The Scandal of the Cross

Rev. Matt W. Leach teaches on how the wisdom and goodness of God that comes through the blood of Jesus defies man's explanation.

It has been written: If you believe in Jesus you are a “most uneducated and vulgar person(s).” Furthermore, they go on to say, Christianity is not for the cultured, the wise and sensible person.  Christianity is a lie that preys on the ignorant, the stupid, the foolish.

Words like these have been spoken and written about conservative Christians in our nation’s newspapers. The Washington Post ran a feature story ridiculing Christians as stupid, poor, dumb sheep being led around by the nose. But the words I just quoted didn’t come from the Washington Post, or any other newspaper. They came from the pen of the great Greek Scholar, Celsus, in the year 178 A.D.

The Wisdom of God

People who value human wisdom have a difficult time with Christianity. Christianity doesn’t make sense. “For the story and message of the cross,” Paul writes, “is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the manifestation of the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 AMPC)

Why doesn’t Christianity make sense? Why do the wise and learned find it so unbelievable? Because God’s ways are not man’s ways, and God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts. “For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning, I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 1:19 AMPC)

Paul tells us the world’s wisdom is folly and nonsense. Jews demand signs and miracles. Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom. To the Jews the crucified Jesus is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block. To the Greek it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense.

Christians celebrate a scandal. We are claiming to be true what the world calls nonsense. Listen to the scripture. “God selected,” Paul writes, “God deliberately chose [what] in the world [is] lowborn and insignificant, and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might depose and bring to nothing the things that are; so that no mortal man should (have pretense for glorying) and boast in the presence of God. But it is from Him that you have your life in Christ Jesus, Whom God made our Wisdom from God, our Righteousness…; and our Consecration…; and our Redemption….” (1 Cor 1:27-30)

God of the Absurd

We rejoice in a scandal and celebrate the absurd. For example, we celebrate the fact that the Bible is the exact Word of God, without error, totally trustworthy, just as though God had dictated it word for word. And that is scandalous.

It’s scandalous to worldly wisdom. It’s scandalous to many Christians who want to appear to be wise and learned in the eyes of the world. Critical analysis of the Bible, they point out, suggests it was written by many different writers. To the scholarly the Bible appears to be full of contradictions. Textual analysis suggests that only parts of it appear to have actually been inspired. Some argue that Paul’s theology differs from that of Jesus. They proclaim that any sensible, educated person with any degree of intelligence knows this!

It’s scandalous, absurd, to say that the Bible is the exact Word of God, just as though God had dictated it word for word. To which God says, “I know it is scandalous, but you are to regard my Bible as though I had dictated it word for word. ‘I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning, I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing.'”

In spite of the scandal and the ridicule, the Christian who is willing to step out on faith and take God at His Word as it is written in this Bible, discovers amazing things. He discovers that God really does want him to prosper. “Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you….  If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking Him!”

The Christian discovers that God wants him well: “And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages:… if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18 AMPC)

Most important of all, the Christian discovers that God really does care about him, seeks his greatest good, knows him personally, by name.  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave and notice. But even the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, then; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  “For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a fellow feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace – the throne of God’s unmerited favor [to us sinners]; that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need – appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it.”

Scandalous! All of this is scandalous and absurd. As the Greek philosopher, Plutarch, observed, it was an insult to God to involve Him in human affairs. Why, if God can feel joy or sorrow or anger or grief it means that some man has for that moment moved and affected God. If man can influence God, then man is greater than God. A God who suffers is a contradiction in terms.

Scandalous. Yes. But if we are willing to let the world laugh at us, if we are willing to appear stupid and naive, if we are willing to accept the whole Bible as the unerring Word of God, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so, we will have taken a major step towards releasing the power of God into our lives.

Marlene Kleepes accepted the scandal and found a miracle working God. I share Marlene’s story with you because she is from the Midwest, and all her records are on file at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Marlene's Story

Young girl with arms spread out, smiling and looking up in a field

Marlene Klepees was born pre-mature. She suffered brain damage resulting in cerebral-palsy, seizures, mental retardation, and a terrible speech impediment. At the age of five they were getting ready to institutionalize her. She fussed so much the doctor suggested putting braces on her to see if she could walk. She was able to walk by herself. That made it possible for her to go to public school. In public school instead of learning to read and write a teacher’s aide worked at teaching her to talk. She knew she didn’t fit, and she wondered why God was keeping her alive.

When Marlene was twelve four girls took her to a Youth For Christ because, they said, “We want you to come and meet God.” There was no way she could tell them “no.” Those four kids had heard from God. They dragged Marlene up a steep flight of stairs. There she asked Jesus to come into her heart. God became her father and she wasn’t orphaned anymore.

Learning About God

Marlene started learning things about God. She learned she could go to God. And God didn’t say, “Huh!, I can’t understand you,” like people did. She also learned that God talked back. She and God began carrying on a conversation.

One day Marlene was feeling really low about herself. She couldn’t attend school that day. She had had a seizure in the morning. Because she was still spasming and all kinds of stuff she was strapped into a baby crib. At twelve years old that is really humbling. She didn’t know what to do for herself.

Marlene cried out, “God, this body’s useless. There’s nothing God.”

God came to her, and He said, “I’ve got a gift for you.”

“God, it’s not my birthday.  It’s not even Christmas.” Being twelve years old and not knowing much about God yet, she expected a package.

God said, “No, it’s not your birthday and it’s not Christmas. I give to you because I love you so much.”

Marlene knew that whatever God gave her had to be good, and she started thanking Him. The next thing she knew she started speaking in an unknown tongue, an unknown language. She’d never heard of tongues or the Holy Spirit, so it really didn’t mean anything to her. What meant so much, what blessed her was it felt like God Almighty, her Father, was hugging her.

