“…we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-25
Why was “Christ crucified” such a problem for Jews and Gentiles?
Jews were expecting a military leader or political savior who would remove the yoke of Roman rule and re-establish the glory days when Israel prospered. They yearned to regain their promised land and make it their own. Jesus may have come from King David’s lineage, a good start, but his preaching in parables, challenging traditional Jewish ways, and dying unceremoniously on a Roman cross seemed all wrong.
Gentiles — that is, non-Jews — who were mostly Greeks, cherished human perfection, military might, and the rule of democratic law. For them one becomes wise through years of contemplating life like Socrates and Plato, or problem solving like politicians who create laws for strong cities and happy citizens. Jesus offered neither in their eyes. Jesus couldn’t even offer expert knowledge in a university subject, like botany, so he couldn’t help farmers or doctors. To Greeks Jesus was a little-known rabbi from a back-water village who didn’t look or sound like a wise leader expert.
Worse yet, many people wanted Jesus out of the picture. And God willed that he should die. For anyone who seeks power, peace, and purpose in life, they might wonder how dying could be anything but disastrous.
Yet Paul wrote that even the “foolishness” of God is wiser than any earthly wisdom, so it is best to take God’s word in faith when he says that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. To modern ears this seems wrong, out-of-date, mean. Today people still reject God because of his will to see Jesus crucified.
Why do we doubt God’s will or word? Why do we place our wisdom above his miraculous ways to redeem us and the world?
God, help me trust you regarding Jesus’ death. While I may not ‘get it’ I will rely on your word that everything is working out according to your wondrous plan. Amen.
Ask yourself if this or any other stumbling block keeps you from trusting God more fully. Name the issue, and give it to God.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.'s Wisdom for Everyday Life provides wisdom from Proverbs that is accessible and practical.