Jesus performed miracles, exorcised demons, and taught with great authority. For a time, he attracted great crowds. But his contemporaries failed to recognize who he was despite his miraculous deeds. In the end, only the Roman centurion at Golgotha recognized him as the “son of God” when he breathed his last.
|[Cross - Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash]|
The idea that supernatural “signs and wonders” win souls to the faith does not conform to the pattern found in the gospel accounts, and it certainly does not correspond to how Gentiles or the Jewish nation responded to the proclamation of the gospel by the apostles and the early church. As Paul writes:
- (1 Corinthians 1:21-24) – “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews, scandal, and to Gentiles, foolishness; but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
God does provide supernatural help to His people, including divine healings, but miracles themselves are a means to an end, but they are not the goal of the gospel. As the Bible demonstrates, unexpected signs and great displays of power do not guarantee that anyone will understand who God is or exercise genuine faith in Him.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus heals the sick and exorcises demons, impressing many of his contemporaries. They did not see the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or priests do anything remotely like what he did. But only the very demons exorcised by him recognized and declared who he was - the Son of God.
At one point, on the verge of understanding his identity, Peter declares him to be the Messiah, but only until Jesus explains what it means to be the “Son of Man” – betrayal, suffering, death. Instead, Peter rebuked him, and with Satan’s own words.
And in Mark, the only person who does recognize Jesus as God’s son prior to the resurrection is the Roman centurion at his execution - (Mark 15:29-39).
Apparently, only in his self-sacrificial death is Israel’s Messiah revealed. In contrast to the pagan centurion, the Jewish religious leaders mocked Jesus and conspired in his judicial murder.
Though they sarcastically called him “Christ and King of Israel” as he was hanging on the cross, the representatives of the high priest most certainly did not accept his messianic status. Even the two “brigands” crucified alongside him were “reproaching him.”
In John’s gospel account, Jesus declares that when he is “lifted up, then you will know that I am the one.” Not his miracles, but his death by crucifixion is the foundation of his kingdom. “If I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to me.” He was “glorified” on the Cross, not when he raised Lazarus from the dead. As great as that miracle was, it proved insufficient for demonstrating who and what the Nazarene is.
In the end, despite all his miracles, he died alone - rejected by the Jewish nation, abandoned by his disciples, and crushed by Roman might.
And so, he instructed his disciples to take up their crosses daily and follow in his footsteps. As he taught his disciples, “GREATNESS” in his kingdom is measured in one’s self-sacrificial service to others. They must be like Jesus, the one who “ gave his life a ransom for many” - (Matthew 20:25-28).
Certainly, after his resurrection, he was exalted and began his reign at God’s “right hand,” But exaltation came at great personal cost. As Paul explains to the Philippians:
- (Philippians 2:5-9) – “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:who, being in the form of God, counted not the being like God a thing to be grasped, but poured himself out, taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him and gave unto him the name which is above every name.”
We want power, but only by finding a way around Calvary. In contrast, Paul exhorts believers to “let this same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”
He was exalted and received the “name above every name” BECAUSE he “poured out his life unto death on the cross” for others, including the “enemies of God.”
In the book of Revelation, John describes himself as a “fellow participant” with the seven churches of Asia in “the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus.” Overcoming believers conquer by “following the Lamb wherever he goes,” even when it means martyrdom. They overcome the Devil “by the blood of the Lamb… and because they love not their lives to the death” - (Revelation 12:11, 14:1-5).
FOLLY OF THE CROSS
According to Paul, “Christ crucified” is scandalous to Jews and folly to Gentiles. The idea that God achieved victory over sin, death, and Satan by the unjust death of a politically powerless man is nonsense to human “wisdom” and experience. Nevertheless, he calls the proclamation of “Christ crucified” the “very power and wisdom of God.”
Thus, the omnipotent God achieved final victory over sin and death through the execution of Israel’s Messiah by the world’s mightiest empire, having been condemned to death by Jewish and Gentile leaders alike, an outcome no devout Jew at the time expected, and few Gentiles would tolerate.
Jesus cannot be understood apart from his self-sacrificial death for others, and no man or woman can be his true disciple without emulating his example by living a cruciform life day by day. Spiritual power is attained only on the way to the cross.