Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Preaching a Christ Crucified and Risen

Paul made an accurate observation when he claimed in his letter to the Corinthians that a crucified messiah made little sense to many non-believers.  Paul wrote: “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians1: 22-25) 

The Jews were expecting a messiah to free the Jews from captivity and establish a kingdom for them on earth.  Jesus was killed by the Romans – how could he be the messiah that they had been waiting for? Some Jews understood that Jesus was a different kind of messiah, a messiah that frees all of humanity from captivity to sin and death and establishes the Kingdom of God.   But most Jews did not understand.

The Gentiles worshiped many gods and goddesses.  The Romans did not understand Jewish monotheism, but they respected it because Judaism was ancient.  Christianity, on the other hand, was new and inconsistent to them.    Celcus, a Greek philosopher in the 2nd Century wrote this criticism of Christians:  “If these men worshiped no other God but one, perhaps they would have a valid argument against the others. But in fact they worship to an extravagant degree this man who appeared recently, and yet think it not inconsistent with monotheism if they also worship his servant.”   Jesus was a unique human incarnation of the one eternal God, who suffered a torturous death – this seemed foolishness to most Gentiles. 

Today Christians still preach a Christ crucified, and it is still a stumbling block and foolishness to many people in the world.  And yet our duty is to keep preaching the good news – that God loves us, has redeemed us through Jesus’ death, and one day we will share in Jesus’ resurrection.   As we celebrate the Easter season together, let us joyfully share our faith in the risen Lord with those who have not heard this good news.  And let us patiently share our faith with all those who have heard and yet do not understand.