Posts Tagged ‘Crucifixion of Jesus’


Death with an exclamation point

A 21-year-old University Student wrote to a forum about death: “I am perfectly fine with death myself. But, I love my father very, very much. And I cannot imagine how it would be like for him to be gone, forever, one day. To know he has ceased to exist; that I will never talk with him again. It feels like having a short circuit inside the brain; life seems so vain and entrapping. Whatever I do seems pointless as one day, he will cease to exist and only a memory of him will remain. And the more joyful the memory, the greater the pain. It makes me want to scream, cry, and run away.”[1]

There are deaths that people expect, in fact even welcome. Death for many is a welcome relief from suffering. When my mom died from cancer that spread to her liver and finally brain, it was a relief to see her suffering end. However, some deaths are followed by an exclamation point. When we came home from church and saw my brother Tim sitting on our front steps, we knew something was wrong. When he cried out “Dad’s gone!”, that exclamation point hit me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. My dad was only 63. His death was a total shock to all of us, especially Mom.

Nothing shakes our world like the unexpected death of a close friend or loved one. That exclamation point shakes our world. However, one death shook the whole world, indeed, the whole universe. This death was no surprise, for it was planned. This death came with a HUGE exclamation point!!!!

Join me in listening in to Peter as he addresses a huge crowd in the Temple, just 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus:

Acts 2:23-28 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him(Psalms 16), “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

As we celebrate this Easter Sunday, I want us to consider three things that Peter wants us to see, for they are Life Changers!

In this part of Peter’s sermon, we see God’s PLAN, God’s PRESENCE and God’s PROMISE.

  1. The Plan of God gives US power over Death
  2. The Presence of God gives US power over Life
  3. The Promise of God gives US power for Eternity

I. The Plan of God – Power over Death

God NEVER intended for His creation to die. We are made in His image. We were meant to live forever, to enjoy Him forever. He placed the Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden of Eden. After Adam sinned,

He drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden, he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24

Sin corrupted God’s design. Sin brought the curse of death and decay to God’s creation. Yet this came as no surprise to God. God loved His creation, and already had a plan to remove the curse of death. His plan was made before time began.

A. The Death of Jesus was no Happenstance

Verse 23 says God delivered up Jesus Christ. His own son!

  • Definite plan
  • Foreknowledge of God

After Peter and John were threatened for preaching about Jesus, they were released and returned to the disciples. They prayed in Acts 4. They started their prayer Sovereign God and they prayed to God saying that Pilate and Herod and the Gentiles and Jews had only done WHAT YOUR HAND AND YOUR PLAN HAD PREDESTINED TO TAKE PLACE.

It may have been Judas who betrayed Jesus, but Judas was doing exactly as God had planned. It may have been the Romans who crucified Jesus, but the Romans were doing exactly as God had planned. It may have been the Jews who screamed, “Crucify Him!”, but the Jews were doing exactly as God planned. Jesus had to suffer this horrible death as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. There was no other way for God to rescue His creation from the curse of sin!

B. The Death of Jesus was Committed at the Hands of Lawless men.

(Even though it was God’s plan, there is no excuse for what these people did).

Jesus had to die because of the truth in Romans 3:

Romans 3:9-19 …For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” …“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Innocent men have been murdered throughout the ages. Cain murdered his brother Abel. The prophets were stoned and ridiculed, even put to death. The 12 apostles were all murdered except John, although tradition says they tried. Every day it seems we hear news of some other psycho who starts murdering innocent people. It seems that lawlessness is getting out of hand.

Yet the truth is each one of us is born lawless. We each fail to live by God’s Law, and even our own internal law. We resist, we rebel, and we have a natural bent away from total obedience to God’s Law.

The truth is that Christ died at our hands. No one can say they would not have consented to Christ’s death on the Cross. We must admit that we put Jesus on the Cross. We drove those spikes into His hands and feet. We mocked at Him as he struggled for each breath. We are the lawless ones for whom Jesus died. We deserve as Romans says, “The wages of sin is death.”

  • We must accept God’s judgment of our sinfulness.
  • There is nothing in us that permits fellowship with Holy God.
  • We are each guilty of lawlessness before God.
  • EACH ONE OF US IS BORN WITH THE SENTENCE OF DEATH UPON OUR HEADS, FOR DEATH IS THE WAGE OF SIN.

