Weakness: God’s Sign to Power
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day understood power. It was by the power of God’s Word that the heavens and the earth were created. It was by His outstretched hand that their ancestors had been delivered from slavery in Egypt. It was His power that brought them into the Promised Land and gave them victory over their enemies. It was His power that brought them back from captivity in Babylon.
They also understood that power and authority work together. It was both the power of Rome and the authority of the Mosaic Law that empowered them to exercise authority over the Jewish people. When Jesus challenged their interpretation and application of the scriptures including some very inconvenient passages in the “Prophets” and the “Writings”, this was perceived as a significant threat to the balance of power they had carefully crafted with Rome.
So knowing that in the past God had validated the ministry of His prophets through signs of His divine power; and knowing that God had not sent any prophet since Malachi (about 400 years); and wanting to discredit the growing influence of Jesus, who the people considered a prophet; therefore the Jewish leaders demanded that Jesus show them a divine sign. (See the Lectionary reading from John 2:13-22.) It was in this context that Jesus gave them the “sign” of his coming crucifixion and resurrection, telling them that if they would destroy the “temple” of his body he would raise it up in three days.
Of course the Jewish leaders misunderstood. It wasn’t the kind of sign that made any sense to them. It was illogical. Our focus text today tells us, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…”
The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus “was crucified in weakness” (2 Cor. 13:4), but our focus text asserts that in Christ’s kingdom signs of weakness later become evidences of God’s power, and what appears to be nonsense becomes evidence of God’s wisdom. And so it remains today. God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise”, and “the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor. 1:27)
Jesus spoke Truth to power, and was executed for it. But because of this, his resurrected Life and Spirit now indwell and empower His global Body. We who are called by His name are called to continue speaking Truth to power: to address power inequities and to condemn the misuse of power; to speak for the voiceless and to advocate for the oppressed; to strengthen the weak and to heal the sick and to affirm the dignity and value of every person created in God’s image.
In Luke 2:34 Simeon tells Mary, the mother of baby Jesus, that he is destined to be “a sign that will be spoken against.” And so it was and still is. Now we as Christ’s Body carry the mantle of being a sign spoken against. Are we being spoken against? If not, why not?
To think about: How am I allowing God to use my weaknesses as a sign to the powerful?
Written By: Dr. Bob Carter, Director of the AIDS Ministries Department at Moffat Bible College in Kijabe, Kenya.