- (Photo: AP / Leslie Mazoch)
To the people of Corinth, the preaching of the cross was foolishness, nonsense, recalled world renowned evangelist Billy Graham in his Easter message.
Even today, the cross of Jesus Christ continues to stand as a controversial symbol of Christianity. Some even within the Christian community reject the crucifixion and the resurrection that Christians preach as the focal point of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Very Rev. Jeffrey John, dean of St. Albans Cathedral in St Albans, England, told listeners on BBC Radio 4 that the crucifixion of Jesus for the sins of the world is "pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical."
"What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people He created and then, to calm Himself down, demanding the blood of his own son?" he said the night before Good Friday. "And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this, we would say they were a monster."
Dr. John Dominic Crossan, former co-chairman of the theologically liberal Jesus Seminar, made a similar comment in October 2000 when he said he finds it "an obscenity" that God had somebody else suffer for our sins and that sacrificing his own son was "a sort of transcendental child abuse."
Many believers would argue with this, however.
"When it comes to God, we've got to use a higher, divine logic in which, yes, it was not child abuse for God to have His son die on behalf of our sins," Dr. Paul L. Maier, professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, said on Coral Ridge Ministries' "Cross Purposes" TV special.
For Christians, Christ's death justifies all those who believe in him and symbolizes the extent of the love of God.
"It shows you how much God loves humanity," said Dr. Warren A. Gage, associate professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary, on the TV special.
Still, many do not understand the heavy burden of sins that were crucified on the cross through Christ's sacrifice.
"Until we understand the enormity of sin, do we appreciate the forgiveness of God," said Dr. Michael Youssef, pastor of Church of the Apostles in Atlanta.
The cross has become more of a prop in modern culture with many wearing it around their necks as jewelry. Pop diva Madonna drew fire from religious groups last year with a staged mock crucifixion during her "Confessions" world tour. And pop singer Britney Spears was scheduled to appear in NBC's "Will & Grace" last year in a segment called "Cruci-fixins." The program was cancelled after Christian groups expressed outrage.
"This Gospel of Christ and Him crucified is still foolishness to millions who are perishing all over the world today," noted Graham. "How few people recognize that the answer to all the worlds problems can be found at the foot of the cross."
While foolishness to many, the cross, throughout the last 2,000 years, has transformed millions of people. Graham alone has changed the lives of millions around the world with the same message the reality of mankinds sins and the redeeming power of the cross.
"Christianity stands utterly alone and utterly opposite all other religions because it's not at all based upon what I can do. It's based upon what Christ did for me," said Gage. "There is no way that we can merit, that we can deserve eternal life."
After 2,000 years, the cross is still confusing and controversial. But to those who believe, it is eternal life.
"The idea of a world being saved by Christ crucified was indeed foolishness to those who were proud and boastful and who thought the wisdom of the world was vested in them," stated Graham. "How different it is for those of us who, in simple faith, know Christ crucified. For us, the cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God."