The Folly of the Cross

Contrary to the expectations of many, the Kingdom of God will not be implemented through political and economic power, and certainly not military might. Nor will it take super revivals characterized by stupendous displays of the supernatural. Explicit statements in the New Testament and the examples of Jesus and of his Apostles point elsewhere. Righteousness, holiness, and the Kingdom can only be advanced through the proclamation of “Christ crucified.”

Yes, God does work miracles to help His people in times of need. However, supernatural miracles are a means to an end, but they are not the end. God desires and delights to meet real human needs, and “signs and wonders” often accompany the preaching of the Gospel.

Cross sunset - Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash
[Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash]

Both history and Scripture argue against the assumption that demonstrations of miraculous power will cause large numbers of men and women to repent or enable the Church to take over the so-called “Seven Mountains of Society.”

In the ministry of Jesus, “signs and wonders” did NOT cause more than a small number of his contemporaries to respond positively to his message. He performed healings, exorcised demons, and even raised the dead, and the crowds certainly were impressed. They had never seen the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or priests do anything like what the man from Nazareth did.

However, only the very demons he cast out by him recognized Jesus as the “Son of God.” Prior to his crucifixion, and despite his many miraculous deeds, even his closest disciples could not see the forest for the popular messianic trees. For example, after he miraculously calmed a violent storm, the twelve disciples failed to perceive who he was. Instead, dumbstruck, they could only ask, “WHO IS THIS MAN?

At one point, on the verge of understanding his identity, Peter began to declare him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, that is, until Jesus explained just what it meant to be God’s anointed – betrayal, suffering, and unjust death. At that point, Peter rebuked him with Satan’s own words.

In the Gospel of Mark, the only human being who recognized Jesus as God’s “Son” prior to his resurrection was the very Roman centurion in charge of his execution (Truly, this man was the Son of God!”). It seems, that only in his death was God’s Son revealed and recognized, not in his many miraculous acts - (Mark 15:39).

HIS ELEVATION


In the Gospel of John, Jesus declared that when he was “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles, but his crucifixion was at the very center of his Gospel and act of redemption. “If I am lifted up from the earth, then will I draw all men to me.” It was on Calvary that the “Son of Man” was “glorified,” not when he calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee or raised Lazarus from the dead.

Despite all the powerful miracles done by him, in the end, Jesus died alone on the Cross rejected by the Jewish nation, abandoned by his disciples, and crushed by the might of Rome.

As for his followers, Jesus instructed his disciples NOT to take up the sword or Caesar’s scepter, but instead, to embrace the Cross daily and follow in HIS footsteps regardless of where it might lead.

When Satan offered him political power, Jesus refused it. Hence, his followers were and are summoned to something quite different than the ways of this world, namely, to a life of self-sacrificial service for his Kingdom and the needs of his people:

  • You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their great ones tyrannize them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Yes, Jesus now reigns from God's “right hand” and has “all power and authority.” But that high position came only after paying a great cost. As Paul explained - He took on the “form of a slave, and he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him.” Jesus did not conquer evil by killing his enemies, but by laying down his life for them.

Suffering, humiliation, and death preceded his exaltation, a pattern for his disciple to emulate but one that is contrary to human wisdom and experience. As carnal men and women, too often we seek power, prominence, and success apart from the Cross of Christ.

CHRIST CRUCIFIED


The Book of Revelation is most instructive for all would-be disciples. In it, John introduces himself as a “fellow participant” with the “Assemblies of Asia” in the “Tribulation and the Kingdom and the Perseverance of Jesus.” One definite article or “THE” modifies all three nouns. Each is a part of a single whole. To live for the Kingdom is to endure “tribulation” and “persevere” in it.

The “Assemblies of Asia” were summoned to “overcome” by persevering through trials, rejecting deceptions, and undergoing persecution and even martyrdom, NOT by escaping tribulation and trials. Overcoming believers reign with Jesus, but first, they must overcome in THE SAME MANNER THAT HE DID - (Revelation 3:21).

His disciples conquer by “following the Lamb wherever he goes.” The saints “overcome” Satan “by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because THEY LOVED NOT THEIR LIVES UNTO DEATH.” They overcome the Devil in the same manner as Jesus did - (Revelation 12:11).

Paul declared to the Assembly in Corinth that the proclamation of “Christ crucified” was scandalous to Jews and folly to Greeks. The very idea that God achieved victory over sin, death, and Satan through the unjust death of a politically powerless Messianic figure was foolishness to the philosophies and ideologies of this fallen age.

Yet Paul called the “Cross of Christ” GOD’S VERY POWER AND WISDOM. Moreover, only the “spiritually minded” could comprehend this truth.

When he was criticized by certain “super-apostles” who pointed to their letters of recommendation and the signs that accompanied their preaching, Paul gave a long list of the things that he had suffered for the Gospel.

It was Paul’s willingness to endure hardship for the Gospel that validated his apostleship, not written credentials or supernatural powers. Moreover, though he experienced the “third heaven,” something few others could claim, that vision was of far less value than what he learned through an especially severe personal trial:

  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, WILL I RATHER GLORY IN MY WEAKNESSES, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” – (2 Corinthians 12:9).

This is the problem today. “Christ crucified” is something we do not understand and an example we do not wish to follow. Yet his message is found in his teachings and revealed in his self-denying service for others, especially his death on the Cross.

Just as “all men are drawn” since he was “lifted up” on a Roman cross, the world must and will be won by men and women whose lives are conformed to his self-sacrificing example. He died for us when “we were yet the enemies of God.” Miraculous signs and wonders may help along the way, but they are not the key to the success of his Gospel and the triumph of his Kingdom.

The preaching of “Christ crucified” is God’s wisdom and power, and the consummation of His Kingdom will occur only after this same Jesus has been proclaimed to all nations, “to the uttermost parts of the Earth.”

Yes, “Christ crucified” makes no sense to this world and, apparently, to many of us, but that is precisely the point.



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