Weakness of Christ
St. Andrew, Apostle
30 November 2017
While visiting Greece a few years ago, I saw a relic that was purported to be the original cross of St. Andrew, whom it was said to have been crucified hanging on an X-shaped cross. It struck me as odd that the decaying cross was kept in a container all gussied up with gold, baubles, and do-dads. It just seemed wrong that this sign of the weakness and poverty of the apostle should now look like a piece from a valuable dinner service. We are arguing the wrong way by trying to burnish the weakness of the apostles into great strength.
 
Yes, we can marvel at the sublime spiritual wisdom of the apostles, like Andrew. But we ought not to marvel at them but at the God who took these weak and unlettered fellows and made them bearers of the news of the cross. They bore it the world over, and against all odds converted nations, languages, tribes, and peoples. So when the wise of the world mock us for the weakness of those who first proclaimed the gospel of Christ to the world, we ought to revel in such mockery, and smilingly agree, "Yes, the apostles were poor, weak, unlettered, and stumbling fellows. Doesn't that make the triumph of the cross all the more remarkable as a sign of the divine wisdom, which uses the weak and miserable to defeat the strong and powerful!"
 
There is great comfort in this for us Christians. If the power is God's, then our weakness ought to trouble us not at all. Christ's mission is going forward through us not because we are such attractive, powerful, brilliant, or persuasive persons, but because God's strength is made perfect in weakness. So it was for God's Son, whose "appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind" (Is 52:14). Those who saw Him suffer and die only mocked Him or grieved His death. Yet in this death there was a triumph that neither earth nor hell could contain. Plato, with all his earthly wisdom, could never have conceived such things. Give me the weakness of Christ every time.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"Peter and Paul were not eloquent, for they were 'unlearned and ignorant men!' When the Greeks then charge the disciples with being uneducated, let us be even more forward in the charge than they. Nor let anyone say, 'Paul was wise;' but while we exalt those among them who were great in wisdom and admired for their excellence of speech, let us allow that all on our side were uneducated. It will be no slight defeat which they will sustain from us in that respect also, and so the victory will be brilliant indeed.
 
"I have said these things, because I once heard a Christian disputing in a ridiculous manner with a Greek, and both parties in their mutual fray ruining themselves. For what things the Christian ought to have said, these the Greek asserted; and what things it was natural to expect the Greek would say, these the Christian pleaded for himself. The dispute was about Paul and Plato. The Greek endeavored to show that Paul was unlearned and ignorant. The Christian, from simplicity, was anxious to prove that Paul was more eloquent than Plato. The victory was on the side of the Greek, this argument prevailing that Paul was unlearned. For if Paul was a more significant person than Plato, many probably would object that it was not by grace, but by excellence of speech that he prevailed. So it was that the proper assertion for the Christian was made by the Greek. What the Greek said made sense, except for the grace of God.
 
"Therefore, so that we do not fall into the same error, and be mocked, while arguing this way with Greeks whenever we have a controversy with them, let us charge the Apostles with lack of learning; for this same charge is praise. When the Greeks say that the Apostles were rude, let us follow up the remark and say that they were also untaught, and unlettered, and poor, and vile, and stupid, and obscure. It is not a slander on the Apostles to say so, but it is even a glory that, being such, they should have outshone the whole world. For these untrained, and rude, and illiterate men, completely vanquished the wise, and powerful, and the tyrants, and those who flourished in wealth and glory and all outward good things, as though they had not been men at all. Because of this it showed the great power of the Cross and that these things were done by no human strength. For the results do not follow the course of nature, rather what was done was beyond all nature. Now when anything takes place beyond nature, and exceedingly beyond it, on the side of rectitude and utility; it is quite plain that these things are done by Divine power and operation. Pay attention to the fisherman, the tentmaker, the publican, the ignorant, the unlettered, coming from the far distant country of Palestine, and having beaten off their own ground the philosophers, the masters of oratory, the skillful debaters and prevailed against them in a short space of time. Christ triumphed through them in the midst of many perils; the opposition of peoples and kings, the striving of nature herself, length of time, the vehement resistance of inveterate custom, demons in arms, the devil in battle array and stirring up all, kings, rulers, peoples, nations, cities, barbarians, Greeks, philosophers, orators, sophists, historians, laws, tribunals, divers kinds of punishments, deaths innumerable and of all sorts. But nevertheless all these were confuted and gave way when the fisherman spoke, just like the light dust which cannot bear the rush of violent winds.
 
"Let us learn thus to dispute with the Greeks; that we be not like beasts and cattle, but prepared concerning 'the hope which is in us' (1Pt 3:15). And let us pause for a while to work out this topic, they were not even like an unarmed man who overthrew all his foes using no weapons but striking with the hand, and in conclusion killed some, and others took captive and led away, themselves receiving not so much as a wound. Would anyone have ever said that such a feat was of man? Yet the victory of the Apostles is much more wonderful than that. For a naked man's escaping a wound is not so wonderful by far as that the ordinary and unlettered person-that a fisherman-should overcome such a degree of talent. The apostles were never turned from their mission, never because they were few, nor their poverty, nor for dangers they suffered, nor for the sternness of the precepts they taught, nor for the daily deaths suffered by the martyrs, nor for the multitude of those who were deceived, nor for the great reputation of the deceivers. Their weakness was the glory of Christ."

John Chrysostom, 
Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 3.8
Isaiah 52:6-15
  
My people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I." How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." The voice of your watchmen- they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD. For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
 
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind- so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. (ESV)
Collect for St. Andrew
Almighty God, by whose grace the blessed apostle Saint Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son Jesus Christ, grant us also to follow Him in heart and life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For Dr. Wallace Schulz and the Good News Magazine, that Christ the Lord would bless his work with the fruit of the Word of God and grant recovery from the warehouse fire
 
For those facing inclement weather that they might be kept safe from storms
 
For all those who have lost hope, that the faithful would say to them, "Here is the Christ" during Advent
Art: WOLFFORT, Artus  St. Andrew (17th c.)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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