As Peter was preaching, the people were cut to their heart, they felt the tremendous pressure of their sins, and they cried out: “What shall we do?”

C. God Had Jesus Crucified to Destroy Death.

Verse 24 says:

  • God delivered up Jesus and RAISED HIM UP!
  • He loosed the pangs of death.

Literal Translation (v 24):  HAVING DESTROYED THE BIRTH PAINS (travail) of DEATH,

Having loosed the pains of death. The word loosed, lusav, is opposed to bind, and is properly applied to a cord, or to anything which is bound. See Matthew 21:2; Mark 1:7. Hence, it means to free, or to liberate, Luke 13:16; 1 Corinthians 7:27.[2]

  • Death could not hold Jesus.

“Because it was not possible for him to be held by it”

We must face that fact that just as a the birth of a child issues from the pangs of a mother’s travail, so does the passing of each one of us follow the travail of the pains of death.

When Jesus cried out from the Cross, “It is finished” He willingly laid down His life and faced the travail and pangs of death. His heart stopped. His breathing stopped. His bodily functions ceased. His brain was lifeless. They took his crucified body and wrapped Him in burial rags and laid Him in a borrowed tomb. Jesus, the Son of God died.

If we could see with spiritual eyes, we could see Satan’s demons in that tomb, wrapping a million cords of rope around Jesus. They were doing everything in their power to hold Jesus down! However, it was no use. Satan could have used a trillion ropes and that would not have been enough to hold Jesus in the grave!

God’s Word says they could not hold Him. They had no strength! Death had no power over Jesus! Jesus raised His body up from that stony grave and those cords melted away. Jesus stood up and kicked those demons out of that tomb.

Jesus had broken the strength of death. It had no power over Him! Jesus loosed the ropes of death stood up and kicked the Devil out of the tomb! Take that you old devil, for I have defeated death forever more. Your power over my children is forever destroyed!

DEATH WAS RENDERED POWERLESS BECAUSE JESUS DESTROYED THE DEVIL:

kratéō; from krátos strength. To take hold of, grasp, hold fast, followed by the gen. of person meaning to have power over, rule over.[3]

1.) Jesus destroyed the one who has power of death

Hebrews 2:14-15 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

2.) Jesus holds the Keys to Death and Hades

Revelation 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” One day he will throw death and Hades into the Lake of Fire!

Next in verses 25-26 Peter quotes Psalms 16, and we see the Presence of God in His Christ’s life

‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.’

II. The Presence of God – Gives us Power over Life

A. The Lord was always before Him

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;

B. God was at His right hand

To have the Lord at one’s right hand signifies protection.

  • Advocates would sit to the right of their clients to defend them in court (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles [Augsburg], p. 86).
  • Bodyguards would stand on the right side so they could cover the person they were protecting with their shields and still have their right arm free to fight (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Acts 1-12 [Moody Press], p. 65).[4]
  • The right hand is mentioned because that was the place of dignity and honour. God had the place of honour, the highest place in Jesus’ affections, Psalms 109:31.
  • In our dependence on God, we should exalt him. We should not merely regard him as our help, but should at the same time give him the highest place in our affections.[5]

We Have the Promise from God!

  • TO ISRAEL – Isaiah 43:1-2 “The LORD… who created you, (says): “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
  • TO THE DISCIPLES – Matthew 28:20 “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”


Understand that God was at the right hand of Jesus every step down the Via Dolorosa. He was there through every lash, through every pounding of the spikes. He was there in the jeering crowd. Yet God forsook His only Son to the cross and to your sin, because it was His plan foreordained before time even began.

Rest assured, Jesus has promised all His children, that He will never leave you nor forsake you, that He, through the Holy Spirit, is always at your side. Does Jesus hold a place of honor in your life? Do you thank Him for His comfort, protection, and love?

God was with Jesus so that:

C. Life Did Not Shake Jesus

Verse 25 – “That I might not be shaken”

God was at the right hand of Jesus, ever before Him, so that He might not be shaken by this life. KJV says, “moved.”

