The Cross: The Twofold Scandal[1]

Paul in 1 Cor 1: 23-25: “Jews seek miracles and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified….”  The cross is a scandal, a two-fold scandal:

1) The scandal of particularity.[2] That is to say, how can the finite world contain the infinite God?  The God, who is infinite and above all, who makes everything out of nothing, has become an individual, a male who lived between 4 B.C. and 30 A.D. in a place called Palestine and died on a cross. This is the scandal of particularity. We can only look at this in awe and wonder.  It’s like in the book of Job, chapters 38-42, where God says to Job, “Where were you when I created the foundations of the earth?” God is the One who has done all this. Who are you, lowly man, to claim that you understand and that you had a part in what this is all about?

2) The scandal of holiness becoming sin and taking on death.[3] That the one who is holy would take on sin is far different and far more astounding than that the infinite would become part of the finite.  We have that verse that Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin that in Him we might become the holiness of God.” He took our sin, we take his holiness.

The cross is more than the central symbol of Christianity; it is the starting point, the fulcrum, for all that is said about sin and salvation. The cross itself defines what sin is and what salvation is.

On the cross the last judgment has taken place. This is to say: The Lord God himself saw that we had a problem called sin, death, and the devil. He handled it his way on the cross. And it is finished (John 19:30).

[1] A 2005 CrossAlone District summary statement of  “the scandal of the cross.”

[2] Often loosely associated with the slogan finitum capax infiniti.

[3] Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy (1917) takes up an entirely different conceptuality.