We live in a terribly conflicted age. Men and women have been warring at least since Cain and Abel. Please join me today in comparing the incomparable, as we think about the message of a conflicted cross. Paul wrote to his spiritual brothers and sisters at the Greek and Roman city of Corinth that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1Corinthians1:18, NIV).
Jesus was one of thousands crucified in ancient times. As he was tortured, sin’s ugliness was demonstrated as never before. The death of Jesus is history’s most unspeakable tragedy. Who would want to speak or write about it, except for its spiritual power? Nothing can match it for its pure “shock and awe.” In view of this, how can we see it as something beautiful? Perhaps a brief story about an old soldier will help.
General John Gordon served under Ulysses S. Grant in the Army of the Potomac during the “War Between the States.” Following the conflict, in a race for the U.S. Senate, he was attacked by one of his former subordinate commanders, who was determined to see him defeated. During their party’s national convention, he noticed the scars on Gordon’s face and cried out, “Forgive me, General. I had forgotten the scars.” The scars serve as a deterrent to unbelievers, but for those with faith, they provide just one more picture of the lovely yet unfathomable love of our heavenly Father, his Son and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was “contradictory” to many during his brief time on earth. Even his own family failed to believe in him at first. Like so many, they were confused about his real nature. The reasons aren’t all known — we can only “read between the lines.” But even Mary, who had, along with his father Joseph, been told of his real identity, appeared to have lost her vision of what he came to do (See Mark 3:20-21 and John. 7:1-5).
Jesus’ apparent contradictory life and message, from his miraculous conception to a glorious resurrection from the dead, supply the discerning reader with a view of scripture that bolsters faith, rather than destroying it. The humble birth of the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), his meek and gentle spirit, supposedly contradicted by his scathing denunciation of some of the leading Jews (Matthew 11:29;), and a number of other such events and teachings, all demonstrate at the same time both the simplicity and the complexity of the man from Galilee.
We must not be among those who allow some supposed “contradictions” of Jesus and his work dissuade us from faith in him as the Son of God. The truth is, we have a simple yet significant choice — that of accepting him, even with the “hard to be understood” things about him, (compare 2 Peter 3:16), or denying him due to a lack of understanding.
Recall the ancient patriarch Job, who never really understood why he suffered as he did.
Even with his lack of knowledge of God’s motives, he was willing, though sometime difficult, to say, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).