The phrase pictures “to sink into calamities, or to fall into the power of enemies.” Even though Jesus was facing the most horrible catastrophe devised by man, He never lost His confidence in God to take Him through it. As He willingly submitted his back to the cat-o-nine tails, He knew God was with Him! When they hoisted the cross up and he could feel the searing pain, and struggled to breath, He knew God was with Him and would take Him through it. Jesus could rejoice with David in Psalms 62:

“He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalms 62:2

Has your life ever been shaken?

When you take your two-year-old boy to the Emergency Room with high fever and an inability to hold his head up, you are worried. When the Doctor says they need to do a spinal tap, you get more worried. When the Doctor comes back and says your son has spinal meningitis, your are literally shaking. My wife and I prayed right there, and we committed our son into God’s hands! We knew that God was not shaken! Praise the Lord, the Doctors were wrong, and our son soon got better!

Even on the Cross:

D.    His Heart was Glad & His Tongue Rejoiced

  • Verse 26 -“therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced”

Jesus could proclaim His joy and gladness because God was near Him in time of calamity. His confidence in God to deliver Him was all He needed to overcome any fear of crucifixion and becoming the lamb slain for the sins of the world. Instead of fear in His heart and woe upon His lips, Jesus said His tongue rejoiced. Tongue in the Hebrew can mean “my glory or my honor.” The tongue is man’s means of expressing honor and glory to the Creator God. As Psalms 30:12, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.[6]

Jesus used His tongue to express His Honor of His Father, for He knew that through Him, there was a “joy set before me.The Greek word actually means to “jump for joy.” Yes, you can honor God as you “jump for joy”!

One of Satan’s most successful lies is that God is a cosmic killjoy who wants everyone to be miserable. People view God as a great sadist in the sky, who gets perverse delight in making His creatures miserable. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus wants His joy to be our joy. His joy in the midst of the worst calamities can be our joy in the worst of times!

  • Jesus tells us that His joy is made complete in us (Jn 15:11, Jn 17:13)
  • He told the Disciples when they saw Him alive again, they would rejoice, and no one could take that joy away from them (John 16:20, 22).
  • Having Joy from Jesus does not deny times of sorrow and grief. (Jesus was a man of sorrows)

Nevertheless, it does overcome such times because it rests on the sovereign God and His promises to every believer.

E.  Jesus Dwelt in Hope.

  • Verse 26 – “my flesh also will dwell in hope (CONFIDENCE)”
  • Literally: MY FLESH IS GOING TO PITCH A TENT WITH CONFIDENCE.

Like the expression “You can take that to the Bank” Jesus hung on the cross in confident expectation of the Resurrection. His earthly body was temporary, it was a tent, but Jesus dwelt in that tent in Full Confidence of His Father!

The word Greek word elpís “hope” best expresses confidence rather than hope. The passage means, My body will I commit to the grave, with the firm confidence that I will never see corruption, but arise to the Joy of my Father![7]

Jesus was confident in the power of His Father. He was confident that He was fulfilling His will. He expressed that confidence at the beginning of His ministry:

He expressed that confidence at the end of His earthly ministry: “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

III. The Promise of God – Power for Eternity

A. You Will Not Abandon My Soul to Hades (vs 27)

  • NKJV For You will not leave my soul in Hades.

As Death could not hold Jesus, so Hades could not keep Him. The place that Jesus Himself described was the place souls await judgment. Those who trusted in God such as Lazarus, Abraham, and the Old Testament saints, until the resurrection, those who hardened themselves against God until the Great White Throne Judgment. Satan had no hold on Jesus, in fact, Jesus freed those Old Testament Saints who were looking for their Messiah:

Ephesians 4:7-8 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

B. You will not let Your Holy One see Corruption

Jesus is the Holy One. Hebrews 4:15 declares, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus had no part in sin, therefore His body was exempt from the corruption and decay that a dead body experiences. Instead of the stench of decaying flesh, Jesus was a sweet aroma to His heavenly Father!

Destruction in a moral sense. It refers to the change of the present constitution of the body or the change of the moral makeup of a person[8].

Jesus body never decayed because He had defeated Sin and Hell!

C. You Will Make Known the Paths of Life (v 28)

Jesus is declaring that the Cross is the Path of Life! It has Power for all Eternity. The cross towers over the train track of ruin and damnation. The unstoppable locomotive of death and destruction was bearing down on Jesus, but that old Cross stopped that locomotive cold, throwing it off the tracks. For the Cross became a new track, the track that leads to Eternal Life! Jesus is our Path of Life!

