was at the cross of Jesus over the last month. Jesus’ mom and family had chosen to be there to love Him through the ordeal. The Pharisees had chosen to be there because they hated Jesus. The soldiers were there doing their jobs….and the thieves were next to Him on crosses because of a lifetime of “criminal choices.” The crowd was there to watch a spectacle.

As Jesus dies on the cross he sees the entire world next to Him and at His feet. And what does He ask from the Father as He views this world.

“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

The reason He’s there is to bring the opportunity for the world to have forgiveness. And as he dies there…it’s His prayer.


[I remember my mom making Toll House Cookies for a women’s club meeting and she told me to stay out of them. She got a call on the phone, so while she was on the call I rushed in and stuffed 3 cookies in my mouth as quick as I could, but I wasn’t quick enough and she walked back in and said, “Ricky…what are you doing? And I said “Nothing” (as a mouthful of cookies fell out).]

Nobody does wrong stuff hoping they get caught. When we sin…when we’re disobedient we always think “Nobody will ever know…I can get away with this.” But a lifetime of living like that and thinking like that gets you “busted.” You end up in a place you never thought you’d be.

These two criminals…thieves have been caught and as Jesus looks to His right and left He sees someone paying for a lifetime of bad choices.

The OT prophet foretold that Jesus wouldn’t just die for sinners…He would die with sinners. “He was numbered with transgressions.” (Is. 53:12)

And there are two distinct reactions from sinners caught and in trouble…then and now.

1. The 1st reaction is anger and hatefulness…“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him. Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

No repentance…no remorse…just selfish anger. By the way when he says save yourself and us…which one of those two do you think he’s most concerned with?


[At the end of his trial Adolf Eichman who assisted Adolf Hitler in the killing of 6 million Jews was asked if he’d like to repent…He then blamed his superiors…He was just following orders…and He said, “I’ll never repent…Repentance is for little children!”]

He was right according to Jesus who said, “Unless a man humbles himself and becomes like a little child he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)

Real repentance is always what changes our choices. Repentance isn’t being sorry you got caught…it’s being sorry for how you’ve hurt God and others. Real repentance changes the heart from selfishness to humility. It’s the door of salvation that leads to our baptism into Christ’s death, burial and resurrection…Repentance doesn’t come easy and for some, even on a cross, it doesn’t come at all.

The second reaction by sinners who are caught and in trouble is.

2. Humble repentance that brings forgiveness.

One of the criminals confesses his life of sin… “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve…but this man has done nothing at all wrong.” He asks the other thief…“Don’t you fear God?”

Real repentance always involves our responsibility to God. 2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

A great illustration of the two sorrows are Peter and Judas…both denied and betrayed Jesus…one hung himself, the other became a forgiven witness of the resurrection.

Jesus sees both worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow on his right and left. One is lost in death…the other receives the promise “This day you will be with me in paradise” after he asks Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Most of the world still reacts to sin like these two criminals…anger to cover our guilt or repentance that accepts His blood as a covering.

Jesus also saw a world caught up in gambling on unimportant stuff…as he dies he sees soldiers.


Vs. 34 tells us at the foot of the cross “They divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

While the Son of God dies for their sins there are people more concerned with making a buck.

Doing their job and unaware of God’s supreme sacrifice as they try to make a little extra.

Ironic that they think if they win the bet, this blood soaked robe will make them a little happier…when it’s this blood that’s of infinite worth…not that worldly piece of cloth.

Forgiveness is what they need…not another set of clothes.

But countless souls gamble away their eternity in the search for happiness in stuff…John the beloved, who stood next to those who were gambling for a garment would later unite.

1 JOHN 2:15-17 (p. 855)

And yet most will look for the answers in the world instead of the will of God…it’s a losing gamble.

Let me end with one last group Jesus views from the cross…I believe it’s the largest one.


Vs. 35 says “The people just stood there watching.”

They don’t really hate Jesus like the Pharisees…and they don’t really love Jesus like His family….they’re neither hot nor cold…they’re lukewarm “just standing there at the cross watching.”

