Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25 ESV).
Phrygia was an ancient kingdom in what is now central Turkey. According to legend, when Phrygia was without a king, a pagan oracle declared that the next man to drive an ox-cart into Phrygia’s capital city, Telmissus, would be the new king. That man was a farmer named Gordias. His son, Midas (who later became the king with the golden touch), decided to honor his newly exalted father by dedicating the ox-cart to the Phrygian god, Sabazios, and he tied it to a pole using a knot so complex that it was considered impossible to untie, the Gordian Knot. Another oracle pronounced that the one who would solve the riddle of the knot would rule Asia. Centuries went by and the ox-cart remained securely tied to the pole. Then Alexander the Great came, conquered, and happened upon the knot. Being the decisive warrior-leader he was, he “unraveled” the knot by simply slicing through it with his sword. And he went on to conquer Asia. Today, the “Gordian Knot” has become the symbol of complex problems and Alexander’s sword has been a symbol for decisive, out-of-the box leadership solutions.
The Apostle Paul comes to such a problem in our reading today. We are such sinners, how can we ever find a solution to our failure. The answer is not within ourselves; it is found in the person and work of Christ! We know these painful knots are the complex spiritual, emotional, and psychological entanglements of indwelling sin or the temperamental weakness, disability, circumstantial adversity, and traumatic past experiences. We try to untangle them. We try to figure them out. But the more we work at them, the more complex we find the knots to be. Counseling and certain kinds of therapies can certainly help us the same way teachers, discussions, and books can help with intellectual struggles. However, all of these things fail to unravel the knot. And we cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The most gifted human pastor, counselor, or psychological expert is unable to fully untie the knots that entangle us. Nor can any of us make a sword ourselves that will cut through them.
The answer to our cry is the same answer Paul declares: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He is the one who can solve the riddle of our Gordian Knots. He is the conqueror. On Cavalry, Jesus dealt the decisive blow upon every sinful knot of every saint who would ever belong to him. The words of Christ are living and active and the sharpest sword (cf. Hebrews 4:12) and in him we may be set free (cf. John 8:32).
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