Advertising campaigns, both good and bad, quickly get my attention. So, I was particularly interested in an advertising strategy chosen by Malaysia Airlines. The campaign, “My Ultimate Bucket List,” asked potential flyers what they would like to check off their bucket list (what they would like to do before they die). My guess is the marketing gurus failed to connect the concept of a “bucket list” with death. The ad campaign was ineffective and quickly pulled. What were they thinking? It would be easy to ask the same “what-were-they-thinking” question about the message of the cross. The cross may have appeared to be an ineffective marketing tool in the 1st century—and in every century since. If God’s goal is to win friends and influence followers, showcasing the weakness of a supernatural savior at the hands of the powerful Roman government doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Or, does it?
- Think of a time when you felt like the most uneducated or ‘backward’ person in a group.
READ THE WORD: 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
- How does our society define or describe wisdom?
- How would you answer the last question in verse 20?
- What does the text say Jews demand? What do Gentiles seek? In what ways do you find yourself wanting one or both of these, as well?
- In your own words, what is meant by “Christ crucified” in verse 23? Why would that message be a stumbling block to Jews? Why would it be folly to the Gentiles?
- What has the message of the cross meant in your life?
RESPOND TO GOD
God’s non-conventional action in the cross is the antidote to our human attempts to establish our seemingly appropriate and reasonable means to encounter him. It’s a bit like explaining the wisdom of leveraging long-term compound interest to a middle school student who really wants to spend all of her money right now. Or, trying to tell a 6-year-old boy that, one day, he’s going to look at girls in a whole new way. Doesn’t seem to make much sense. Until, by his grace, our hearts are affected by a different power, a deeper reasoning, and a higher logic.
- Spend the day thinking through the would-be implications of salvation being achieved through the conventional means of power, intellect, reason, and logic.