Alexamenos worships his god; preaching Christ crucified – Friday, 21st Week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 1:17- 25

The Alexamenos graffito  is a piece of Roman graffiti scratched in plaster on the wall of a room near the  Palatine Hill in Rome

Alexamenos worships his god; preaching Christ crucified – Friday, 21st Week in ordinary time – 1 Corinthians 1:17- 25

The unity of the Church at Corinth was threatened by dissensions. There was a rift in the community. It was not so much that there were opposing groups in the community but rather little cozy cliques were forming with allegiances to people or ideologies. We know that “Chloie’s people”, presumably slaves or business associates of this woman reported the matter to Paul in Ephesus from where he wrote this letter.

Paul condemns the spirit of these schismatics, not their opinions. He exposes their common errors not their respective claims. While many may think that the community was plagued by some heretical thoughts the matter was more petty that initially plagued the community. It had become rather obvious that the dissension in the Corinthian Church was clearly attributed to personal loyalties rather than theological or ethical issues.

For Paul, the primacy of Christ was paramount and not personal loyalties to him or others leaders in the community. Among the issues, there was the matter where some who with their misguided sentiments boasted that it was Paul who baptized them and flaunted it around like it was a badge of honour or a privilege to be exploited. While Paul does not disparage baptism nor was he opposed to it, he rather focused his energies on preaching leaving the work of baptism to others in the community. Because it was becoming a divisive issue, Paul was grateful that he had not baptized very many in Corinth.

Paul was clear, no group or clique could own Christ or claim to be his favourite and no apostles word or action could eclipse Christ’s lordship. Such is Paul’s steadfast love for Christ and his lordship that in 17 verses he mentions Christ ten times. The name of Christ alone is the rallying point for the unity of Christians.

Paul preached Christ to the Corinthians but he comes to them not with lofty words or wisdom or cleverness in the way he communicated; he admits this himself in 1 Cor 2 :1-5. There were others in the community like Apollos who were eloquent and sophisticated. Yet for Paul it was not the wisdom of the world or the powerful actions of few leaders that was important but the message of the cross which ever so often appeared foolish. Yet to those who had been saved, it was the power of God. For Paul the cross of Christ speaks for itself and our lofty words and eloquence robs and distracts the way God chooses to speak to us from the cross; simply but to the heart. There is a constant tendency to think that the smartest and wisest humans will know the most about God. But God cannot be found through human wisdom, but only through the message of the cross.

For many who lived, both Jews and Gentiles the Gospel was offensive and seen as absurd. For the Jews, the idea of a crucified Messiah was blasphemous (according to Deuteronomy 21:23); a stumbling block. In Paul’s day, the Jewish world was looking for a sign. Specifically, they wanted the sign of a miraculous Messianic deliverance. They were not looking for the message of the cross. Their desire for deliverance was not bad, but their rejection of God’s way of deliverance was.

For the Greeks the boast of a crucified saviour eliminated all possibility of the presentation of Christ as a strong leader or a clever teacher. A well-known piece of graffiti in Rome shows a worshipper standing next to a crucified figure with the body of a man and the head of an ass, and it says, “Alexamenos worships his god.” This is how foolish the Greeks saw the cross. The Greeks regarded Christ crucified as foolishness. But God did not respond to the polling data.

Yet St Paul reminds the Corinthians that Christ crucified had done something for them that all the wisdom and power of men could never accomplish. So, instead of giving the Jews and Greeks what they demanded in deliverance and wisdom, God gave them something unexpected: a crucified Messiah. If the cross doesn’t seem strange to you, then you either don’t understand how the cross was seen in Jesus’ day, or you don’t understand who Jesus is. You don’t understand the tension between Christ and crucified.

A strong church once inscribed these words “we preach Christ crucified!” on an archway leading to the churchyard. Over time, two things happened: the church lost its passion for Jesus and His gospel, and ivy began to grow on the archway. The growth of the ivy, covering the message, showed the spiritual decline. Originally it said strongly, we preach Christ crucified. But as the ivy grew, one could only read we preach Christ, and the church also started preaching “Jesus the Great Man” and “Jesus the Moral Example” instead of Christ crucified. The ivy kept growing, and one could soon only read, we preach. The church also had even lost Jesus in the message, preaching religious platitudes and social graces. Finally, one could only read we, and the church also just became another social gathering place, all about we and not about God.

Those who insist that we must change the emphasis of the gospel because people can’t relate to it today must realize that the people of Paul’s day couldn’t relate to his preaching either, yet he kept it up, and with great results.

Spread the love ♥

You might also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *