The Message of the Cross
“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. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NRSV)
The message of the Cross of Christ has always seemed strange, foolish and even incomprehensible to some. It has always caused some degree of confusion. Even in the days of the early Church, the apostle Paul recognized that people who were caught up in the values and concerns of this present life — money, status, worldly success — looked upon the message of the Cross as foolishness.
The Cross was not pretty. It was not an ornament. It was a means of execution. It was two pieces of rough-hewn wood: a place of painful death. The Cross was erected over the town garbage heap, on a hill they said looked like a skull. It was an ugly scene. And, what was ugliest about it was the sin and unbelief and rebellion against God that it represented. And, yet, it was there — in that dark and ugly moment — where God dealt with your sin and mine in a decisive way. Strangely enough, there was the moment of reconciliation and peace: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
There are people who (it seems) will believe in anything before believing in the Cross of Christ. They look for something not quite so uncomfortable. Many look to education as the final solution to the problems of the human race. But, education in and of itself cannot make us moral. Increased knowledge gives the human race increased possibilities for self-destruction. We may amass a wealth of knowledge and still be unsure about the deepest and most important questions of life: Why are we here? What is life all about? What is the purpose of human life? The world abounds in self-help books and magazine articles. They promise inner peace, success, happiness — and, just generally, all you could want from life. But, there is a deep incompleteness and estrangement from God at the heart of our being. And, it is here, at the point of our spiritual lost-ness, that the Cross meets us.
Somehow it is the Cross that draws people to the Christian faith. Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32 NRSV). The message of the Cross still brings us face-to-face with our sin. It is at the Cross we find forgiveness and reconciliation and peace. The message of the Cross releases the power of God into our lives and our church. Without the Cross, there is no power, no peace, and no reconciliation with God.
The Cross is hard for the human ego to accept. It is hard to face. It does not flatter us. But, as we bow our knees before the Cross, we find the glory of God shining through it. In the Cross we see the love of God reaching out to us — and to the whole wayward human race.
Hear the words of G. Campbell Morgan, a preacher to another generation:
“… For that very Cross of blood and shame is radiant with the glorious light of infinite Grace; for even at the cost of such suffering as makes poor half-cultured man shudder, Love, determined on man’s salvation, accomplished it. Yes, the Cross is vulgar. Disease is vulgar; but the mother and the nurse who touch it, to heal it, are not vulgar. Contact with it in order to heal is not vulgar. I come to the Cross to bow my head in shame, and to smite my breast in remorse. Vulgar Cross; but that in it which is vulgar is my sin. Shining through it is the light that comes from the Throne; and flowing through it is the great river of God’s grace.”
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