“…but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:23-24, NASB).
The “theology of the cross” stands in stark contrast to that for which the world seeks. While people crave wisdom, wealth, power, and glory, and expect the same of their gods, it is almost to wonderful to imagine — and more than some people seem capable of imagining — that the only true and living God, in the person of His only begotten Son, would step into this physical world to be “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NASB), and then sacrifice Himself at the cross to become “the propitiation [price that was paid to appease the demands of His own holy and just law] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I John 2:2, NASB).
What did the ancient Jews expect of their messiah? A valiant warrior coming with power and great glory to defeat the Romans and rule the world from His mighty throne in Jerusalem? But, instead, what did they get — A baby laying in a manger; the poor son of a carpenter from Nazareth — “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46, NASB); a foot-washer; an humble teacher riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey; a suffering, sacrificial, Savior!
Not what one might expect, hunh?
And what about today? Still, not quite what you may have anticipated?
When Jesus was a baby, his parents took him up to the temple in Jerusalem to “present Him to the Lord” and to “offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord” (Luke 2:22-24, NASB). The old prophet, Simeon — remember him from our previous post — who had been “looking for the consolation of Israel” (verse 25), took baby Jesus into his arms and blessed God and said:
“… my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32, NASB).
But then, while Mary and Joseph were marveling at the beautiful things being said about their baby, the old man continued with these frightening words:
“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35, NASB).
Simeon is confirming, while Jesus was still just a babe in His mother’s arms, what had already been determined, “before the foundation of the world” (I Peter 1:20, NASB); that, “by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,” He would be “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men” who would “put Him to death” (Acts 2:23, NASB). And Mary’s heart would one day be pierced through as with a sword!
The cross, then, begins to emerge and reveal itself on the not so distant horizon, even though Jesus was, still, but an infant. And I often wonder if old Simeon’s words came ringing back to Mary’s ears on that day when “standing by the cross of Jesus” (John 19:25, NASB), she listened to His final words as He lovingly commended her into the care of the Apostle John, and then watched Him die.
Jesus lived His entire life on earth in the ever looming shadow of the cross. It signified the ultimate purpose of His mission. He wasn’t born to be a mighty man with great wealth and earthly power. Satan offered Him all of that when He was tempted in the wilderness. But Jesus knew His life was not His own. He knew He was born to die. And He calls us to that same walk of life, that same destiny, when He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, NASB).
Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25, NASB). Anna, the prophetess, spoke of the baby Jesus “to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38, NASB). Israel’s comfort and Jerusalem’s hope for redemption will never be realized in terms of political power and earthly prosperity. Rather, their comfort and redemption — and that of all God’s covenant children — is all wrapped up in the events that transpired at a rather morbid sight of slaughter; known to us as “the Place of the Skull, which is in Hebrew called Golgotha” (John 19:17, NASB); and this, not as one might expect! But, that is the difference in God’s surprising storyline and one concocted out of the mind of mortal man.
By HIS Amazing Grace,
~ Philip ~