No one made them be there…It’s a choice they’ve made…after all it’s free entertainment….like an old time hanging in town square…let’s take a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

77% of Americans claim to be Christians. The vast majority of us here today claim to be Christ followers.

We’ll even come to the cross today and take a look at His body and blood during communion but if we haven’t experienced the resurrection then we will just stand there watching in our faith.

Max Lucado, in his book, “Six Hours One Friday,” tells the story of a missionary in Brazil who discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle. They lived near a large river. The tribe was in need of medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population. People were dying daily.

A hospital was not too terribly far away – across the river, but the Indians would not cross it because they believed the river was inhabited by evil spirits. And to enter its water would mean certain death.

The missionary explained how he had crossed the river and was unharmed. But they were not impressed. He then took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water. They still wouldn’t go in. He walked into the water up to his waist and splashed water on his face. It didn’t matter. They were still afraid to enter the river.

Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. He raised a triumphant fist into the air. He had entered the water and escaped. It was then that the Indians broke into a cheer and followed him across.

Isn’t that what Jesus did? He entered the river of death and came out on the other side so that we might no longer fear death, but find eternal life in Him.

Romans 6:8 says “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.”

You see the resurrection of Jesus isn’t something believers celebrate once a year…We’ve come to the cross…we’ve swam the river…we’ve followed our Savior and Lord…Isn’t it time for you to take the plunge?

Let’s pray.

4 views from the cross


4 Views from the Cross – A Soldier Views the Son of God
Matthew 27:45-54 (p. 697) March 20, 2016


Doug Fraley, my youth minister at Southland when I was around 7 years old taught me something about my conscience that I’ve never forgotten…He said our conscience is like a circle inside our heart and that circle is filled with a tightly fitting triangle…when we do something we know is wrong…the triangle spins and it’s edges rub against the circle…and we feel it…it causes us to feel uncomfortable with what we’ve done –

And then he said, “But if you keep doing the same thing over and over again you wear the edges off the triangle and you don’t feel uncomfortable with what you doing anymore.

If you’ve ever had a callous develop on your hand you know exactly what he’s talking about…when you first start digging with the shovel…or swinging the hammer your hands are soft, you rub them raw…you get a blister, but if you keep on digging and swinging eventually those soft hands build up calluses that keep you from feeling the pain.

I’m not sure how many battles he’d been in or how many men he’d killed or helped kill…I’m not sure how much blood he’d had on his hands…or how many horrible things he’d seen…but you do not become a centurion in the Roman army without experiencing your share of pain and death…you do not rise to this position of overseeing 100 soldiers with weakness or gentleness….staff sergeants in the Roman army were hard men, combat tested and proven…there was blood and death in their past and almost certainly in their future.

Rome would only have chosen those whose triangle had been rubbed smooth…with calloused hearts to oversee an execution squad.

The scourging had become common place to this soldier. The screams of agony and protest fell on deaf ears…He was accustomed to the cursing and obscenities…He’d heard them all as men died on a Roman cross…maybe the best way to describe his heart was “desensitized.” He’d seen what he could not un-see…over and over again.

The pain and abuse of this world has a way of doing that to the human heart…sin hardens us…pain is something we try to numb…addicts deal with it with a drug or bottle.

Soccer mom’s with a Macy’s card…businessmen with an affair…but numbness never provides hope…just a temporary “time out.”

Jesus always has a way of rebuilding the triangle, or turning a heart of stone into one of flesh…His love and grace are sharper than any Roman sword and able to penetrate the most calloused heart.

The eyes of the soldier had seen a lot of people die…His ears had heard a lot of pain…but His eyes had never seen a man die like Jesus…His ears had never heard silence when he expected cursing…He’d never witnessed the Son of God die before – and that changed his view from the foot of the cross.

He experienced…


Mark 15:15 tells us that “Pilate handed Jesus over to be flogged and crucified.”

And the charge that would be posted over His head: KING OF THE JEWS. Why is this important? Because whenever Rome conquered another territory or kingdom…the first thing they did was replace it’s King with a Roman ruler…that’s exactly why Pilate and Herod are in power.