This properly means the path to life; as we say, the road to preferment or honour; the path to happiness; the highway to ruin, etc. See Proverbs 7:25, 27. It means, Thou wilt make known to me life itself, i.e. thou wilt restore me to life. The expressions in the Psalm are capable of this interpretation without doing any violence to the text; and if the preceding verses refer to the death and burial of the Messiah, then the natural and proper meaning of this is, that he would be restored to life again.[9]

D.    You Will Make Me Full of Gladness With Your Presence (Countenance).

There is nothing that Satan could throw at Jesus that could steal His joy! Not torture, not crucifixion, not even death!

Jesus knew that God would raise Him from the dead before His body would undergo decay. He knew He would once again enjoy the Presence of His Father.

1.) The Resurrection Assures us that Death will never hold us.
  • Sin is Forgiven
  • NO PAYMENT DUE.
  • NO CONDEMNATION!
  • Our body will experience decay, but our soul will be with God the very millisecond we die. Death will never destroy us, because Jesus conquered Death!
2.) The Resurrection Assures us that Life doesn’t have to Shake us.
  • We have Power over Life through Jesus Christ. We can know Gladness and Joyfulness in the midst of the worst of times.
3.) The Resurrection Assures us we will Spend  Eternity with Christ
  • We can rejoice because we have an unshakeable confidence that because Jesus defeated sin, death and the Devil, even so we will conquer death and sin and the devil because we are in Him by faith!
  • To absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!

However, our bodies await that great moment when “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

We Have a New Victory Cry!

1 Corinthians 15:51-57. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We can Jump for Joy!

  • We can cry out “Thanks be to God for the Victory He gives us through our Jesus Christ!”
  • We have a New Exclamation Point for our Life! He is Alive! He is Alive!!!!!!

How is your gladness this morning? Are your rejoicing? WHO IS YOUR TRUST IN? Jesus was rejoicing even on the Cross. His behavior was so unbelievable that a cursing thief had a change of heart and confessed Jesus was a righteous man. A roman soldier declared that truly this was the son of God!

You do not have to settle for a trickle of joy now and then. You do not have to be shaken by what life throws at you. You do not have to fear tomorrow. You do not have to fear death. Give you life to Jesus Christ. Trust Him and Him alone for your salvation.

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

  • The pangs of childbirth turn into the Joy of parenthood.
  • The pangs of death turn into the Joy of life with our Father forevermore!

Through the Resurrection we have a Legacy

John Newton calls our legacy, “solid joys and lasting treasure.”

What is the Key to Knowing His Joy and Gladness?

  1. Spend time often with God in His Word and in prayer. Even if it is a short time, get up early enough to meet with God before you head out the door. Start keeping an ongoing dialogue with God.
  2. Relate everything, even little events, to God’s Hand. Learn to say thank you God! See everything from His loving hand. Nothing happens by chance. Even the bad things, we thank Him for!
  3. Take time often to enjoy God in His creation. Take time to garden, grow flowers, feed the birds, and take a walk. Turn the TV off, stop watching the news, and make time to see God’s creation! If you cannot sense God’s presence and glory at a time like that, you may not know God!

The key to joy and gladness is to walk and work and play with a constant sense of God’s presence. Then, even if you go through trials, you will keep your joy because it is coming from God and His presence with you.

I Dreamed I Stood at Calvary

I dreamed I stood at Calvary
And saw three crosses there;
On left and right were nailed two thieves,
The cross between was bare.

A soldier took his sword in hand,
Then pointing it at me;
He said, “You there, prepare to die.
That cross is meant for thee.”

I quickly fell upon my knees,
For mercy did I cry;
As strong hands grabbed my hands and feet,
I shouted, “Why, oh why?”

And then a voice both soft and sweet
Was heard above the din;
“Let this one go, take me instead.
I’ll pay his debt of sin.”

With his body torn and bleeding,
And thorn marks ’round his head;
With face bruised where they beat him,
He stepped into my stead.

Then Jesus laid upon the cross,
His life to freely give;
That all my sins be washed away,
And through his death, I’d live.

He stretched his arms out open wide,
No struggle did he make;
As they prepared to nail him there,
His life to gladly take.

