Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31
Verse 23: We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.
Paul opens this section of 1 Corinthians with the reminder that it is the cross that has power. It is through the power of what was done on the cross that Christians can claim victory over sin and death. It was on and from the cross that Jesus took on our sin and overcame death and rose to eternal life.
For the Greeks and now the Romans of Paul’s day, these Gentiles saw the king or Caesar as a divine being that transcended life. They were from the gods, ruled for a time, and returned to the gods. Interaction was limited to their time on earth, then another would be sent to take their place. Jesus did not fit this mold. His ‘ruling’ wasn’t very godly and His talk of being eternal was just more foolishness. For the Jews, oddly enough, they too were looking for a kingly king. After many years of Roman oppression they were longing for a king like King David. Their Messiah would be both a great religious leader and a mighty military commander. Jesus was a great faith leader but not fully in line with the Jewish religion. To the Jew this was a huge stumbling block that they could not get over or see past.
Today, Christ continues to be foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others. In our society, the leading call us to climb the ladder of success, doing what you need to do to rise up. Society says to have fun and enjoy oneself on the way – it is the ‘just do it’ mentality. Our society tells us to accumulate, to buy bigger and newer, to get ahead, to save lots for a rainy day. Christ says success is not measured in what you have but in who you are. The cross says success is laying oneself down for others. Christ says true life is not found in earthly pursuits but in following Him, doing the will of God. Christ says to lay down our burdens and to trust in Him. Allowing Jesus to steer our ship and to set our course is foolishness to the world. To place others and their needs ahead of our own is a stumbling block to many.
But to those who are being saved, Christ Jesus is “our righteousness, our holiness, our redemption”. Thanks be to God.