The foreign King would be humiliated and paraded as an example of defeat…this humiliation and mutilation of a conquered King said, “who’s really in power now?” Rome is!!

So with Jesus being crucified as “King of the Jews” these soldiers would treat Him the way they would treat any deposed King.

MARK 15:16-20 (p. 712)

Amazingly Isaiah the prophet wrote 800 years before this event “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him…and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5)

The word for “wounds” is literally “stripes.” “By His stripes we are healed.” The beating and punishment Jesus endured…was ours…He took my “stripes.”

But what made this beating different was the silence: “Jesus is lead like a lamb to the slaughter…as a sheep before her shearers is silent, He did not open His mouth.”
(Is. 53:7)

This soldier doesn’t hear hatred. No angry screams about how evil he is or the injustice of what’s being done…He’s used to seeing violence meeting violence and hate meeting hate…He’s never experienced anything like this before…maybe the triangle starts to turn a little and this amazing love starts to cut through the callous.

Love rescuing has that affect.

[This photo changed the world.


It was taken by Michael Yon as Major Mark Beiger tried to rescue this little girl. In Mosul…a suicide bomber attacked his patrol while 20 children were gathered around. Major Beiger found this little girl and tried to rush her to the American hospital instead of the Iraqi’s hospital so she would get the best care…Yon took this picture because he would stop and hug her and talk to her on the way…she didn’t survive.

Or like this photo


Of Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt…the insurgents had shot and killed both her parents, all her siblings and then they shot her in the head…she underwent hours of surgery…the nurses said John was the only one who could calm her down after the surgery…so he spent the next 4 nights holding her in his arms.]

When the hardened and tough encounter true innocence something happens to the callous…love cuts to the heart of the matter!

Jesus endured the beatings and the crucifixion as “the Lamb of God” taking away the sins of the world…He did it with a heart of love and a prayer “asking His Father not to hold the sins of those doing it…against them.”

His love and grace poured out along with His blood, and that kind of encounter can penetrate the hardest of hearts.

It’s a hard lesson for Jesus’ disciples to follow in this world…meeting hate with hate comes naturally…meeting violence with violence gives release to our anger…turning the other cheek when we’ve been slapped…and praying for the one whose done it is completely against our nature…but maybe that’s the key to love rescuing…hard hearts will never be penetrated by the love and grace of God when people who claim to be Jesus followers respond just like everyone else…worldly unbelieving leaders and kings conquer with force…our King uses different methods…Jesus said this right after talking about meeting violence with violence…the OT laws of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…here’s what He said:

MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)

Only the crucifixion of my rights…my anger, my nature, will allow me to live real Christianity out in a hard world…and only His Spirit living in me and you makes doing that possible…that’s exactly what King Jesus meant when He said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

When you witness the Lamb of God being sacrificial and praying for your forgiveness while you still hold the hammer that drove the nails…your heart will be softened no matter how hard it has become…it will make you cry out “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

Let me end with this warning as we see how a soldier views the cross.


As Jesus dies He cries out “It is finished.” (Paid in full) It’s the Lion of Judah’s final roar from the cross…and Matthew records what happens at this moment…as He gives up His spirit.

MATTHEW 27:51-54 (p. 697)

Matt, Mark and Luke tell us “when the 6th hour occurred, darkness came over the entire land until the 9th hour.”

Please get a feeling for the terrifying physical reaction of creation…as the word of creation dies. It quakes in reaction…As the light of the world dies…it goes “DARK.” As the resurrection and the life dies…so even death reacts and graves open and release their grasp on Holy people. The temple curtain rips…this dividing line between God and man has been destroyed…as a new and living way into God’s presence has been opened by Jesus’ torn flesh.

It is an awesome, terrifying display of God’s power.

It terrifies hardened soldiers; and their leader realizes who is on that cross: “The Son of God.” It took an earthquake to convince him.

Does God still use earthquakes?

The answer is…He can…Surely there will never be a day like that Friday Jesus died on the cross…but God still seeks us…He still uses circumstances and situations to reveal His amazing love.

