By Paul Bawden
In this season called Lent, we are reminded that the cross is the most popular symbol of Christianity.
Regardless, the cross is rejected by many today, including cults, world religions, and others. Such is no different from the time of the New Testament, where the cross was rejected by the Jews and Gentiles. The apostle Paul penned that Christ crucified (the cross) was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (I Corinthians 1:23). But why was the cross of Christ a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles in New Testament times and still today?
The crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews because they regarded Messiah as the Person on whom God’s blessing rested to the greatest degree (Isa. 11:2). After all, Jesus’ executioners hung Him on a tree, the sure proof that God had cursed Him (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). It’s interesting in this light that just recently two Knesset members proposed legislation to outlaw sharing the Gospel (the message of the cross) in Israel and send violators to prison – could it become law?
Such caused a stir all around the world among Christians, between Jews and Christians who work closely together, and with religious and civic leaders of some of Israel’s democratic allies. Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew and English after this legislation was proposed that “We will not advance any law against the Christian community.” Such a tweet put the proposal to rest.
To the Gentiles, the cross was a sign of weakness, showing Jesus apparent inability to save Himself from death. It didn’t make sense to many in Paul’s day and also in our day. How could anyone believe in and submit to someone who was apparently not smart enough to save Himself from suffering execution as a criminal when He was not one. And how could anyone follow someone like that as a person of wisdom, for it’s against one’s reason and one’s ability to accomplish things on one’s own. Some groups may talk about the cross but it’s not the cross of the Bible. Then there are those who like to believe that all faiths will end in the same place after this life.
Regardless of what one wants to believe about the old rugged cross or not believe about the old rugged cross, it stands in the midst of time as the ultimate of suffering, sacrifice, and unconditional love that mankind has ever seen. It’s the ultimate demonstration of the biblical God’s wisdom. Why so? It demonstrates that what seems weak and foolish as being supernaturally powerful. For the cross proves God’s eternal love for us when we rejected Him, while striking a death blow to our heart of pride, and It provides the believer in Christ the ability to be forgiven, granted eternal life, with His power to live a life that is selfless and filled with lasting fulfillment, along with the guarantee of being with Him for eternity after this life.
I think of a friend who is an accomplished classical pianist. He grew up Jewish – came to know personally Yeshua, Jesus – reading the New Testament. He travels the world giving concerts telling others of the hope and new life in the old rugged cross. I know of another man who was religious but met Jesus Christ personally. His life was dramatically changed through the old rugged cross to live for Christ not for self. How about you? What’s the old rugged cross doing in your life? It’s not foolishness, but the wisdom of God. Reach out in faith to the crucified/risen Christ. Your life will never be the same!
Paul Bawden is married and served in the pastoral ministry for 45 years, retiring in 2011. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in Speech and attended Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving a Master of Theology. He has taken counseling courses at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Paul is a lifetime member of the Evangelical Free Church of America, as well as being a member of Interim Pastor Ministries (IPM), which serves churches during their time of transition in searching for a new pastor. He writes for Union Gospel Press, as well as being a volunteer writer for GotQuestions.org. Paul likes to write, read, bike, and work in the yard. The Bawdens have had the privilege to travel to Mexico and Romania on mission trips and visited various countries in Europe.
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