But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.–1 Corinthians 1:23-25
Brokenness. Humiliation. Weakness.
This is not the image that we want to embrace in a Messiah, is it? We want strength. We want power.
In other words, we want empire.
The force that ruled the known world in the day of Jesus was the Roman Empire. Supposedly bringing about a universal reign of peace, it ruled by force, and by oppression. Taxation. Military occupation. Extortion. Corruption. Crucifixion.
Often we forget what the cross symbolized in the landscape of the first century world. It did not symbolize forgiveness. It did not symbolize sacrifice and love. It symbolized oppression. It symbolized domination. The cross was the way the Roman Empire dealt with political insurrectionists. It was a show of force. To be crucified was to be humiliated, de-humanized. Crucifixion was so hideous that it took centuries before the Church could visually express it in art.
The Romans did not crucify Jesus as a sacrificial offering. They crucified Him because He was dangerous. In a world ruled by the most powerful empire in the world, the most dangerous thing you could do is proclaim that a new King and a new kingdom was being birthed right in the midst of the Roman Empire and Caesar.
Jesus came to inaugurate a kingdom — one not built through oppression and domination, but one propelled by love and compassion. And His way was the way of the cross. The cross was the triumph of the kingdom of God — the putting on display of the kingdom kind of life.
A kingdom of hope over a kingdom of despair. A kingdom of freedom over a kingdom of bondage. A kingdom of liberation over a kingdom of oppression. A kingdom of generosity over a kingdom of greed. A kingdom of love over a kingdom of power. A kingdom of light over a kingdom of darkness.
We acknowledge that You are the Holy One of blessing and that Your presence fills all creation. As we gaze upon Your Son, Your beloved, we see the clash of two kingdoms. One fueled by power and oppression, the other by love and generosity. May we always be found on the side of love, even though the way may lead to a cross.
1. In the way you live life, which of the two kingdoms are you advancing in this world?
2. In what areas of your life do you need to realign yourself with the values of the kingdom of God? How can you begin to do this today?
1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 15:24-25