The Cross: Foolishness or Wisdom?

For 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. (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV)

On a hilltop called Abbey Craig, overlooking Stirling in Scotland, there stands a tower known as Wallace Monument. Within the walls of that tower are a number of stained glass windows, including one of a Scottish knight, a great warrior who was a central figure in the battle for Scottish independence from England. That warrior’s name was William Wallace. Wallace was born around 1270 in Paisley, Renfrew, Scotland, to a wealthy landowner. At the age of 27, he began his efforts to help his country break free of British rule. After years of leading troops in battle, Wallace was captured on August 5, 1305 and executed. Wallace was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Despite his capture and death, and despite the fact that Scotland did not win its independence until 1320, fifteen years after his death, William Wallace is recognized as a martyr and a national hero in Scotland. His heroism was glorified in the 1995 movie, Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.

Just as Scotland needed to be set free from English rule, we needed to be set free from the chains of sin that held us captive. But this was not a battle we could win on our own. We needed a leader, a warrior King, who would lead us to freedom from our sin. That leader, that warrior King, would be God’s promised Messiah. And that promised Messiah was God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who was born not to a rich landowner, but to a poor, virgin girl named Mary. Jesus began His ministry, His mission to secure our freedom from sin, at the age of about 30. He did not lead troops into battle but after three years of teaching His people, healing the sick, and giving sight to the blind, Jesus, like Wallace, was captured and executed. He was beaten, tortured, and nailed to a cross.

Crucifixion was a humiliating, shameful form of death and not the way that the world would expect a leader, a warrior King, to die. In fact, in the eyes of the world, the message of the cross is foolishness. The idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews, who expected a Messiah who would lead them into battle against their enemies and free them from their oppressors. And, the message of the cross was foolishness to the Gentiles, who could see no wisdom in it (1 Corinthians 1:23). But to those of us who are being saved, who are receiving salvation and freedom from the chains of sin, the message of the cross is not foolish. It is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The message of the cross is the message of salvation. William Wallace’s death did not achieve his goal of bringing freedom to Scotland. But through His death on the cross, Jesus, the Savior King, the Son of God, did accomplish what He was sent for by His heavenly Father. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. For those who are being saved, who have chosen to believe in and follow Christ, this humiliating, shameful form of death has broken the chains of sin that held us captive. Just as there were those in the first century who viewed the cross as foolishness, there are some today who similarly hold that view. To them, the cross is a sign of weakness. Yet for those who have received the salvation it brings, it is anything but. Rather, it is an instrument of the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:25 explains this beautifully, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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