Some of us have become so hardened by sin and life that it takes an earthquake in our lives to reveal Jesus as God’s Son. Sometimes it takes the darkness for us to cry out to God to pierce it with His light. Sometimes we’ve built such a callous around our heart that it takes the Word of God’s double edged sword to cut it.

[During the time God was using the Holy Spirit to break through my hard heart, Brewster McCleod took some of us to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet…God had softened me up with some tremors, but this would be an earthquake event for me…this guy came out in a motorized wheelchair and began to share his story…He’d been an Olympic quality gymnast when he broke his neck in a fall from the rings…He said he was angry at everyone…especially God…His anger and hatred poured out of his soul…He tried to hurt everyone…like he hurt…especially those who loved him most…there was one of his teammates that continually visited him, even when he was cursed and told to never come back…He always did…and eventually this teammate was able to share the love of Christ…and it broke through the hardness, anger and pain…James surrendered his life to Christ…He told of the opportunities he had to witness to God’s plan…God’s grace…even when you’re paralyzed…God can use your scars for His glory.

As he started off the stage he stopped and turned back…and He said, “I pray to God you’re never paralyzed…unless that’s what God will use to open your heart to His love…then it’s worth it.]

I hope it doesn’t take an earthquake to rebuild the triangle in your heart…I hope you don’t have to experience the darkness unless that’s what God uses to reveal the truth of Jesus in your life…then it’s worth it.

Let’s pray.


4 views from the cross

His Family Views His Death by Rick Burdette

John 19:25-19:27

4 Views from the Cross – His Family Views His Death
John 19:25-27 (p. 756) March 13, 2016


There’s an old hymn that says, “Jesus keep me near the cross. There a precious fountain, free to all a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain…in the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever. ‘Till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.”

But I wonder, on the day Jesus died how near to that cross would we have really wanted to be?

Crucifixion was a slow and horrible way to die. The Romans reserved it for those whom they wanted to make examples of…“Mess with us…and this is where you’ll end up.”

There is a series of events that have happened before we arrive at our text the Sunday before Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey…crowds have celebrated His entrance by throwing down palm branches and shouting “Hosanna.” It’s a Jewish expression of adoration praise and joy (Literally “Save us we pray”).

It caused the conspiracy of the Pharisees to kill Him to go into high gear…John 12:19 records their reaction to the crowds…“Look how the whole world has gone after Him.” Later that week there would be an arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus’ disciples would scatter in fear for their lives…Jesus would be put on trial before the Sanhedrin…but because “Capital Punishment” could only be granted by the Roman government, He would be sent to Pilate…then Herod…then back to Pilate.

Finally Pilate would relent to the crowd that had been yelling “Hosanna” a few days ago but was now yelling “crucify him.” Washing his hands Pilate hands Jesus over…where He’s mocked, beaten and humiliated. He then carries his cross down the Via Dela Rosa (the way of sorrows) to Golgotha. He is then nailed to His cross…hoisted into place.

The Pharisees have followed…and near the cross they spur the crowd on by yelling “If you are the Christ come down from the cross and save yourself, then we will believe you. He saved others but cannot save Himself.”

But as Jesus hangs there He is not just surrounded by hatred…His family is there, His mother Mary, John the Apostle and 3 others.

“Near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25)

What we powerfully encounter here is


By most accurate accounts when Jesus is dying He is surrounded by His mother, His aunt, and His first cousin John…and Mary Magdalene.

Jesus had cast out 7 demons from her soul…she could never forget what Jesus had done to change her life…she had been rescued by the Messiah.

There they stood…Near the cross, watching their son, their nephew, their best friend die…and they couldn’t change the situation…It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking scene…they look up…and He looks down.

