but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,1 Corinthians 1:23(NASB)
There is no more sublime truth than the message of the Cross, and yet we see a complete misunderstanding of the simple gospel of Christ, both during His own earthly ministry and throughout the apostolic letters that were written to the Church. The message of the Cross was a stumbling block to Israel, then as now, and the gospel of God remains foolishness to the unbelieving Gentile, now as then.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the message of the Cross, which remains today. Though Israel believed in a coming Messiah, they found 'Christ crucified' to be a stumbling block to faith and a rock of offence. They were anticipating a conquering hero who would deliver God's chosen nation from Roman oppression. They had allowed a misunderstanding of Scripture and life's difficult circumstances to influence their rejection of God's long-promised Messiah and King.
They expected a military leader who would save His people from slavery and Rome's cruel subjugation, without understanding that their Messiah must save His people from their sins before His prophesied kingdom rule. A crucified Messiah was a scandal to the Jew and an offensive stumbling block, but Paul preached Christ crucified, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, to God's chosen people first but also to the Gentiles, for the message of the Cross alone is able to save His people from slavery to sin and release them from the curse of the Law.
Christ crucified is salvation for the Gentiles as well, but unsaved Gentiles also had a false perception of the Cross. To the unregenerate mind, death on a cross and all its accompanying humiliation spoke of weakness and failure rather than victory and strength. Christ's resurrection from the dead did not fit in with human wisdom, intellectual reasoning, or philosophical thinking. The message of the Cross was indeed a stumbling block to prideful Israel who expected their Messiah to be a conquering hero who would save them from their earthly foes, but it was also foolishness to the academically brilliant yet arrogant Gentiles, whose flawed human wisdom exposed their gross foolishness.
But the message of the Cross was also misunderstood by the Corinthian Christians of Paul's time, just as it is by many believers today who are trying to live their lives based on their own human merit and un-sanctified reasoning. The message of the Cross continues to cut to the quick of the self-righteous, self-centred, self-confident, self-seeking believer in their impossible attempts at self-sanctification, rather than being Christ-centred, trusting in Christ's-righteousness, and maintaining a confidence in Christ's finished work alone.
The message of the Cross to sinner and saint alike is that it is all of Christ and none of me. His death paid the price for our sins and the gift of His resurrected life is the power of God for our justification, as well as the ongoing process of lifelong sanctification for all who trust in His name.
In this day when every aspect of the glorious gospel of Christ is a stumbling block to many and foolishness to those that are perishing, let us remember that the message of the Cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God to all who believe, for the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger.
Heavenly Father, thank You that in Your goodness and grace, You opened my understanding to the glorious gospel of God and brought me into Your family, by grace through faith in the simple message of the Cross. Use me, I pray, to be a channel of blessing to others who are still in darkness. I pray that the stumbling block for many in Israel would be removed, and that those who have rejected the gospel because of arrogance, pride, self-confidence, and self-sanctification, would have the eyes of their heart opened to see that Christ crucified is their only hope. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.