Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds. The people were waving Palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Let’s watch a video entitled “Our King” about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Yet, how quickly the crowd would turn on Jesus. By Friday of the same week, they were shouting, crucify him.
I’ve entitled today’s message “Power of the Cross.” Jesus’ great triumph would come not on Palm Sunday, but on the cross. It was all part of God’s grand plan.
Acts 2:23 (ESV) this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
This verse is taken from Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost. He makes it clear that Jesus’ death on the cross was not an accident or surprise to God the Father or to Jesus. The cross was part of God’s plan to save man from before the creation of the world.
Why was it necessary for Jesus to be crucified? Thousands of people had been crucified before Jesus and many afterwards. What was special about Jesus? The Bible teaches us that every person is a sinner and so is separated from a relationship with God. That separation from God means that each person is doomed to an eternity apart from God in hell. There is no way for any of us to pay the penalty for our sin, as we are all guilty.
God’s plan was to send His only Son, Jesus from heaven to earth in human form. Jesus lived a perfect life, he never sinned. Jesus chose to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. As the only sinless human being to ever live, he was the only qualified to pay the price. God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice as paying the penalty for sin by raising him from the dead.
Acts 2:24 (ESV) God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Jesus came back to life, never to die again and so is alive today ruling and reigning. Next Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection on Easter.
Today, we want to acknowledge that Jesus made it possible for us to be saved by dying on the cross. We want to study the importance of the cross, both for our own lives and for those that we know. The cross is the hope of the world, it holds the answers to every problem. As we experience the power of the cross in our lives, we must tell others, so they can have eternal hope as well. The cross shows …
1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) 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.
The message or word about the cross has a completely different effect on two kinds of people. The first kind of people mentioned in this verse are those who are perishing. They are not saved and are headed for eternal destruction, although they don’t know it. When they hear the story of Jesus dying on the cross, they view it as foolishness with no relevance to their lives. They reason that the death of someone named Jesus 2000 years ago means nothing to them.
On the other hand, those who are being saved, the message of the cross is the power of God. That message has brought conviction of sin into their lives and opened their eyes to understand who Jesus really was and is. For those who have believed in Jesus, the message of cross is the power of God to bring about their salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (ESV) but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
At the heart of every true church is the message of Jesus Christ crucified. It’s not a message of trying to be a good person. It’s not a message of many ways to God. It’s a message of one way to salvation through Jesus crucified.
The crucifixion was and is a stumbling block for the Jews, because they expected the Messiah to be a political ruler. The crucifixion is folly to the Gentiles because it doesn’t make any logical sense to them, particularly the resurrection. This verse is referring to those who are perishing, both Jew and Gentile. But those who are being saved, those who are called by God, it is a different story. God has and is calling both Jews and Gentiles into His family. For those who are called, Christ crucified is the power and wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV) But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
This passage goes on to say that most of those who God calls to be saved are not noted for their world wisdom, for their power or their wealth. The powerful of our world tend to think of believers as foolish and weak. Yet, when Christ returns and history as we know it ends, it will be believers who will shame the wise and strong of this world. Putting your faith in the crucified and living Lord is the wisest choice that any person will ever make. The cross shows us the wisdom and power of God.
The message of the cross should mark every true church and every true believer. Becoming a believer is not just a matter of acknowledging that there is a god. The demons acknowledge that there is one true God. Becoming a believer is not just a matter of even loving the god of your choice.
As believers, we must make it clear to those we witness to that the path to salvation is only through the crucified Christ. Jesus is the only way to God, the only path to salvation. Now, when we talk about Christ crucified, we will have the two reactions that we’ve read about. Some will think its foolishness and even seek to attack the very thought. Yet others will begin to wake up to the power of God in the cross.
I believe we all would like to see more people saved in our relatives, workmates and neighbors. The way to see more impact is to witness more openly about the power of the cross. For the cross is …
1 Corinthians 2:2-3 (ESV) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
We are studying the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. So, Paul is telling us what his method of witnessing or evangelism was in planting that church. In the previous verse, he says that he did not come with lofty speech or wisdom. Public speaking was highly honored in that day, as were complex arguments. Yet, Paul said that the core of his message was Jesus Christ and His crucifixion.
Paul didn’t come with great confidence in his speaking ability. He admits that he felt weak and was in fear and trembling. In fact, many looked down on Paul because he didn’t seem to be a powerful speaker.