Max Lucado asks this powerful question:

Have you ever wondered what Mary was thinking as she saw her little boy, her first born, hanging from the cross. People were yelling, screaming, insulting, spitting and throwing rocks. She must have wanted to comfort her boy — but she couldn’t, there was no comforting, there were screams of pain, agony, blood dripping down His naked, battered body. He was thirsty, but there was no satisfying His thirst. The same body she diapered, the same person she watched grow from a helpless infant. . . was being
crucified. Mary was broken hearted. She would remember what the prophet Simeon said, when Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus into the temple to have Him dedicated, he predicted ‘a sword would pierce her own soul.’
The cross was that sword, and her soul was being pierced.

There is no mention of Joseph…most scholars believe Joseph died sometime after Jesus visited the temple when He was 12 and now…Jesus the firstborn would have been her provider and protector. She has buried her husband, leaving her a widow…now she would bury her 1st born son.

And then from the cross Jesus speaks…He’s said several things…He’s loved a dying thief into paradise…but the words He speaks to His mother and to John are the most intimate and personal.

“John, I give you the responsibility of looking after my mom like a son…Mom, John will protect and provide for you from now on.”

By the way do you think it’s a coincidence that John is the only disciple that isn’t martyred? He lives to be an old man…He’s exiled, but that’s long after Mary’s death.

Jesus hasn’t forgotten His earthly responsibilities, even while being crucified…but He is fulfilling an even more important responsibility…“His Father’s eternal business.”

Mary, John, and His family needed a Savior, even more than they needed a son, nephew, cousin and friend.

They didn’t know it yet but


John, this disciple whom Jesus loved stands next to Mary and the other women and hears Jesus say, “It is finished.” And he watches as “Jesus gives up His spirit.” He watches as life leaves Jesus’ body.

This man who had been their leader, this man who had been their healer and rescuer…this man who had performed miracles…including raising the dead…dies.

And John tells us in chapter 20 verse 9 “They still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

[I’ve held my mother and family as the spirit of life left my father…I’ve comforted my best friend’s wife and children as he died…I’ve been with dozens of families who watch the line go straight on the monitor.

It’s hard…it’s emotional to say “goodbye” to someone we love with all our hearts…It’s what the word grief describes.

But looking up at the beaten and torn body of that loved one taking His last breath on a Roman cross must be doubly crushing.

The words “It is finished” meant something entirely different at the cross to John, Mary, and the others than it did to Jesus.]

[Years earlier, Mary had pulled splinters out of her little boy’s fingers…now she would help remove them from His lifeless body for burial.

Years earlier John had turned his back on his career to follow Jesus of Nazareth and just a few days earlier he had participate in a celebratory “Hosanna” entrance into the city with Jesus…These people were celebrating a King’s arrival 6 days before…Now his lifeless body hung under a sign which announced in 3 languages “King of the Jews.”

He’d followed Jesus as the Messiah and now he was gone…only a lifeless body was left.

This is what John thought “It is finished” meant…It’s over…my dreams…my hopes…finished.

And yet that is not at all what Jesus meant.

As I’ve shared with you the word for “It is finished” is tetelistai…the literal translation is “paid in full.”

Jesus gave up His spirit…no one took it…thousands and thousands of angels were at his disposal if He chose to speak the word.

The penalty for all sin is death…so, for Jesus “It is finished” meant this sacrifice. My obedience even here on the cross…my death as the perfect atoning sacrificial Lamb…pays for all sin…in full.

2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

More painful than the scourge, nails and thorns was this truth for Jesus…as He becomes our sin on the cross…God turns away because He cannot look upon His Son…and Jesus cries out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Peter, the Apostle would write

1 PETER 2:22-24 (p. 851)

On Friday Peter and the others are still hiding. John, Mary, Mary Magdalene are still together…they haven’t left…why are they still there…they’re not expecting a resurrection.

Perhaps it’s as simple as “grieving together.” John is taking care of Jesus’ mom. Maybe they just didn’t have the emotional energy to go anywhere else…or all the above.

Maybe you are here today…It’s Friday in your life…it’s dark…there doesn’t seem to be any reason to stay…you don’t understand but you won’t leave Jesus…why?


Folks it wasn’t finished on Friday…and because they united…because they stayed…His family were around to see the miracle of Sunday.

It’s not finished until Jesus says IT’S FINISHED.

