Archdiocese News - Elevation of Cross [English/Arabic]

[Arabic Version

Both to the cultured Greek and the pious Jew the story that Christianity had to tell sounded like the sheerest folly. Paul begins by making free use of two quotations from Isaiah (Isaiah 29: 14; 33:18) to show how mere human wisdom bound to fail. He cites the undeniable fact that for all its wisdom the world had never found God and was still blindly and gropingly seeking him. That very search was designed by God to show men their own helplessness and so to prepare the way for the acceptance of him who is the one true way.
What then was this Christian message? If we study the four great sermons in the Book of Acts (Acts 2: 14- 39; 3:12-26; 4: 8-12; 10: 36-43) we find that there are certain constant elements in the Christian preaching:
1- There is the claim that the great promised time of God has come.
2- There is a summary of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
3- There is a claim that all this was the fulfillment of prophecy.
4- There is the assertion that Jesus will come again.
5- There is an urgent invitation to men to repent and receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

1-To the Jews that message was stumbling-block. There were two reasons:
a) To them it was incredible that one who had ended life upon a cross could possibly be God’s Chosen One. They pointed to their own law which unmistakably said: “He that is hanged is accused by God”(Deuteronomy 21:23) to the Jew the fact of the crucifixion, so far from proving that Jesus was the Son of God, disproved it finally. It may see extraordinary, but even with Isaiah 53 before their eyes, the Jews had never dreamed of a suffering Messiah. The Cross to the Jew was and is an insuperable barrier to belief in Jesus.
b) The Jew sought for signs. When the golden aged of God came he looked for startling happenings. This very time during which Paul was writing produced a crop of false Messiahs, and all of them had beguiled the people into accepting them by the promise of wonders. In A.D.45 a man called Theudas had emerged. He had persuaded thousands of the people to abandon their home and follow him out to the Jordan, by promising that, at his word of command,

The Jordan would divide and he would lead them dry shod across. In A.D. 54 a man from Egypt arrived in Jerusalem, claiming to be the Prophet. He persuaded thirty thousand people to follow him out to the Mount of Olives by promising that at his word of command the walls of Jerusalem would fall down. That was the kind of thing that the Jews were looking for. In Jesus they saw one show was meek and lowly, one who deliberately avoided the spectacular, one who served and who ended on a Cross, and it seemed to them an impossible picture of the Chosen One of God.

2- To the Greeks the message was foolishness. Again there were two reasons:
a) To the Greek idea the first characteristic of God was apatheia. That word means more than apathy, it means total inability to feel. The Greeks argued that if God can feel joy or sorrow or anger or grief it means that some man has for that moment influenced God and is therefore greater than he.
b) The Greek sought wisdom. Originally the Greek word sophist meant a wise man in the good sense, but it came to mean a man with a clever mind and cunning tongue.
St. Chrysostom draws a picture of these so-called wise men and their competitions in Corinth itself at the Isthmian games. “You might hear many poor wretches of sophists, shouting and abusing each other, and their disciples, as they call them, squabbling.
The Greeks were intoxicated with fine words, and to them the Christian preacher with his blunt message seemed a crude and uncultured figure, to be laughed at and ridiculed rather than to be listened to and respected.
It looked as if the Christian message had little chance of success against the background of Jewish or Greek life, but as Paul said: “what looks like God’s foolishness is wiser than men’s wisdom and what looks like God’s weakness is stronger than men’s strength”.                                                                                 

From the Office of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

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