Power and Wisdom of God
Jesus performed miracles, exorcised demons, and taught with great authority. For a time, he attracted large numbers of Jews from Judea and Galilee, but also Gentiles from as far away as Tyre and Zidon. Nevertheless, his contemporaries failed to recognize who he was despite his great miracles. In the end, only the Roman centurion at Golgotha recognized him as the “Son of God” when he breathed his last. As the New Testament teaches, true power and wisdom are found in the message of “Christ Crucified.”
|[Photo by CRISTIANO DE ASSUNÇÃO on Unsplash]
The idea that supernatural “signs and wonders” win multitudes of souls to the faith does not conform to the pattern found in the four gospel accounts, and it certainly does not correspond to how Gentiles or a great many Jews responded to the proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostles and the early church. As Paul writes:
- (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.”
God does provide supernatural help to His people, including divine healing, but miracles themselves are a means to an end. Miracles and impressive signs are not the goal of the Gospel. As the Bible demonstrates, unexpected signs and great displays of power do not guarantee that anyone will understand who God is or exercise faith in Him.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus heals the sick and exorcises demons, impressing many of his contemporaries. His contemporaries had never seen the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or priests do anything remotely like what he did. But only the very demons exorcised by him recognized him and declared who he was - the Son of God.
At one point, on the verge of understanding his identity, Peter declared him to be the Messiah, but only until Jesus explained what it meant to be the “Son of Man” – betrayal, suffering, death. Then, Peter rebuked him, and with Satan’s own words.
In Mark, the only person who does recognize Jesus as God’s son prior to the resurrection is the Roman centurion at his death on Golgotha, and very possibly, the very Roman officer in charge of his execution - (Mark 15:29-39).
Paradoxically, only in his self-sacrificial death is Israel’s Messiah revealed and understood. In contrast to the pagan centurion, the Jewish religious leaders mocked him and some even conspired in his judicial murder.
Though they sarcastically called him “Christ and the King of Israel” as he was hanging on the cross, the representatives of the High Priest certainly did not accept his messianic status. Even the two “brigands” crucified alongside him were “reproaching him.”
In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares that when he is “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles, but his death by crucifixion is the foundation of his kingdom. Moreover, “if I am lifted up from the Earth, I will draw all men to me,” a clear allusion to his form of death. He was “glorified” on the cross, not when he raised Lazarus from the dead or calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee. As great as those miracles were, they proved insufficient to demonstrate who and what Jesus is.
In the end, despite all his miracles, he died alone - rejected by the religious leaders of Israel, abandoned even by his disciples, and crushed by the might of Rome.
He instructed his disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow in his footsteps. As he taught them, “GREATNESS” in his kingdom is measured in one’s self-sacrificial service to others. They must be like Jesus and emulate his example, the one who “gave his life a ransom for many” - (Matthew 20:25-28).
Certainly, after his resurrection, he was exalted and began his reign at God’s “right hand,” But exaltation came at great personal cost. As Paul explained to the Philippians:
- (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 slave, 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.”
We want power, but only by finding a way around the cross. But Paul exhorted believers to “let this same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” He was exalted and received the “name above every name” BECAUSE he “poured out his life unto death on the cross” for others, including the “enemies of God.”
According to Paul, the proclamation of “Christ crucified” is scandalous to Jews and folly to Gentiles. The idea that God achieved victory over sin, death, and Satan by the unjust death of a politically powerless man is nonsense to human “wisdom” and experience. Nevertheless, he calls the proclamation of “Christ crucified” the “very POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD.”
The omnipotent God achieved final victory over sin and death through the execution of Israel’s Messiah by the world’s mightiest empire, having been condemned to death by Jewish and Gentile leaders alike, an outcome no devout Jew at the time expected, and few Gentiles could understand or tolerate.
Jesus cannot be understood apart from his self-sacrificial death for others, and no man or woman can be his true disciple without emulating his example by living a cruciform life day by day. True spiritual power is attained only by following the way that leads inexorably to Calvary.