Let’s pray.

4 views from the cross



The World Views a Failure by Rick Burdette

1 Corinthians 1:18-1:25

4 Views from the Cross – The World Views a Failure
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (p. 793) March 6, 2016


Suppose I showed up one day from a foreign country and said I’ve got an amazing story I want to share with you…

A Peruvian peasant by the name of Carlos was put to death in the electric chair in order to pay for your sins.

I’ve even written a song:

[“Carlos was there on that horrible chair.
They tied him down with bolts
and zapped him with 40,000 volts.
It was for you Carlos fried and died.
The wisdom of the world has been rejected
because Carols electrocuted.
He is my Savior and my lamp
because he absorbed every deadly amp.
Now I know that God does care
because He sent Carlos to the electric chair.]

You would say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”

That’s the most foolish religion anyone has ever invented – you have to be absolutely crazy if you expect me to believe something like that…what kind of fool do you think I am?

In fact it’s more than foolish…it’s downright offensive.

“You expect me to believe that some itinerate preacher peasant named Carlos was sentenced to death in the electric chair as my Savior? Good and righteous people do not die in electric chairs!”

Now imagine I’ve shared this “good news” with you and you don’t have 2,000 years of Christian history to hear it through…all you’ve got is how you’ve always thought about electric chairs and who dies in electric chairs.

That’s how people viewed the message of Jesus dying on a cross.

In the 1st century crucifixion was a thing of shame….reserved for only the worst of society…when Jewish people heard about the cross they remembered Deuteronomy 21:23 which says “Anyone who hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”

The Romans viewed the cross as a punishment for the most lowly crimes and the most violent criminals…or for those who continually had a life of crime.

The image of the cross evoked the most horrible and embarrassing death possible.

So when the Apostle Paul comes to Corinth with his story he understands how both Jews and Gentiles see the cross…the world saw Jesus as a failure, and even worse, a fool for dying on a cross.


“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it the power of God.” (v. 18)

The message of the cross creates a division within humanity: Those who are perishing…those who are being saved.

It doesn’t matter who you are…the color of your skin or your economic status, or the language you speak…you fall into one of those two groups.

There is no halfway house, demilitarized zone or neutrality…every single person will be condemned or saved by what they do at the foot of the cross.

And the stumbling block for every one of us who stand there involves a little three letter word called “sin.”

[I grew up with an amazing dad…he could fix anything…or he would stay with it until he figured out how to fix it…He taught me how to use tools, weld, cut and measure… (twice). As I got older he used to say, “Rick Tic let me show you how to do this.” And my independent spirit would say, “I know how to do this…I’ve got this Dad.” I hated admitting I couldn’t do it on my own…or didn’t know how…shockingly, something I still struggle with.]

I believe it’s that attitude within every single human heart that makes accepting the message of the cross so hard to accept.

It’s why Paul shares a quote from Isaiah 29:14 where God says “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

The first sin in the garden of Eden involved a desire “to be like God and have their own knowledge of good and evil.” Satan’s war for control in heaven involved his pride…and Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden involved theirs. “I know how to do this…I don’t need your help dad.”

Whether you are a Roman, a Jew, or an American, this spirit of independence lives in your heart….the Greek world tried to answer the questions of life with deep philosophy. The Jews tried to answer it with the covenant and the hope of a conquering Messiah…one thought “with enough information and knowledge we can figure it out on our own. The other thought…we have a heritage that guarantees our salvation…and pretty soon God will send us a warrior to put us back on top…both were wrong…and the cross would be the proving ground.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…but to those whom God has called both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The Jews had already figured out what kind of Messiah they wanted…one like King David…they wanted a Messiah who would come overthrow the Romans, restore their power and territory…This Messiah would marshal an army and lead them to success and victory…Jesus performed all kinds of miracles and signs: healing the sick and blind, raising the dead, reaching out to the lowly and outcast…but these weren’t the signs they wanted…and the cross got in the way.

They believed if they were good enough by keeping the laws they didn’t need a Savior. Especially one who “is cursed by dying on a tree.”