They drove the spikes in hands and feet
And slammed the cross in place;
His bones were shaken out of joint,
And blood flowed down his face.

“Forgive them, Father”‘ was his cry,
They know not what they’ve done.
They do not realize that you,
Have sent your only son.”

Deep darkness filled the noonday sky
And trembling shook the ground;
As God, the Father, turned away,
While God, the Son, gazed ’round.

“It’s finished now”, the Saviour said.
“The door stands open wide;
Into thy hand’s my spirit comes.”
And then they pierced his side.

The graves were bursting open,
And dead men walked around;
The temple veil was rent in twain,
And I fell to the ground.

When I awoke, the night had passed
And sunshine flooded in;
I cried, “Dear Lord, forgive me please,
And cleanse me from my sin.

For you sent down your only son,
A ransom for the lost;
And I see you included me,
When counting out the cost.

Take o’er the reins that guide my life,
Remove my wilful pride;
Sweep clean my heart and enter in,
Forever, there abide.”

Yes, I dreamt I stood at Calvary
And saw those crosses three;
Yet no longer do I look with fear
Where Jesus died for me!

Are you living Life with an Exclamation Point! Are you jumping for Joy regardless of the circumstances?

The Death of Jesus was the greatest Exclamation Point this world has ever known, for it was followed by His resurrection! HE IS ALIVE! HE IS ALIVE!

  • Because He Lives We have Power over Death!
  • Because He lives we have Power over Life!
  • Because He lives, we have Power for Eternity – Life with Him!

Is there an Exclamation Point in your Life? Is Jesus in your Life?


[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 885.

[8] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “διαφθορά”

Advertisements

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1:17) “For 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”, he was slowly lifting the veil from the majesty and beauty of the wisdom of God as revealed in the Cross.

Paul was holding up the beauty of the cross to a people who had been conditioned to not even speak of the crucifixion which it signified. Crucifixion was so horrible, it was not even mentioned among polite society. Yet here Paul is, displaying the cross as the ‘wisdom of God!’ This Wisdom of God was being held up as a means of uniting a church that had become weakened through fleshly divisions. The message of the Cross is the means  to uniting and empowering a divided church. Unless we fail to see the wisdom of it.

The power of the cross can be made null and void when we ignore it, or when we try to dress it up, or when we minimize it. Here Paul is, fully aware that this church has been so influenced by the world that it is fractured, fumbling and failing. His advice to them is to glory in the raw, uncensored message of the cross. That which causes the world to shudder and turn away is the very wisdom and glory of God!

We are so removed from the culture of Paul’s world that we have no conception of how obscene it was to tell people that your “God” had been crucified on a Roman cross. The wisdom of God was for Paul to preach using an object lesson so obscene that most intelligent Gentile’s would consider utterly ridiculous. Imagine an evangelist coming to Farmland, USA and telling them to believe in a convicted pedophile as their Savior. You might get a sense of the reactions Paul’s preaching produced.

Rome and have been so exposed to the crucifixion that we cannot fathom how ridiculous the Empire’s policies on crucifixion conditioned Roman citizens to view crucified men with universal contempt. The crucified were either rebellious slaves, the lowest of criminals, or defeated and humiliated foes of the empire[1].

In light of the crucified’s degraded status and the heinous nature of the punishment, Gentiles understandably and not surprisingly viewed the victim with the utmost contempt. Indeed, “crucifixion” was a virtual obscenity not to be discussed in polite company. The cultured world did not want to hear about crucifixion, and consequently, as a rule, they kept quiet about it[2].

Indeed, the noted orator, Cicero, once plead for his client before the jury, “The very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the person of a Roman citizen, but from his thoughts, his eyes, his ears.[3]

We can see in graphic form, what Gentiles thought of worshipping a god who had been crucified. A drawing  titled “graffito blasfemo” is ancient graffito dating back to the Roman Empire inscribed on a wall near the Palatine Hill in Rome, discovered again in 1857. It is the first known depiction of the Crucifixion of Christ, and notably, in mockery. The inscription depicts the crucified Jesus with the head of an ass, and reads “Alexamenos sebete theon”, meaning either “Alexamenos worships his god” or perhaps a command “Alexamenos, worship your god!”[4]

The drawing illustrates the contempt Gentiles had for the message that a god had been crucified. He was no god, he was an ass. But such is the wisdom of God!

