Power and Wisdom

Jesus performed miracles, exorcised demons, and taught with great authority, often attracting large crowds. Nevertheless, his contemporaries failed to recognize who he was despite displays of supernatural power. In the end, only the Roman centurion on duty at Golgotha perceived him to be the “Son of God” when the Nazarene breathed his last.

The idea that miraculous “signs and wonders” win souls to the Gospel does not conform with the pattern found in the four gospel accounts. It certainly does not correspond to how Gentiles or the Jewish nation responded to the message preached by the Apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus.

Cross on Hill - Photo by Matteo Grando on Unsplash
[Photo by Matteo Grando on Unsplash]

God does provide supernatural help to His people, including divine healings, but miracles themselves are a means, not an end. As the Bible demonstrates numerous times, unexpected signs and great displays of power do not guarantee that anyone will understand who God is or acquire genuine faith in Him. As Paul wrote:

  • (1 Corinthians 1:21-24) – “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews, scandal, and to Gentiles, foolishness; but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

In Mark, Jesus healed the sick and exorcised demons, impressing the local crowds. The people of Galilee and Judea had not seen the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, or Priests do anything remotely like what he did, yet only the very demons cast out by him recognized Jesus as the Son of God.

One day, on the verge of understanding his identity, Peter declared him to be the Messiah, but only until Jesus explained just what that meant, betrayal, suffering, and death, after which, Peter rebuked him with words from Satan.

The only person who did recognize Jesus as God’s son before his Resurrection was the Roman centurion present at his crucifixion, and quite likely, the officer in charge of the execution squad - (Mark 15:29-39).

Only in his self-sacrificial death was the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the World revealed. In contrast to the centurion, the Jewish religious leaders mocked Jesus as he was dying. Though they sarcastically called him “Christ and King of Israel,” they certainly did not accept his Messianic status. Even the two “brigands” who were crucified with him “reproached him.”

HIS EXALTATION


In John, Jesus declared that when he was “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles, but his death by crucifixion was the foundation of his Kingdom and sovereignty.

If I am lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all men to me,” and he was “glorified” on the Cross, not when he raised Lazarus from the dead, as great that miracle was. Despite all his powerful deeds and words, he died alone, rejected by the Jewish nation and its priestly leaders, abandoned by his disciples, and crushed by the might of Rome.

His sacrifice may have been unique, but not his way of overcoming Sin and Satan or winning men to his Gospel. Thus, pointing to his own death, he instructed his disciples to deny themselves, take up the cross daily, and follow his narrow path. As he taught them when they sought high positions in his coming Kingdom:

  • You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their great ones tyrannize them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant, and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many” - (Matthew 20:25-28).

After his Resurrection, God exalted him, and he began to reign at His “right hand.” However, that came only after paying a great price. As Paul explained to the Philippians when alluding to the stories of Adam and the Servant of Isaiah:

  • (Philippians 2:5-9) – “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted not the being like God a thing to be grasped, but poured himself out, taking the form of a SERVANT, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him and gave unto him the name which is above every name” - (Compare Genesis 3:4-6, Isaiah 53:10-12).

We want power, but only by finding a way around the Cross. In contrast, Paul exhorted believers to “let this same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” He received the “name that is above every nameBECAUSE he “became a SERVANT and poured out his life unto death, even death on a cross,” all for the sake of others.

According to Paul, “Christ crucified” is scandalous to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. The idea that God achieved victory over Sin, Death, and Satan through the unjust death of a politically powerless man is nonsense to mankind’s way of thinking.

Cross on mountain - Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash]

However, the “
Word of the Cross” is the very “Power and Wisdom of God,” and incapable of understanding His wisdom, the “rulers of this age” were defeated decisively when they “crucified the Lord of Glory.”

The omnipotent God achieved final victory through the crucifixion of the Messiah by the world’s mightiest empire. He was condemned to death by Jewish religious authorities and executed by pagan political leaders, an outcome no devout Jew would have expected or accepted.

Jesus cannot be understood apart from his death on the Roman cross. Likewise, no man or woman can become his disciple without emulating his self-sacrificial service to others, and by living a cruciform life day by day. The great “mystery” marked out “before the ages for our glory” is Christ Crucified.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Imperative of the Cross - (Christ crucified is the pattern disciples of Jesus are summoned to follow and emulate, and the test of the genuine apostolic faith)
  • The Cruciform Path - (To follow Jesus necessitates a lifetime of self-denial and sacrificial service for others and a willingness to lose all for the Gospel)
  • Embracing the Cross - (To be the Messiah of Israel meant suffering and death for others, and Jesus summoned his disciples to follow that same path – Mark 8:31)

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