I think we are surprised when we meet opposition to the Gospel. To us it seems so wonderful, so profoundly loving, and welcome to hear. Why the opposition? Paul was honest about how people receive the gospel when he said:
“…we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. For Jews demands signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles…” 1 Corinthians 1:23.
Lurking underneath the desires of “Jews and Greeks” is a fundamental desire to put mankind in charge of their relationship with God. To reduce the message of the Gospel to something that is reasonable and believable, in the case of the Jews. Or something that they could use in their quest for wisdom, in the case of the Greeks. Always questing for something new, as Luke described the Greeks of Athens, Acts 17:21.
Jesus turns this human perspective on its head when he confronted Satan in the wilderness. In his threefold answer to Satan, Jesus puts God at the center of his responses:
• Live by the word that comes from the mouth of God.
• Do not test the Lord your God.
• Worship the Lord your God.
In the Bible you find nothing that shows mankind to be qualified to find his way to God. In fact, attempts to do so have been incredibly wrong.
- As when ancient people (after Noah) worked together to attempt to build a city and a tower to make a name for themselves, Genesis 11:1-9.
- As in the time Israel melted down their jewelry to create a god to lead the nation, Exodus 32:1.
- Or when King Jeroboam, leader of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, said to the nation, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.” 1 Kings 12:28-31.
During Lent we celebrate that God was the one who pursued and helped us rather than the reverse. And we dwell on the belief that Jesus is the embodiment of wisdom and God’s capacity. Attempts to deny that truth lead to the stumbling blocks of our own foolishness, like when Israel melted jewelry to form a god they could see and worship.
God in heaven, enthroned above all others who revealed his divine intentions in the Gospel. May we be at all times people of faith, in spite of difficulty or fear or over-confidence in our own ability. My we trust that in you is the answer to our own failures. Help us to live by your Word rather than our own. In Jesus’ name. Amen.