The Offensive Beauty of the Cross is the Wisdom of God

Paul doesn’t dress the cross up with eloquent words, nor water down its message with something more “people pleasing”. That would make the power of the cross empty and void.

Instead Paul writes “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!”

Then Paul lifts the veil on the wisdom of God:

 (19) For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (20) Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (21) For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

Wisdom is never man-centered. Mankind had plenty of opportunities to know God through ‘wisdom’. Still mankind did not come to know God. Indeed, God had made the wisdom of man to be foolish, time after time.

Solomon wrote: “Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding”. Proverbs 10:23. In the wisdom of man, Jesus is displayed as a crucified ass.  In the wisdom of God, the crucified Jesus is the power of salvation!

God established the Societies of the Earth through His wisdom.

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 10:12 (ESV)

When men reject His wisdom, standards of behavior breakdown, and that which is wrong is OK, it’s funny, it’s “horse-play”.[5] When men reject His wisdom, they laugh and cheer when a ‘thug’ beats an old man unconscious on a crowded Chicago subway platform.[6]

Paul proudly proclaims the message of the cross, for He knows it is the wisdom of God that has established this world, and will save this world. His message is confrontational. It is not “seeker-friendly”. It is neither inclusive nor politically correct. He acknowledges the difficulty of his message,

(22) For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, (23) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles

Crucifixion was ridiculous to the point of obscene to Gentiles. But to Jews, the obstacles were even greater to seeing Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God.

“Stumbling block” comes from the Greek term σκάνδαλον. (skandalon), which refers to a “temptation to sin” or “an enticement to apostasy and unbelief.” A stumbling block was “an obstacle in coming to faith and a cause of going astray in it.”

For a Jew to believe in the crucified Jesus as Messiah, he would have to “stray” from his faith. Since their faith was their identity, it was scandalous for a Jew to confess a crucified Jesus as Messiah. The  offense of the cross was seen as the means of stripping a Jew of his cultural and religious identity. The crucifixion hindered Jews from coming to saving faith. They simply could not overcome their preconceived notions about what the crucifixion signified. The words of Deuteronomy were too contradictory:

(22) “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, (23) his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (ESV)

Jesus could never be the Messiah, for he was a man cursed by God! God would never curse the Messiah to Hades! As one writer states, “He who is placed there for faith Himself becomes an obstacle to faith.” [7]The very content of Paul’s message caused Jews to turn away.

When Paul boasted in 1 Cor 1:23 that he preached “Christ crucified,” he understood that his message cut deeply against the grain of his culture. Yet the apostle was undeterred. Paul understood that cultural expectations did not alter his responsibility to preach the truth, nor did those expectations hinder the power of the gospel to save[8].

Despite these cultural obstacles, Paul never altered the message of the cross to be more palatable or less socially and religiously offensive. Rather that cloak the cross in seeker-friendliness, he boldly displayed it even though it often turned hearers away.

So the wisdom of God was a stumbling block to Jews, and foolishness to Gentiles. And yet the wisdom of God as preached in the Cross changes the world, and saves sinners from hell.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”. 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

As Donald Green wrote:

“this verse shows the church of Jesus Christ that it must return to cultural confrontation with its gospel preaching instead of pursuing cultural accommodation. “Christ crucified” was not a “seeker-friendly” message in the first century. It was an absurd obscenity to Gentiles and a scandalous oxymoron to Jews. The gospel guaranteed offense.

1 Cor 1:23 shows that allegiance to the truth supersedes any desire to please men. Far better to live under the smile of God than to dilute the gospel for the approval of men and thereby empty the cross of its power (1 Cor 1:17)[9].

The Wisdom of God is seen in the offensive Cross.

