1 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.
When Jesus died, there were two groups of people who stood at the cross.
The first group was a small one. It was the group which believed in Him. They had heard His message of repentance, forgiveness, and grace; they had seen His miracles which restored those who were ill in body and soul. This group had put their hope in Him.
But there was also another group at the cross.
This group was as far removed from the first as is humanly possible. There were the soldiers who were gambling for Christ's clothing; these were the men of authority who had hated the Savior's message and spurned His call to pardon and peace. Laughing, rejoicing at what they were seeing, they hurled insults, and saw the cross as an end to Christ's competition for the hearts of the people.
If you had told them that Jesus' cross was God's plan of hope, they would not have understood.
Today, two groups still stand before Jesus' cross.
The first, by the Spirit's power, kneels in repentant humility, and prays, "Lord be merciful to me a sinner." Those souls, having seen their Savior die in their stead, knowing He has paid the price to ransom them from sin and Satan and death, recognizing the cross as the power of God, are forgiven, free, and have an eternal future.
But the second group is also there, rejecting the cross, ignoring it, despising, scoffing at it, considering it foolishness. St. Paul was right: "the message (word) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
I've been saying there were two groups before the cross. You should know there were three.
The third group was a small one, made up of only two men. They shared nothing other than their physical proximity. One of these men was a Roman centurion, the other a crucified and dying thief.
At the end of the day, one would be alive; the other would be dead. One had a future; the other, well, he had none, at least not in this world. One would walk back to his barracks; the dead body of the other would be discarded. One of the men represented power, the other, total helplessness.
Still, these two men became joined in this: as they took a good, close look at the dying Savior, they were transformed. In the six hours during which they watched God's Son die, both of these men were changed.
From the Savior, the dying thief received the promise of heaven, and the centurion was given the knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God. That was his confession. After Jesus had breathed His last, the centurion rightly confessed, "Surely, this man was the Son of God!" (See Matthew 27:54.)
These two men knew the Savior's crucifixion on a skull-shaped hill outside of Jerusalem's walls was unique. It was made that way not because of the cross. The cross was made of the same timber as all the others. It was different not because of the cross, but because of who hung on it: Jesus, the Son of God, your Savior.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, send Your Holy Spirit into this troubled world, so the cross may become for all a symbol of Your love and redemption of sinful humankind. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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