For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22ff
Jesusí birth and death are central to the revelation of God in the Christ proclaimed in the Greek Scriptures. Inasmuch as little is know about Jesusí life, the Gospels take great pains in presenting the narratives of his birth in Bethlehem, as well as his death just outside the walled city of Jerusalem.
John presents the former, the birth, in language that goes beyond the familiar description of manger, straw and lowing cattle. He outlines a challenging concept where Jesus is perceived to be the Word of God, the "Logos" that is the expression of the mind of God. The Word took on flesh and we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth.
As he wasnít a witness to the birth in Bethlehem, it made good sense for John to go beyond the natural turn of events and see the hand of God revealing a greater purpose in the nativity.
Who comes from God, as Word and Breath?
Who holds the keys of life and death?
Crafter and Creator too,
eldest, she makes all things new;
she ordains what God will do,
wisest one, radiant one,
welcome, Holy Wisdom!
Paul presents the latter, the crucifixion, in language that goes beyond the familiar description of nails, a crown of thorns and guarding centurion casting lots for a cloak. He outlines a reasoned argument for redemption where Jesus is perceived to be the Wisdom of God, the "Sophia" that is the expression of the thought of God.
As he wasnít a witness to the death on Golgotha, it made good sense for Paul to go beyond the natural turn of events and see the hand of God revealing a greater purpose in the passion.
Whom should we seek with all our heart?
Who, once revealed, will not depart?
Partner, Counselor, Comforter,
love has found none lovelier,
life is gladness lived with her.
Wisest one, radiant one,
welcome, Holy Wisdom!
More familiar with the former metaphor than we are the latter, our reflection on the Logos of God has proven to be a key-stone in our biblical understanding of Jesus as the Christ. We return frequently to this image and it has served us well.
Paulís first letter to the church community in Corinth, read in part for Holy Cross Day, cautions us that while Johnís metaphor is useful, it should not stand alone. "For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom," declares Paul, who adds, "we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles." And what the good news in Godís revelation disclosed through the pen of Paul?
"ÖTo those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ (is) the power of God and the wisdom of God." In his birth, in his death, both Jew and Greek perceive in Jesus the graceful revelation of God: both sign and wisdom sought and discovered.
Copyright © 1998 James T. Irvine