It is a mark of the critical times in which we live that last Sunday, Her Majesty the Queen made a rare speech. As well as thanking everyone on the frontline of health care, she called for unity in adopting a lifestyle of self-isolation that considers others – especially the vulnerable.
Drawing from the spirit of self-sacrifice during World War 2 she commented: ‘We may have more still to endure’. Her concluding words were full of encouragement. ‘Better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.’
Interestingly in the course of her speech Her Majesty commented: ‘And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation’.
During this Holy Week, it’s an opportunity for God’s people to reflect on the events of the first Good Friday before the celebration and joy of Easter Day.
Foolishness…? Writing on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in his First Letter to the Corinthians Paul the Apostle says: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).
Paul wants us to know that when Jesus died on the cross the power of God was uniquely at work. He wants us to know that God in his wisdom has addressed the root problem of the human dilemma in a way that no other religion or philosophy has.
Our world has made incredible strides in the field of science and technology. We can peer into the vast spaces of the universe and map the human genome, but there is always something that trips us up – be it the novel coronavirus or, more significantly, the persistent inability to find a path to perfect peace with one another.
William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, was once asked why he wrote it. He responded: I believed then, that man was sick – not exceptional man, but average man. I believed that the condition of man was to be a morally diseased creation and that the best job I could do at the time was to trace the connection between his diseased nature and the international mess he gets himself into.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul is telling us that where human wisdom has failed to find answers, God himself has stepped in and acted. The man who hung on a cross between two self-confessed criminals on a hill outside of Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago, was God’s one and only eternal Son. Crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, the Son of God, who is the source of our life, died in our place.
That day the all-holy God acted in love and provided a solution to our human dilemma in a way that nothing else could. For in his death, the sinless Son perfectly satisfied once and for all every righteous requirement of God.
A moral universe. Paul is saying that we live in a moral universe. Despite the strident voices in the public square, we are not here by chance simply to make the best of a fleeting life. We are image-bearers of our creator God. Our deepest problem is that, designed to know and enjoy a rich relationship with the living God, we worship the desires our own hearts – ourselves and whatever catches our attention. But we were designed for so much more – and for eternity.
The good news is that the cross of Christ God offers a new start and a new way of living to everyone who believes. The cross is not simply good advice. It’s not even news about God’s power. It is the place where God has destroyed all human pretense and arrogance.
There was something very strange that God did when Jesus died, but there is a rightness to it. Paul tells us that God has deliberately ordered things this way so that we arrogant, self-centered people cannot, and will not, find our own solution.
More foolishness…? In verse 21 Paul says: God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. This is breath-taking. Through the announcement of Christ’s crucifixion, a message that seems senseless and inane when we first come across it, God has determined to rescue anyone who turns to Jesus as the Christ and as their Savior and Lord.
The implications of this are humbling. God in his wisdom has determined on a plan that to human eyes seems so ludicrous. Furthermore, it means that all people – it doesn’t matter who we are – have an equal opportunity to benefit. Priority isn’t given to the highly intelligent, the wealthy, the successful or the celebrities. God’s offer of salvation is open to anyone who by his grace trusts him at his word, to anyone who relies on him, who believes him.
The message of Christ crucified is God’s strange wisdom that subverts the wisdom of the world and provides the one and only solution to our human need – restoration of our relationship with God and a motivation and a model for working out our relationships with one another.
Furthermore, it means that God’s people can be sure that there will be a time when this current isolation ends, and that we will meet again – either in this world or in the perfected age to come.
May you know the riches of God’s grace and peace, hope and joy, this Easter.
Reflect: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart” (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).
Prayer: Almighty Father, look graciously upon your people, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given up into the hands of wicked leaders, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Good Friday – adapted)