John 1:11 tells us “He came to His own but His own did not receive Him.”

If you don’t think you need a Savior because your sin isn’t that bad…the cross doesn’t look powerful…it looks weak and like a failure.

Still today many would like to bypass the cross, and make their own Messiah. We want a Messiah that provides what we want…success…happiness…victory. Sin is never dealt with. We might have heard “All have sinned and fall short” (Romans 3:23) but, I just barely fall short, so I don’t need too much forgiveness…so I’ll do some good things…say a prayer…get baptized to make people happy…or come to church.

Sin is prettied up…the cross becomes gold and shiny…sin is excused by justifications…we don’t really need a Savior dying on an old rugged tree for my little “accidents.”

Jesus didn’t die on Calvary and raise gloriously from the dead to make good people better…He died and rose again so sinful dead people could have forgiveness and life eternal.

Either we are still perishing in our sin or we have been saved by the power of God through Christ crucified.

The cross is where we decide to live in our own righteousness…our own wisdom…or God’s

Simply put…


[Pretend that you’ve driving a car and all of a sudden you see Jesus standing on the corner calling to you…so you pull over and open the back door, invite him in so you can chauffer Him around…He just stands there…so you open the passenger seat…you’ll let Jesus ride “shotgun.” But, still He just stands there waiting…and finally it dawns on you what he wants…but doing it involves giving up control of the journey…it’s this crossroad where you have to decide to get out and let Him drive or not.]

In our text it says, “But to those whom God has called, Christ becomes the power and wisdom of God.”

How does God call to us?

When Jesus was here on earth He would personally say to those who would be His disciples “Come follow me.” James and John, Peter and Andrew left their fishing boats and did just that…Matthew left his tax collecting booth to follow Jesus…He stood before crowds and said, “All of you that are weary and burdened…come to me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He would also say “If anyone would follow me as a disciple he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Self denial and crucifixion. Jesus and Joel Olsteen offer some very different perks of discipleship.

Jesus went to the cross for one reason as the sinless Son of God. “God, the Father loved us and sent His son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

The cross where Jesus died is where every sin is paid for…atoned for…the word “atonement” means “made one again, payment for a wrong for injustice.”

Jesus paid it all…all to Him I owe…Sin had left a crimson stain He washed it white as snow.

As Jesus died on that rugged cross…His last word was “tetelistai” it literally means “Paid in full.”

The outstanding payment for all sin… “Death” was paid in full, once for all on Calvary.

ROMANS 3:22-26 (p. 784)

There’s no difference in being Jewish or a Gentile where sin is concerned…all have sinned….and a perfect God demanded perfect justice: death…So a loving God became flesh…lived a perfect life and died for every Jew and Gentile…He demanded justice for sin…He became the one who paid the price…atonement….reconciliation is now possible through faith.

So how does God call us to come to Him in faith now…Jesus died, was buried, rose again, and ascended back to Heaven. How does He call us now? Listen to what Jesus promised would happen…after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

JOHN 16:7-11 (p. 753)

The Holy Spirit is not bound by a body…He is God at work, Jesus’ advocate (His representative). He deals with sin…righteousness and judgment…mine…and God’s.

He is how God calls us to faith…but showing us our need…for a Savior.

[The Holy Spirit as “Advocate” means He’s God’s lawyer…when we are living outside of God He is a prosecutor…pointing out our crimes, our sin and also pushing for the death penalty…repentance comes from being guilty…acknowledging those crimes and humbly realizing in brokenness that the death penalty is deserved…crying out for mercy…He points us to the cross…He points us to someone whose paid our judgment. It’s then we decide to surrender in baptism…to join Him in a death, burial and resurrection…As soon as we do, the Holy Spirit moves inside us as a “defense” attorney. The promised gift of God pleads our continued need for forgiveness…and continually empowers us with hope because the judgment has been paid…for eternity…brokenness becomes repentance…repentance leads to a new life “not guilty!” “Not guilty” comes from God the Father as He looks at His Son…and those who have made Him Lord and Savior.]

Let’s pray.