There’s an old story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her,
“Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.”
She was surprised by the stranger’s affront. But then quickly replied:
“Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday School that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.”
Now that’s just a story. It may sound foolish. Or silly. Or at least a bit trite. But isn’t that the crux of Paul’s message to the Corinthians about preaching the gospel and the cross of Christ?
18 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.
19 For it is written:”I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Cor 1:18-21)
To the erudite and educated at Corinth, the cross was foolishness. That was the attitude of many on Mar’s Hill when Paul preached to them the nature of the “unknown God.”
Let’s see if we get this right. A baby boy was born to a Jewish virgin girl. He was actually God becoming a man. He, for 30 years lived a simple unpretentious life, in an obscure little village, working at manual labor.
Then for three-and-a-half years, he walked all over Palestine preaching God’s message. During that time he trained folks like fishermen, tax collectors, and zealots to be his ambassadors. He befriended prostitutes, publicans, and sinners. He ignored the politicians. Criticized the religious leaders. And catering to the outcast of society.
Finally, he was arrested for his teaching. Sentenced to death as a blasphemer. And crucified like a common criminal.
Is that about right?
And now, the message is salvation through the cross? Sound’s like a lot of foolishness. That’s what the Greeks thought. It’s what many “enlightened” folks think today.
It doesn’t sound like a success story. It doesn’t look like victory. It doesn’t even sound reasonable.
Yet in what appeared to be weakness, defeat, and failure, God’s eternal wisdom was exhibited. Friday’s “foolishness” became Sunday’s triumphant vindication. The girl was a virgin. The man was God. He did die for our sins. What was deemed to be foolishness by mankind, was a vivid demonstration of God’s power and purpose.
As William Farley expressed it in his book Outrageous Mercy “The Cross is our teacher. The cross is a window through which we learn everything we need to know about God, humanity, wisdom, worship, the purpose of suffering, the purpose of life, and a host of other issues. If you knew nothing else but the cross, but you knew it thoroughly, you would know everything essential for this life and the next.”
Don’t be discouraged by foolishness by this world’s wisdom. Or disheartened. Or dissuaded. Don’t be deceived by the lure of money, the lust of sex, or the illusion of power. And don’t deluded by the world’s “enlightened” rejection of the cross. Repudiation of Biblical morality. And renunciation of family values.
Our God who raised Jesus from the dead, turned defeat into victory, confounded the world’s wisdom, and transformed the cross into a symbol of salvation will triumph.
And so, we press on. Teaching. Preaching. Writing. And walking in the light of the cross.
How about you?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman