“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10)
The cross Christ took up is folly to the world. They have neither eyes to see it, nor ears to hear of it. It’s relevance, meaning and purpose are lost upon them. Satan makes it his chief business to blind men’s minds to the gospel of Christ and Him crucified. The cross is an offense to the world, even to the religious man who would gladly dispense with it and find another route to God. Many religions teach that Jesus did not really die on the cross, they assert that Jesus was taken to heaven and then someone else (even Judas) took His place on the cross. They refuse to believe that a truly God favored person would be placed in a position of suffering. They can’t accept that God would let a just and innocent person come to such an end. Those covered with boils from head to toe, who sit amomg the ashes scraping themselves with a potsherd, surely have issues with God. The wisdom of man looks in the face of suffering and concludes: “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” (Job 4:7) Indeed, those that hang on crosses have to be God cursed, not God blessed.
In a similar manner, the cross Christ called His disciples to take up is considered folly to an infantile church that can only receive the milk and not the meat of God’s word. “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” The message of the cross has always been hard to swallow. Immature “Peters” get excited over those things that fall into the category of good in man’s book, but when you would declare the need to embrace what has the outward appearance of evil, (with glory to follow,) they will rebuke you as being “out of line.” Why? Because the cross is an embrace of pathos (and who wants pain?) It is an indication of weakness and defeat, not a demonstration of power and victory. It is an embarrassment to God’s cause. It is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those waiting for a muscular Messiah who would deliver them from their oppressors, not one who would be oppressed by them. A powerless Savior, who could save others, but could not save Himself, was despised, rejected and ridiculed by a Jewish nation that required signs and wonders from their holy men. A weak Paul, who couldn’t match the eloquence or charismata that they were accustomed to in their midst, who didn’t produce miracles on cue, who carried around in his flesh a thorn, was despised and rejected by the powerhouse church at Corinth.
There is a hidden wisdom in the cross which the world does not know, and a hidden power in weakness that the world scorns. But this folly and weakness should be to the believer the wisdom and power of God, not just as it pertains to Christ, but as it pertains to us. While we honor the cross where our Savior died and appreciate the stripes He bore for our healing, may we also recognize the crosses and stripes He ordains in our lives for our perfection and glory.
The message of Christ to His fledging disciples and Paul’s plea to the “strong” and “wise” believers at Corinth is still waiting to be heard. It was the subtle theme interwoven into the letters of the despised apostle whose one purpose was to know Christ and Him crucified. If this would also be your purpose, don’t expect your cross to be any prettier than Christ’s, but anticipate the power, honor and glory which is on the other side. May the Lord of glory give us seeing eyes and hearing ears. May we grow up in Him in all things. May we know Him in His fullness.