According to Paul, the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. Why? For the Greco-Roman world the story is absurdity. The supposed ruler of the world born in the backblocks of Palestine, where the annoying Jews lived... nonsense. The supposed ruler of the world allows himself to be betrayed by his own friend, is handed over to the Romans, and refuses to defend himself... futility. The supposed ruler of the world powerless, weak, pathetic, naked, humiliated, ridiculed, abused, mocked, rejected, on a cross... pathetic. The supposed ruler of the world, dead... Yeah right! The supposed ruler of the world resurrected... spurious superstition. The supposed ruler of the world commissions a motley group of Jews to go and take over the world without the use of a weapon, through service, through death... utter rubbish. No, this Jesus is nothing. Another pathetic false Messiah killed by the might of Rome.
For the Jews the story is impossible. He was a promising guy. Preached a good message. Like a good prophet called for repentance. Did a few impressive miracles (but so did Moses, Elijah and Elisha). Never came out and declared he was Messiah. Antagonised the leaders of the nation, the interpreters of the blessed law. He dared to enter Jerusalem on a donkey, as if he is king. His followers cried out from Ps 118 that Hosanna, save! Then all he did was attack the temple and debating theology with his own people. He was no Messiah. Then he was humiliated by the mortal enemy of God and Israel, the Romans. Crucified! He should have come down and sorted it out. Then his followers claimed his resurrection. Yeah right. We know he is not Messiah, for 'cursed is anyone who is hung on a tree.' No, the Messiah is still yet to come. He will. The Jews wait for him.
But both Gentiles and Jews miss the point. The message of the cross is the power of God. It is power through weakness. It is a greater power than might, it is love. Friday reminds us of the most important day in history. It is the day of glory when Jesus made it to the cross living the first completely human life. He never succumbed to evil. Satan threw his best at him, offered him the world, yet he overcame. He never resorted to use of power for self. He lived totally others-centred. He healed. He loved. He forgave. He served. Rather than use the weapons of this world, he took up the only real weapon, love. He urged, but did not violate freedom.
As such his death broke the barrier between humanity and God, a barrier created by human sin which separates us from an undefiled holy God. His death overcame the final enemy, sin and death. Satan's power was broken in a moment.
His death is our salvation. All we have to do is say yes, bend the knee to the sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords. And in that moment our sin is washed away. All that we have done, all that we will do, absorbed into the death of Jesus and extinguished. This is a mystery, but a great one. We are then reconciled to God, restored to relationship. And that is just the beginning. We are then filled with God's power of love, to take up our crosses and go to the world to work with and for God to restore his world. The cross is the beginning of the transformation of the cosmos. Death is to be consumed by Christ, and life will flow (that is Sunday).
His life is our pattern. We are to love, serve, heal, spending ourselves for cosmic restoration. We are world-transformers, loving people into the Kingdom, and then seeing the world restored to what it could be. We will be opposed. We will suffer. We will be poor. We will die. We will burn out. We will fail. We will triumph. We will cry. We will laugh. But because of the power of God that is now liberated to all people through the work of Christ, we will not flag until the end. We will bear crosses in his name, and it will be glorious. Thank you for the cross... Amen.