Paul frequently told others how and why he became a disciple of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Paul never strayed far from the Message of the Cross.
What do I mean by that? What is the Message of the Cross?
There are many aspects to the Message of the Cross. I will try and highlight just a few here so we can understand Paul’s fascination and single-mindedness with it.
We must keep in mind Paul’s background. He was born a Jew and lived in Tarsus. Tarsus was in Cilicia, a territory of the Roman Empire, and as such, he was influenced by their pagan views. Consequently, he was very well qualified to address both the Jews and Gentile Romans.
In today’s study Paul begins with the Jews. They demanded a sign that Jesus was God and yet failed to see the signs that Jesus did every day – healing the sick, the blind, the lepers, and even raising the dead. No, the Jews wanted Jesus to descend from the Cross. A thing that Jesus would not do, as to do so would have negated forever our opportunity of Salvation.
The Cross was also a stumbling block to the Jews. For three reasons. Firstly, only criminals were crucified. The Messiah would be sinless so wouldn’t die as a criminal (rather He would be their King). Secondly, the Law was quite explicit – anyone who died on a cross was cursed of God – so the Messiah couldn’t be crucified on a Cross. The fact that Jesus had to die on a Cross to pay the price for the curse and so remove that penalty from us escaped them. Thirdly, in any case – how could God die on a Cross? God is incapable of death, so dying on a Cross couldn’t work or be true. (I don’t understand it either, but it is still true.)
Paul then focused on the Gentiles reading his letter. Greek thought permeated the whole of the Roman Empire. It deified wisdom and reason. If something was considered illogical, it was futile and not worthy of any consideration. The worldly wise would look at the Cross and know that it was pointless and futile.
No-one dies for someone else. Death is the end, so if Christ died that would be the end, and He would be no different from any other misguided Messiah. How can the death of someone from another ethnic group help me? How can someone’s death which occurred a long distance away from where I live or, indeed, before I was born, have any relevance to me? It may help you in your religion but it is of no use or relevance to me.
Faith is speculative at the best of times and who knows whether it really helps or is true rather than just coincidence?
If Jesus lived and died a good man, a great moral teacher and someone who helped others – through normal compassion or miraculous powers – it is of no significance to me. He remains just another good person whom we are glad walked the earth; someone whom we could try to emulate or model our lives on. Although I will fall a long way short it gives me some sort of direction and self-satisfaction that I tried.
However, if He was God – then that changes everything. If Jesus did rise from the dead – as He said He would – that puts Him in a different place than anyone else. Someone who was so severely beaten and left in the sun to die, pronounced dead, buried in a grave and yet came alive again reveals a quality that no one else has ever shown. He must be God, however illogical that may seem.
That then poses the biggest dilemma of all. If Jesus is God – I must bow before Him. He has authority to speak into my life and to expect certain results. The amazing thing is that although that is true, His greatest desire is that I begin a relationship, a friendship with Him, which will extend into eternity in Heaven.