As we observe Good Friday, a good question to ask is why we preach and listen to sermons about a crucified Christ?
For starters, we preach Christ crucified because this was the Apostle Paul’s model (1 Cor 1:23). But why did Paul preach a crucified Christ?
Surely Paul does not preach a crucified Christ solely because Christ was crucified. Christ was crucified. But why not preach a resurrected Christ? The resurrection is absolutely essential for the gospel just as much as the crucifixion.
Thankfully, we don’t have to speculate. Paul tells us why he preaches Christ crucified. He says that he preaches Christ crucified because doing so is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). But why is Christ crucified a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles?
Christ crucified is a stumbling block to the Jews because the Jews were expecting a powerful Messiah, not a dead Messiah. A dead Messiah has no power. And this is why it is a stumbling block to them: the Jews cannot fathom a dead Messiah.
Christ crucified is foolishness to the Gentiles for much the same reason. What can a crucified Savior do for anyone? Should not a savior be living? If a Caesar in the Roman world wanted to conquer and reign, dying was not the best way to do it! Dying is foolishness.
So to the Jews and Gentiles, Christ crucified is a stumbling block. But, ultimately, why does it matter? Why preach Christ crucified?
Paul says preaching a crucified Christ shows that “God’s weakness is stronger than men and God’s foolishness is wiser than men” (1 Cor 1:25). Paul preaches a crucified Christ to demonstrate that God’s weakness and God’s foolishness is actually infinitely greater than the most powerful and most wise men. In other words, Paul preaches Christ crucified to put men in their place. Paul preaches Christ crucified to humble men. Paul preaches Christ crucified so that “no one will boast” (1 Cor 1:29).
Christianity is not about power and wisdom. Christianity is about weakness and humility. Ironically, only a crucified Christ produces weakness and humility. If Christ were a conquering King in his first advent, people would come to Christ for power and wisdom like any other earthly kingship. But Christianity completely reverses human expectation. The way to power is through weakness; the way to wisdom is through humility. Oh the power and wisdom of God!