Read 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
20 So where does this leave the philosophers,the scholars,and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom,he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews,who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks,who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified,the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
24 But to those called by God to salvation,both Jews and Gentiles,Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans,and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. (NLT)
Many people wear a small cross around their neck as a piece of jewellery. Others wear it as a symbol of faith. Nothing much wrong with any of that-unless we forget just what the cross was all about. It was a splinter-ridden piece of timber used as an instrument of torture,a slow and especially cruel form of death sentence reserved for the worst criminals.
Which was why both Jews and non-Jews in Paul’s time found it offensive. Jews figured that their promised Messiah couldn’t possibly be a crucified criminal. Non-Jews figured that the cross just didn’t make sense,did not appeal to their cultured and reasonable minds.
Much the same with many today. Those who don’t think they need God’s mercy will dismiss it as an unnecessary yet noble piece of martyrdom. Those who think they can get right with God by their own efforts will likewise dismiss it as an offence to their decency.
If we could be right with God by means of trying harder or being religious then he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble he did. But he knew radical remedies were needed for our radically precarious position. Jesus absorbed our wrongdoing on himself so it would not keep us from God. The cross might look like cruel martyrdom,like a defeat for a good man.
In fact it was a strange sort of victory. Seen as such only by those who have admitted defeat in their own attempts to get right with God.