1 Corinthians 2:4 (ESV) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
Paul did not rely on his own human ability to persuade or to impress. He relied on what he calls “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” What’s he talking about here? If you read the accounts of Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of Acts, you’ll see that God used Paul to work many supernatural miracles. Paul was used often in the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. He did not seek to impress people with his wisdom or knowledge.
1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV) so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul didn’t want the people of Corinth to put their faith into his wisdom and his abilities. Their faith had to rest in the power of God that worked in and through Paul. Paul knew that different people have different natural abilities. Yet, he desired that every person he met would understand that he was operating not in his own power, but in the power of God. And that power of God was and is available to every believer through faith in Christ. The basis for faith leading to salvation is Jesus Christ crucified.
These verses from Paul should encourage each one of us in being a witness for Jesus. Oftentimes, we may think that we don’t know what to say or when to say it We can identify with Paul who said he felt weak, afraid and trembling. But even though Paul felt that way, he didn’t let that stop him from sharing the message of the cross. The power of the cross is not in how eloquently we talk about it. Nor in having every answer to the questions that people may have.
When we speak of the cross, the power of the Spirit is activated through our words. He is the one who brings conviction and faith to another person’s heart. All we need to do is to be obedient to the prompting of the Spirit to speak. We are not the ones who bring faith or need to win arguments with the lost. Some will not accept our message, but consider it foolishness. Yet others, who may seem less likely, will consider and believe in Jesus.
One of the keys in the Spirit empowering our words and lives is the importance of prayer. Both prayer in our personal lives and prayer for and with those we seek to become saved or to grow in their spiritual lives. May God help us to become bolder in our witness through the Holy Spirit. We must remember that the power of the cross is …
1 Corinthians 2:10 (ESV) these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Paul writes to the believers at Corinth that they had understood and received the message of the cross through the revelation of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit knows both the things of God and the innermost thoughts of people. As we cooperate with Him through prayer and witness, He is able to reveal the truth of the cross to those who never considered it before.
1 Corinthians 2:12 (ESV) Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
Not only is the Holy Spirit the one who brings us into salvation, He helps us to grow in our Christian life. God has many blessings available for you as a believer, many things that you have not yet received. It is through the Spirit that we can both understand receive more and more of the gifts that God has for us.
1 Corinthians 2:13 (ESV) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
As each believer has the Holy Spirit living inside of them, they are spiritual people. The words that godly teachers use are taught and inspired by the Spirit. We learn both from reading God’s Word for ourselves and from being taught by Spirit-led teachers in the church. The content of biblical teaching is properly interpreting spiritual truths, that can only be understood by those who are spiritual, that is led by the Spirit. As we understand new spiritual truths, God always calls us to transformation in our lives. Our thinking and our actions are transformed by the teaching of the Spirit. Now, the teaching of the Spirit is not understood by everyone.
1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
The natural person in this verse refers to someone who is not saved, who is not spiritual. Not only does the natural person reject the message of the cross, they also will not accept the other truths of God’s word. The reason is that God’s truth seems like foolishness to them because they are not able to understand it. The truth of God’s Word can only be understood through the work of the Holy Spirit. He helps those who are willing to learn to spiritually discern what is true and what is false. The message of the cross is revealed to people by the Spirit of God.
The message and power of the cross is not just so that people can be saved. The message of the cross is available to believers to grow in living in the power of the cross. There is not a time in our lives where we can say we’ve arrived, we know and are living in everything that God has for us. God desires for us to hunger for more of the wisdom and power of God in our lives.
God will fill those who hunger and thirst after righteousness with the power of the Spirit. Spiritual growth happens as we learn to hear the voice of the Spirit and then obey His promptings in our lives. Sometimes the things of the Spirit may seem like foolishness even to believers. Yet, as we study God’s Word and open our hearts to the Spirit, He can show us the wisdom of God we need to understand.
The more that we grow and mature as Spirit-led believers, the more effective we will be in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives. There is no end to the things that God desires to reveal to us by His Spirit. The message of the cross is the wisdom and the power of God. We must not shy back from speaking about Jesus crucified and resurrected. The message of the cross is the heart of what Jesus came to this earth to accomplish. Many will think that message is foolishness, but to those who receive it, it is the power of God.
The message of the cross is the basis for faith in Jesus Christ. Without the cross, there is no true faith, nor is there any salvation. God desires to reveal more to us by His Spirit concerning the power of the cross. And He desires for us to be His witnesses of the power of the cross to those around us.