Scripture:For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 20-25)
Reflection:According to Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Jews need signs in order to believe; the reason they need signs is because throughout their history, God gave them signs, such as crossing the Red Sea, manna from Heaven, and so forth. Greeks or Gentiles need wisdom; the reason they need wisdom is because they gave the world philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato who taught the depths of truth about life. So, according to Paul, the cross of Jesus becomes a stumbling block to Jews, because crucifixion was considered the most shameful way to die, plus the crucified man was considered cursed by God. Jesus is also a stumbling block to Gentiles because his death was foolishness; a wise man should be honored, not crucified.
God has removed the need for signs, however, subverting the wisdom of the world. In other words, God has done something new. From God’s point of view, according to Paul, the cross is the new sign and the new wisdom of God. It is a sign of the union of God and people. It is the wisdom of God, who does not do things the way people do things. If one, like the Jews, thinks that the cross is weakness, then God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. If one, like the Gentiles, thinks that the cross is foolishness, then God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. In both cases, God has displayed his power and wisdom through the cross of his Son.
Repeatedly in the gospels, as noted above, Jesus tells his followers to take up the cross and follow him. While they may look weak, and foolish in the eyes of the world, they look strong and wise in God’s eyes. In a culture that has turned the cross into just another piece of jewelry, which may or may not identify its wearer as a Christian, a spirituality of mission places it in the center of the life of a follower of Jesus. It represents the cost of discipleship, the cost a follower is willing to pay in terms of being seen as weak and foolish.
Journal/Meditation: What weakness has the cross cost you? What foolishness has the cross cost you?
Prayer:God of Jesus, you displayed your strength and wisdom on the cross. Help me embrace this stumbling block and learn its wisdom so that I may be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns with you and Jesus Christ, one God, forever and ever. Amen.