A Devastating Injury

When Marlene was fifteen she received another brain stem injury from an accident. She was in the hospital. The doctor said she could no longer attend public school. The school superintendent told her foster parents that they had sixty days to get her to an institution.

Marlene complained to God all afternoon and evening until God finally got a chance to tell her, “I don’t want you to go to an institution either!” She wasn’t a faith giant, but she did know that if she knew what God wanted for her, he’d give it to her. God kept her in public school, and she graduated a semester early.

Marlene started college with a first-grade reading level. God got her into college. There she shared Jesus, getting people saved.  

After that year in college, Marlene went to the hospital where they operated, doing tendon transplants and tendon lengthening. They operated on her brain and put a pacemaker in the back of her brain at the cerebellum to deaden nerve impulses to stop seizures and spasms.

When she came out of surgery it didn’t work. She was worse. The only movement she had left in her arm and legs was 35% movement in her left arm. The doctor came in and said, “Marlene, it’s always going to be this way. Aren’t you going to cry or something?” Marlene answered, “No, it’s okay if God wants it that way.”

Later Marlene lamented, “I wish I’d never said it. You see, I know now that Scripture says Satan came to steal, kill, and destroy, and God came to give us life and life more abundantly. Sickness does not come out of the abundance of life any way you look at it. The scripture says man can be destroyed by lack of knowledge, and I came close. Satan stole from me because I didn’t know the Word of the Bible was on tape.  I couldn’t read across the page.”

On December 28 that year, Marlene began having seizures and muscle spasms, and it lasted for 47 hours. She was so weak when she came to, that she couldn’t tell them, and the monitors didn’t register it. Not being able to tell people she was aware was fearful. She cried out in her spirit, “God.” And God said, “I’m going to take care of it. I love you and I’m going to take care of it.” For two and a half months God kept saying it to her.

Marlene’s grandfather was so upset with the doctors in Kansas City, that, without checking her out of the hospital, he loaded her in his car and took her to the Mayo Clinic.

Marlene went to God. She was mad at God. “God, You can heal me if You want to. Why don’t You? Marlene could only make sounds, but as best she could she yelled, “God, stop!”

God came to her. His love came down upon her so warm and peaceful. She said, “God, I didn’t ask for that.” Then God showed her in a vision that He was going to heal her. He showed her in her reclining wheelchair. There were a few people gathered around her praying for her. There was one man in particular who was tall, blond-headed, had on a grey pinstripe suit. Then He showed her the church. It had light colored woodwork, and a triangular glass doorknob. Then He showed her herself out riding a bike on beautiful green grass. Then He gave her a date, and it said March 29 in great big bold black letters. That was three weeks away.

Up to this point Marlene knew God heals. But she didn’t know God wanted to heal her. Unable to read, she had to wait until after her healing to read God’s will that, “He wishes above all things that we prosper and be in good health as our soul prospers.”

On March 28 she got real quiet and listened to God. And God said, “In the morning have the nurse get the yellow pages and I will give you the name of the church, and the person that was praying for you.” No wonder the Scripture says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.

A Miracle Working God

The next morning the nurse tried to feed her, but she wouldn’t eat.  She kept saying, “Yellow pages, yellow pages” until the nurse understood, and went and got them. Marlene tried to tell the nurse to look under Pentecostal churches but couldn’t get the word out. The nurse flipped through the yellow pages, and Marlene read two lines on one of the pages. Marlene was considered blind because colors overlapped so much she couldn’t distinguish anything. But she read those two lines. They said, “Open Bible, Scott Emerson,” and a phone number.

The nurse called the pastor, and Marlene tried to talk to the pastor. But she couldn’t make him understand. The pastor thought it was a prank and was ready to hand up when the nurse grabbed the phone and said, “Sir, I don’t know who you are but you’ve got to get down here,” and gave the room number, and hung up. She hadn’t told the pastor which hospital, or Marlene’s name.  “God, what can I do now,” Marlene asked.  “Nothing,” God answered. She said, “God, You’ve got it this far, You’ve got to get it the rest of the way.” He did.

About 4:30 that afternoon the pastor showed up. With the help of the nurse, Marlene described to the man his church and the door knob on his church, just as she had seen it in her vision.

Instead of getting all excited, the pastor began asking a lot of small talk questions. Finally, Marlene asked, “Does your church believe in salvation?” He said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Does your church believe in healing?” And the room just got cold and still. He said, “Our church believes in healing, but we never had any. And you plan on me starting on this one?”

Marlene had dared to believe what God had said. Because she dared to believe what God said, God was able to build up her trust and faith in Him through many answered prayers and many blessings. She didn’t clutter her mind with intellectual questions, and speculations that do nothing but put doubts in your mind and erect walls between you and God. Because she dared to believe God, God was able to work in her to bring her to the point where she believed not only that God heals, but that God wanted to heal her.

That man prayed for her and she was completely healed.

The Scandalous Cross of Christ

Scandalous, isn’t it? Scandalous that God is just like the loving Father the Bible says He is. Scandalous that God would send His only begotten Son to die in our place so that we might live in His place. Scandalous that God treats this Book as though He had actually written every line. Scandalous that God listens to us when we pray and talks back to us if we will learn to listen. Scandalous that the pastor took Marlene to his church. Scandalous that he prayed, and God totally healed Marlene. 

If you have not made this scandalous God your God and Father, if you have not asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and become Lord of your life, do it now. Let’s celebrate the scandal. Then let’s take this scandal into the marketplace, into our schools, into our government, into our churches.

About the Author: