Do You Get It?
For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18
The cross of Jesus Christ is the most unifying-and the most divisive- event in all of history. People can easily talk about all kinds of philosophies and religions, but when someone brings up Christ’s death on the cross, the conversation often radically changes. Some people get angry, some scoff, and some feel confused. Invariably, they ask questions: Why did a good man like Jesus have to die? Who was He, anyway? It happened so long ago; what difference does it make to me today?
People in Paul’s day were no different. The Greeks loved to debate philosophies, but they didn’t have a category for God becoming human and dying for us. That concept simply didn’t compute. It was foolish to them, just at it seems foolish to the people of our day who don’t understand the message of the gospel.
But we get it. We grasp the phenomenal truth that Christ came to find us because we were lost and that He died for our sins as our substitute. Without Him, we had no hope. With Him, we have the most valuable possession on the universe: a relationship with Almighty God. We are well aware that it was grace and only grace that saved us. We had no power to accomplish anything toward forgiveness and eternal life, but God exercised His enormous strength to reach into our hearts, transform us, and make us new people.
We get it, not because we’re smarter than the philosophers, but because God first took hold of us. For that we can be thankful.
To me, love is knowing that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that I might live forever. To me, happiness is knowing now that my eternity with Christ is irrevocably guaranteed, that He did it all, and all I have to do is believe and accept His grace.
I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not even what I hope to be. But by the cross of Christ, I am not what I was.
Most religions are centered around what humans must do to find the favor of some god. Elaborate rituals and some sort of sacrificial offering is required to appease the god in hope that life will go well and somehow one can find a place in the hereafter. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were introduced to the gods of Canaan, one of which was Baal. Baal was the god of prosperity for the Canaanites believed that he was the god who gave abundant crops and caused the sheep and cattle to abundantly reproduce. He was attractive to an agricultural society for their livelihood depended upon the harvest and the increase of flocks and herds. Ignoring all that God had done for them, the Israelites began to include Baal in their worship. The story of Elijah on Mount Carmel gives the picture of the confusion that was prevalent in Israel. The Israelites were torn between worshipping God and Baal. But everything comes with a price. Baal had an associate God by the name of Moloch or Astoreth and Moloch also had to be made happy for the blessings of Baal were tied to Moloch. Moloch made a demand to the people. In order to receive the blessings of increase, a price must be paid. There was an iron idol made with the image of Moloch who had his tongue sticking out. Inside the belly of the idol was a furnace and the priests would build a fire until the idol was glowing. People would then bring their children and place them on that tongue as a sacrifice so that the gods would be pleased and they would have prosperity. The Greek and Roman gods were no different. Mythology tells us that those gods were petty, jealous, and often played cruel games with humans as pawns. This is the wisdom of worldly philosophy.
No wonder the preaching of the cross seem foolish in the eyes of the world. Whoever heard of a god who would respond in love and kindness to rejection and rebellion? Who ever heard of a god who would seek out those who had strayed? But the most difficult of all to understand is that this very God would become one of us. He would lay aside His majesty and glory and place Himself in the womb of a human woman. He would be born as a tiny baby in a world that had no room for Him. He would walk among humans, introducing them to His Father and doing good and healing the sick and lifting up the downtrodden, and delivering those held captive by the devil. If Jesus had stopped here, He would have gone far beyond any of the gods of this world. He would have exceeded the philosophers imagination, for it was and is impossible to think of such love and grace. Nothing in human thinking could conceive of such a display of kindness and mercy toward an evil world. For any god to show kindness toward humanity without demanding some payment is unthinkable. But Jesus went farther still, all the way to a cross. He went there not for Himself but for each of us. The rebellion that began in the Garden had to be dealt with. Someone had to receive punishment for the crime. Justice demanded it and there was no question that humanity was guilty. What began in the Garden was finished on the cross. When those first humans sinned, they hid themselves but God came seeking them and God provided the mercy and grace through the shedding of an innocent animal’s blood. Now God would provide mercy and grace to all of humanity not through an animals blood but through the blood of His very own Son who would be crucified on a cross. Who ever heard of a god who would give his own life for his subjects? To be sure there were times when the gods demanded the sacrifice of someone for the “sins” of the community but that usually meant that one human would be sacrificed for the whole. But never in the history of the world or in the philosophies of the world was a god sacrificed for the people.
This is why the cross seems foolish. It doesn’t fit our desire to have earned our place or to somehow qualify ourselves for the blessings of God. We stumble over this great gift for it leaves us with nothing to contribute. We only can gratefully accept and only believe that God loved us so much that He gave up His Son for us.
To us who have believed and accepted this as truth, it has become the power in our lives. We live, not because we merit or attain, but because we have been given the greatest gift the world can ever know, the gift of the Son of God who through the cross has given us eternal life. Therefore we have hope and peace and joy and love.
Dr. John Thompson