In our modern antiseptic culture we have become numb to the true meaning and brutality of the cross of Christ. We read about the cross on the Bible’s pages and pass by so quickly. We don’t take stock of the offensiveness and seriousness of the cross.
“Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (I Corinthians 1:17).
The cross was not an ornament.
The cross was not a piece of flashy jewelry.
The cross was not a stained glass window, pulpit decor, or finely crafted piece of stained and polished wood. The cross was an implement of capital punishment.
The cross was an implement of unapologetic brutality and murder.
The cross was a tool of terror and political oppression.
When Paul said he preached the cross of Christ, his readers didn’t gloss over it like we do today. It had real meaning for them, wrapped in pain and terror as they routinely saw crosses covered in the blood of their brothers accentuated by the moans and screams and gasping for air of its victims. Preaching the cross was offensive because so many of Paul’s readers knew someone they loved, someone violently tortured and slaughtered on a cross. This is why the preaching of the cross was offensive to them. The cross was personal. Is it personal to us? And what do we see in popular TV preaching today?
“The offense of the cross has been removed” (Galatians 5:11).
Health and wealth, but not the death of the cross.
Pop psychology and feel good sermons, but not the suffering of the cross.
Pep rally Christianity, but not the call to bear the cross.
Self-improvement, but not the selfless sacrifice of the cross.
“If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me continuously” (Luke 9:23).
The preaching of the cross is still offensive today, even to many called by the name of Christ. It may be that we may be called by his name, but not by his life or death. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (I John 2:6).
The truth of the cross is that it is all those things that we don’t think about when we gloss over the pages of the Bible—pain, suffering, abandonment, torture, brutality, and death. Yet, as Paul reveals in his writings,
It is the preaching of the cross that enlightens us.
It is embracing the cross that saves us.
It is taking up the cross that empowers us.
We’ve just come off another Christmas holiday. Now we look ahead to what comes next—Good Friday. Ahead that way is the way of the cross.