“I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.”~ 1 Corinthians 2:2 (NASB)
When we think of ministry, much of preaching is focused on certain topics. Some major in heaven, others major in hell, yet others focus on comforting people and speaking to “practical” issues in folks lives and society.
Yet, he apostle Paul said his focus was always to make sure people knew Jesus Christ was crucified.
The Cross Is the Revelation Of God
To Paul, the crucifixion of Christ wasn’t just a fact of history, a doctrine, or creed. It was essential to know who God in fact was, for the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ was the means by which God fully revealed Himself to all of humanity.
And without the preaching of the cross, it is impossible to know God as God.
Without preaching the cross of Jesus Christ, Christianity would be nothing more than a collection of platitudes fit for broken fortune cookies.
It is only in the cross that our faith finds any meaning, and it is by the cross that the wisdom of God is ultimately demonstrated, and the world and all its forces conquered.
Dead Messiah’s Aren’t Messiah’s… Are They?
The cross was foolishness to the Jews and Greeks of Paul’s day. And indeed, at first glance, what good could possibly come from a crucified messiah?
Who wants that? Messiah’s are supposed to rescue, conquer, and plunder. They are supposed to raise up armies, vanquish the enemy, and make everyone wealthy. Messiahs are supposed to flex their muscles, kick butt, and take names.
And in that context of what most people want out of messiahs, a messiah that’s been crucified sounds like the greatest of all ironies and jokes. Dead messiahs are supposed to be the laughing stock of history, a sign that they were anything but a messiah.
Yet for Paul, a crucified messiah was part of God’s ultimate plan to right all things. A crucified messiah was a demonstration of God’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of men, and that those “in the know” were in fact, fools.
Everything Turned Upside Down
God’s wisdom in the cross of Jesus Christ turns the world upside down. It robs the world of it’s ability to boast and to flex it’s muscles. For in the cross, the poor, the rejects, the powerless, and the hungry can overcome and conquer all the powers that oppress them. And instead of looking down on such people, the cross embraces failure, weakness, vulnerability, obscurity, and poverty.
This is the exact opposite of our Christianity. Especially our nationalistic American version of Christianity, where we are always trying to live our best life now, to obtain riches, honor, glory, political power, might, and success. We want to compete with the world on the world’s terms, instead of preaching and embracing the cross.
We love the “happy clappy” version of Christianity where we sing about victory and overcoming all of life’s challenges. We love the Jesus that caters to the needs of upper-middleclass soccer moms, affluent business leaders, and the nuclear family. That Jesus makes us feel so good about ourselves.
We Don’t Want To Die
But such isn’t the Jesus Christ that was crucified. People largely reject that Jesus.
Instead of the cross being the symbol of our faith, we want an arrow that points up towards the sky. We want all the power and all the feel goods of our faith. There is simply no room for a cross.
Don’t get me wrong, I want all the victory that Jesus promises us. I want that “resurrection power” that helps me face the troubles of life. But as the late Art Katz used to say, “The cross always precedes the resurrection in the plans of God.”
There’s Nothing Left Of Me
But we don’t like crucifixion. And, understandably so. Crucifixion involves suffering, and dying. It ultimately means that, once the process has run its course, there will be nothing left of you.
It’s as A.W. Tozer used to say, “You know one thing about a man carrying a cross outside a city— he’s not coming back.”
And that scares us to death.
For in the cross we are vulnerable, weak, and treated as failures. On the cross, all hope is cut off. The only thing to look forward to is certain death and destruction. And it is something you suffer alone, as a punishment for upsetting all the wrong people.
Yet it’s this cross that Jesus Christ embraced, and it’s this cross that He calls upon all of us embrace in our identity with Him. In the cross He embraced death and all the threats and furies of hell and everything this world could throw at Him.
God Reigns Through A Tree
In the cross the greatest of ironies played out.
God was crucified, and the Creator of all things became a spectacle to the very world He created. Yet in this moment God showed all of humanity that no matter what the world did to Jesus, it is through this cross that Jesus Christ would ultimately conquer and overcome the world.
The early Christians used to say that “God reigns through a tree.”
Which is the polar opposite of how things normally work. People usually reign by sitting on thrones, utilizing political power, bossing people around, by making a lot of money, flexing their muscles, and showing themselves mighty with much pomp and circumstance.
You get none of that with the cross. With the cross, if someone harms you, you can’t fight back. It means emptying yourself of seeking after political power so you can come out on top. “Winning” isn’t a game you try to even play.
The cross means not pursuing wealth, fame, fortune, status, and all that comes with it. It means you don’t get to continue on the same path you were on before. The cross brings an end to all that.
And it brings an end to all that so that we can find true life, a life that is only available to those who are willing to lay their life down.
A life that comes only from the power of resurrection. And it’s a life that is available to all, whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, noble or those of no nobility.
But it’s available, only by picking up the cross, and waiting for God to breathe new life into that which has died.