We have been discussing in our blogs over the last several weeks the importance of the Cross in the life of the follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. While for us the Cross of Christ is very significant, for many others the Cross is an offense. In fact, Paul highlights this when he writes to the Corinthians and states- “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men,” (1 Cor.1:22-25 NASB). Why would the Jews consider the cross to be a stumbling block? Death can seldom be seen as an attractive option. Think of someone that you may have known or knew about who ended their life by suicide. Their death was a source of deep sadness for all those who knew and loved them. The death of Jesus on the Cross was profoundly ugly. How could the holiest of men, who we believe is the creator God of the universe, die in such a manner? It makes no sense from a human perspective and many who heard the story wanted to process the death of Christ through human reason, which is impossible.
The Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ was really a death blow to human pride and worldly honor. We all stand at the foot of the Cross condemned as guilty sinners. The divine mystery of the Cross is not understood by the majority of our world today. The very religious people who were standing at the Cross as Christ died saw nothing attractive in His ugly, gruesome death. Some may have considered it misfortune or a shame, but they did not understand the purpose of His sacrifice on the Cross. Some religious circles have done everything they could to distance themselves from the Cross and the blood of Christ. I served in a denomination for a number of years that took the blood songs out of their hymnals and removed the word blood from such songs as “The Solid Rock” which sings – “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.
So why would the Cross then be a stumbling block to the Jews? Well, think about the typical Jewish man in Paul’s day, he would have been very religious and very busy in keeping all the rules and regulations of that religious system. He would be saying his prayers, attending regular worship, being in Jerusalem for the feast seasons, and working his way to please God. Most in Jesus' day would have been very orthodox, trying to keep not only the Old Testament law but all the oral traditions that the Pharisees and scribes directed the people to live by. That person would have a hard time believing they needed someone to die for them. They would have been quite content in their own righteousness and would not have seen any need for the Cross of Jesus Christ They would be content being clothed in their own righteousness and saw no need for Jesus’ righteousness.
Paul refers to the Greeks as well in this passage. The Greeks represented those who gave themselves to the arts, philosophy, and physical culture. They were very much into athletics and sports and lived in a physically driven society. I say that even as we prepare later this month to be bombarded by “March Madness”, which for a couple of weekends, later on, this month will shut down a lot of different activities. All human cultures and philosophies are of themselves utterly incompetent to appreciate the significance of the Cross. No flesh can glory in its presence, only those who have been touched by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and understand its meaning in their lives see the Cross as a great reason for rejoicing. For the child of God, who has come to understand the personal nature of Jesus’s sacrifice on Calvary’s Cross, the Cross should be a great place of hope and a great source of encouragement in our lives. Let us as God’s children wholeheartedly agree with the apostle Paul when he writes- “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” (Galatians 6:14 NKJV).
Rejoicing in the cross,
Pastor Rich Sivo