The foolishness of the cross
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:17-18).
At this time of year, believers focus their thoughts on history's most significant event — the “passion” of Jesus Christ. They thrill at the love of God demonstrated by this event, are humbled to the core that Jesus should have cared enough for them, personally, to have willingly experienced such suffering, and stand awestruck at the idea that God had determined at the “foundation of the world” that in due course He would, in the form of Jesus, enter flesh and taste death at the hands of His own creation. To most unbelievers, history's most significant event is either ridiculed or shrugged off as a sad but understandable end for a lunatic. One newspaper reader even wrote the editor expressing his opinion that the whole idea of God sacrificing His own Son is nothing short of “obscene”.
How can the one event inspire such opposite interpretations? Why do some hail Jesus as the herald and agent of salvation, while most deride him as a deluded visionary? The answer is quite simple — until Jesus heals an unregenerate heart and lifts the veil from blind eyes, all those eyes can see hanging limp on the cross is the body of a lunatic or liar. When Jesus touches a hard heart and blind eyes, for the first time those eyes can see on the cross, in all His glory, the lamb of God sacrificed for man's atonement.
In Paul's day, Jews rejected Jesus either, it would seem, because they could not accept His implied claims of divinity or because they were expecting the Messiah to come in triumph, not in the form of a sacrificial lamb. Greeks sought to discover their own salvation — whatever that may have meant to them — “through wisdom” (vs. 21) which they found in the writings of philosophers and in “wisdom of words” (vs. 17) consisting of brilliant displays of rhetorical ability. Pride-filled hearts don't want to admit that
they need to be saved and that the means of such salvation is to listen humbly to simple spoken messages announcing God's saving work wrought in a body on a cross between two crucified criminals.
What will it take to open the eyes of unbelievers and make them drop to their knees in adoration of their Savior? It will, of course, take an act of spiritual healing by Jesus. But He is more than delighted to perform this miracle for any who are willing to hear the message of salvation with enough humility to let a ray of repentance shine through (vs. 22).
Sure, by divine decree, most hearts will remain hardened and blinded for some time yet (Rom. 11:25). But the time is coming when Satan's deception will be removed and all will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and receive sight. Until then, Christians should be zealous to do whatever they can to support the preaching of the gospel so that it “might … save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
We believers must not feel smug about understanding the importance of Jesus' crucifixion; to compare ourselves with the unsaved who reject the cross would amount to foolishness in its own right. We need to take great care to ensure that our own attitude towards history's most significant event really comes up to scratch. When the staggering truth that “Jesus died for your sins” becomes merely a slogan or a platitude in our minds, peril is at hand. Each believer has a huge responsibility to examine himself to ensure he is “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). With the help of God we need to ensure that we are truly thrilled, humbled and awestruck by Jesus' suffering and death, not merely treating it as our personal formula of salvation. Can we honestly think our attitude towards Jesus' passion is pleasing to God if we scarcely ever think about it? Surely in the eyes of God the occasional passing thought or prayerful “thank you” is not sufficient. Paul said, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Gal. 6:14). Paul knew that Jesus was no mere mortal but an incarnation of the Creator of the entire universe and of all living things. Jesus' passion nourished his every thought and motivated Him to despise all danger and to zealously preach the saving word whenever and wherever possible.