Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
People don’t talk too much about wisdom any more. It seems like sort of an antiquated word, an antique word, a word belonging to a different generation. People talk about reason or intelligence. In fact, when I searched “who are the wisest people alive today,” the results were mostly about IQ’s and people who are considered smart. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into wisdom. We have all the information we could want. We can find any data, or how to do things, or news about world events that we want. We have access to more information than any generation in the history of the world, and we don’t know what to do with it. It hasn’t necessarily made us any wiser.
You might know some people whom you consider wise: people to whom you turn for advice in particular situations. They seem to have experience in understanding things. Maybe life has forced on them some experience. They know how to put information together into a coherent whole. They know how to apply which information to make sense of things. And all of that is good.
We call that wisdom, and it is good as far as the things of this world go. But when it comes to the things of God, the wisdom of this world comes to its end. So the Proverb says, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.” The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight, or understanding. Where divine wisdom begins, human wisdom ends. This is what St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians when he writes, “Jews seek signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks” (1:22-23). But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and wisdom of God (1:24). The wisdom of the world, as good as it is when it comes to making sense of this world, is overturned at the cross.
Christ crucified upends everything we consider wise and strong. No wisdom of this world will look at Christ on the cross and say, that is good; that is wise; that is salvation. They might say it’s sad, or it’s unfortunate, or it’s unjust. But, to the eyes of human wisdom, there’s nothing about the cross that says “wisdom” or “salvation” or “God.” Even so, the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. God takes what is foolish in the world to shame the strong; He takes what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God takes what is nothing to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no creatures may boast before God in their own wisdom or strength.
We see the contradiction of human wisdom and divine wisdom in John 6, when the ship of human wisdom is wrecked on the rock of Jesus’ words. When Jesus says that He is the bread of life that has come down from heaven to give life to the world, and the bread that He will give is His flesh, what does human wisdom say? “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” Human wisdom says, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” Human wisdom, confronted with the words of Jesus, turns back and no longer follows Him.
And, what’s more, human wisdom doesn’t like Jesus’ silence as they go away. Human wisdom wants to figure out just the right words to say to keep them from going away. “Wait! Wait! You just misunderstood. Jesus didn’t mean that.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. After He says that His flesh is bread for the life of the world, He doubles down. He says, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you.” This is a hard saying; who can hear it? “This is why I said to you that you cannot come to Me unless it is granted to you by the Father.” No human wisdom, no reason, no intelligence—nothing that is of us—will come to Jesus or believe in Him without the divine work of the Holy Trinity: the Father sending the Son, who gives the Spirit, who preaches Jesus, who brings us to the Father.
But to those whom the Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and made holy, this divine wisdom crushes human wisdom precisely so that we will have true wisdom and true life. Jesus asks the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter, as usual, answers for the Twelve: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and insight.
Peter and the others don’t understand Jesus’ words any more than those who went away. Jesus’ words are not any less hard for them. They don’t have an answer to the “how” any more than those who were disputing and grumbling. But they know this: whatever we know or don’t know, understand or don’t understand, Jesus alone is life. There is no where else, no one else, where we can go and have life. Our minds cannot get us to Jesus, but the wisdom of God has brought Jesus to us.
The reverse side of Jesus’ hard words, which human wisdom rejects, is life. The Father has granted to you to come to Jesus! Jesus’ words are life for you. You eat His flesh and drink His blood and you have life in you. This is true food and true drink, whatever it may look like and whatever we may not understand. Jesus is Life, so His words are life; Jesus is Wisdom, so His words are wisdom; Jesus is the Truth, so His words are true. And because you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you cannot die. He has the life of the Father and you have His life, and that means that you have the life of God in you. And though it is beyond human understanding and wisdom, that means that you will never die, even if you die. You have His life in you and so He will raise you up on the last day.
It has been granted to you to come to Jesus, to believe Him, to live in Him. The Father has granted this by His Spirit, and because of Him, you are in Christ, who is now your wisdom, and righteousness, and holiness. You have the mind of Christ, and you have wisdom that no person can discover. It must be revealed. And you and me, to whom it has been revealed, we are are gathered here to Jesus who is our life. And we say with Peter, “Lord, whatever we understand or don’t; whatever we know or don’t; whatever makes sense to us and whatever doesn’t—we have no where else to go and no one else to whom to go. You alone are our life and our wisdom. You alone speak to us and feed us with your own eternal life. And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Let the one who boasts boast in Him.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/19/18