  • God alone knows where wisdom dwells and where it originates (Job 28:12, 20);
  • No other living being possesses this knowledge about wisdom (see Job 28:21).
  • For humans, the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom is to properly fear and reverence God (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7; cf. Prov. 8:13);
  • God is the master, creator, and giver of wisdom (see Job 28:27; Prov. 8:22, 23).
  • He employed wisdom as His master craftsman to create all things (Ps. 104:24; Jer. 10:12).
  • Rulers govern wisely by means of wisdom provided by God (1 Ki. 3:28; cf. Prov. 8:15, 16).
  • Wisdom keeps company with all the other virtues: prudence, knowledge, and discretion (Prov. 8:12).
  • The portrayal of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-24 lies behind Paul’s magnificent picture of Christ in Colossians 1:15, 16, for all the treasures of wisdom are lodged in Christ (cf. Col. 2:3).[10]

I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. Proverbs 4:11 (ESV)

1. Wisdom of the Cross Exalts God

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

 “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Revelation 5:12 (ESV)

Philippians 2:8-9 (ESV)  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…

2. The Wisdom of the Cross Humbles Us

Paul presents the cross to a church that is divided and worldly. Instead of glorying in the offensive message of the Cross, they are wrapping themselves in the corrupted wisdom of the world. Paul tells them to look around and consider who they really are…

1 Cor 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

Look who God uses: Foolish,Weak, Despised, and ‘are Nots’. These are the ones who come to this offensive cross. People who have nothing else to lose, people who have everything to gain. The cross is not offensive to the nothings, to the ‘are nots’, for they can relate to its message. They understand the message of a God who became as they are. This God loved them so much that He became like them, even worse than them. He became cursed for them.

This is the wisdom of God that was before the foundation of the world! God would hang His own son on a tree, and there Jesus would be cursed with all the sin and ugliness of mankind. His son would become lower than a worm, hardly a man. Yes, Jesus became a nothing, an ‘are not’, in order to reveal to the world the wisdom of God. That wisdom is about humbling ourselves to the cross, the place where the pride of man is stripped away. The place where there is no glory for man. The place where we can only behold the beauty of the crucified one!

We must be brought to nothing to receive the wisdom of God! We must kneel as nothings before the cross of shame and folly.

When the Lord’s people embrace the “nothing” message, the world views them as nothing. But in the next age God will shame the wise and the strong and bring to nothing the things that in this age are viewed as something.

The Cry of the Wisdom of the Cross is:

“so that no human being might boast in the presence of God”. (1 Cor 1:29)

We must humble ourselves before the cross, for the cross is the mercy seat, the place where Christ’s blood was shed before His Father, and where our sins are forgiven. But we must realize our need first, and then we must humble ourselves before the cross. There is no salvation without the Cross!

2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

3. The Wisdom of the Cross Transforms Us.

Through the wisdom of the Cross, we have access to all that is Christ’s. The Cross allows God to place us IN CHRIST. The Cross gives us His wisdom. The Cross is the gateway for the righteousness, sanctification and redemption of Christ to be ours!

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  

By the Father’s doing, believers are placed in Jesus Christ. Because of this we possess the wisdom of God—Christ crucified, the very essence of God’s wisdom. Through this wisdom, we have justification at God’s court, sanctification before His presence, and total redemption. More than that, we have all the wealth and power and beauty of Jesus Christ. It is as if the kneeling at the Cross entitles us to this huge blank check that will provide us everything that is Christ’s. It is a check that never expires. If only those Jews could see what is on the other side of the cross!

The Cross is to be gloried in daily as we present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. God delights in the ‘are not’s! God uses ‘are not’s to accomplish His will in this world!

 (1) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (2) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

 We Must Keep our Focus on the Cross

(10) We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. (11) For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. (12) So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. (13) Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (14) For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (15) Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (16) Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:10-16 (ESV)

 The folly, reproach and shame of the Cross is to be our guide for service! We are not to embrace a culturally acceptable cross, but to follow Christ outside the camp, where the dirty, the despised and dangerous dwell. We are to take the message of the Cross to the “Are Nots!” It is not the popular ministry. But it is the Ministry of the Cross!


[1] Donald Green, “THE FOLLY OF THE CROSS” , http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj15c.pdf

[2] Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadephia: Fortress, 1977) 38.

[3] Cicero, “The Speech In Defence of Gaius Rabirius,” sec. 16, in The Speeches of Cicero, trans. H. Grose Hodge, The Loeb Classical Library (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1927) 467.

[7] Gustav Stahlin, “σκάνδαλον” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 7:352.

[8] Hengel, Crucifixion, 5.

[9] Donald E Green, “The Folly of the Cross” as seen at http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj15c.pdf

[10] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2003), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 337.