I Corinthians 1:
18 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. 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. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The cross is a word. It speaks.
That is why the communication God most values about the cross is the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel in words.
The cross is, as Paul says elsewhere, an “appeal” from God to reconciliation. It is an announcement that contains an offer. It is a proclamation that has ultimate relevance. It is a word that divides the world into cross appreciators and cross enemies.
The word of the cross is foolishness to a religious world that demands God respond with a miracle when they pull the string. The God of the cross is not a performer. He is not a cosmic servant or entertainer there when religious people insist he show up and do what is necessary to convince the sleeping and the bored.
God has spoken his Word in Jesus, and we now speak that Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The word of the cross is foolishness to the wise of this age for whom God must present his case in order to win their approval. Because the cross does not play to the wisdom of the world or to the world’s applause, it earns the contempt of those who demand intellectual fashionability for truth.
Do not miss this: God has purposely chosen to reveal himself in such a way that the demands of religion and worldly wisdom are utterly humiliated. The cross is the moment of contempt and degradation. There is no beauty about the cross that we would want to be associated with it. It cannot play on the world’s stages or earn the admiration of the elites.
The wisdom of God is the God/man nailed to the tree, the sins of the world placed on the crucified one, the wrath of God poured out in the midst of the cruelty of human execution, the forgiveness of God a finished sacrifice that we neither deserve nor ask for.
The cross speaks of God, of his son, of his Gospel. To the ones who are being saved, it speaks the pearl of great price, the priceless treasure in a field, the one thing valuable. To the world, the cross speaks nothing but a fantasy.
There is no way to make the cross anything other than what it is. Every artistic portrayal of the cross must ask if it points beyond itself to the cross that saves, the cross where sin is condemned and the blood of the lamb purchases a people for God.
We live in a time when evangelicals and many protestants shun the cross for another Gospel. I thank God that so many of our Catholic brothers and sisters continue to value the cross. Even as we may disagree on its meaning, there is little doubt where one is more certain to hear the word of the cross these days. Luther and Calvin would be ashamed.
The word of the cross, proclaimed in scripture and placed at the center of a living faith, does what the cross does.
“If I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”
The word of the cross, if obscured, will be as powerful as ever, even in its humiliation at our hands.
The word of the cross is the power of God.