For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Where [ is ]the wise? Where [ is ] the scribe? Where [ is ] the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
I Corinthians 1:18-25
To many in Jesus' day, He must have seemed like just another false Messiah; He died just like the rest of them! Even though He had come with a Gospel ( Good News ) of the Promised Kingdom & was well-accepted at first, because he stirred up trouble among the religious leaders & brought division, Jesus died just like the Man they had known He was from the start! His disciples were spreading some ridiculous story about Him rising from the dead, but who in their right mind believed such nonsense?!
The Pharisees, influenced by both Hellenistic thinking & Greek philosophy, in the wisdom of man sought after a sign of Jesus' Power & Authority ( Matthew 12:38-40 ). The whole history of Israel, from Moses on, up to the time of the Messiah had been one of signs; these sign pointed to the time of Messiah & because they would not believe He was their Messiah, they wanted Him to prove His Messiah Status. Jesus told them that the only sign they would receive was one from their history, the 'sign of Jonah' ( Jonah 1:10-2:10 ), one with which they should have been very familiar!
The Greeks of course, with their vaunted Philosophy, sought after the wisdom of man! They thought, not unlike the Jews, that wisdom could be achieved through the study of natural law & thought process. The apostle Paul noted this in his discourse to the people ( 'men' ) of Athens ( Acts 17:16-34 ). Although they sought the Wisdom From Above, much like the Jews with whom they were set, they thought that in their own resources, they could find that Wisdom, not acknowledging that such ( Wisdom ) comes only from Above!
When Jesus came as the Messiah of Israel, He proved that He was the Wisdom From Above! In his Psalm of Praise ( 136:5 ), David proclaimed that it was through, or by His Wisdom, that God had 'made the heavens'. Echoing his father's proclamation, Solomon personified Wisdom, saying 'The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens' ( Proverbs 3:19 ). The Proverbs, especially, are full of the Wisdom of Solomon, reputedly the wisest man who ever lived!
The apostle Paul preached a crucified Messiah, which was a foolish notion to both Jew & Gentile ( Greek? )! Since the Greeks, in their earthly wisdom, did not believe in the Resurrection (Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27 ), to them, Jesus was just another dead ( false ) Messiah! To the Jews, who believed that their Messiah would lead them on an Exodus ( like Moses did ) out of physical oppression & tyranny, Jesus had failed because He died just like any other false Messiah who made promises but couldn't deliver when the chips were down!
The apostle Paul understood & taught that this was a Spiritual Exodus, one that freed God's people from the bondage & tyranny of Sin & Death, the sin & death of Adam ( Romans 5:12, 8:2, I Corinthians 15:56 ). That Jesus had physically risen from the grave ( resurrection ) would have had no effect on this Good News for either Jew or Greek, because to the one, who didn't believe in the Resurrection, anyway. it was simple foolishness to preach that a man had risen from the dead, while to the other who didn't believe that Jesus, a Man, could be the Messiah, they wanted a miraculous sign to prove that He was the Messiah! Even though Jesus had performed many miraculous signs throughout His ministry, the hearts of the majority of Jews were hardened & their understanding was darkened!
As a result, through His Resurrection ( Romans 1:4 ) Jesus proved the Power of God, showing that He fulfilled 'all things written' ( Luke 21:22, 24:44 )! Jesus also showed that He was the Wisdom of God, claiming that He was 'in the beginning' with God ( John 1:1-3 ( John 17:5 ). He was the Wisdom through which God had 'founded the earth' & 'established the heavens'. It was through Him, the Covenant ( Isaiah 42:6, 49:8 ( Deuteronomy 8:18 ) which God established with His People ( Psalm 2 ) that the Power & Wisdom of the Gospel was revealed! Through this Power & Wisdom, Jesus led His People in a Spiritual Exodus, out of the Land of Bondage ( to Sin & Death ), into a Land of Life & Freedom!
Charles Haddon Shank