The Great Paradox of the Crucifixion

With Easter less than two weeks away, I felt it would be good to share some thoughts on the great paradox of the crucifixion and the resurrection.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he wrote that Jesus was “crucified in weakness.” Here in this destitute region in the Middle East, thousands of people were coming to believe that Jesus was their long awaited Messiah…their king. He would deliver the Jews from their oppressors and re-establish the nation of Israel. And then, this purported Messiah allowed Himself to be taken, tortured, and crucified. How lame! How humiliating. He truly was crucified in weakness.

But this seemed to be consistent with Jesus’ life and with God’s intent and purposes. Jesus did not impact the world with power and wealth, nor did He seek to set up a worldly kingdom. He did not employ any of the means that lead to greatness. Instead He chose the path of humility, and this was evidently by God’s design.

A worldly man who was in a position to really understand and grasp this was a man like Napoleon. Read what he said right before he died,

“I die before my time and my body shall be given back to the earth and devoured by worms. What an abysmal gulf between my deep miseries and the eternal kingdom of Christ. I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself and of Alexander and of Caesar, should have vanished into thin air, and a Judean peasant, Jesus, should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”

Think about what he is saying. Here are three famous men, Alexander the Great, Caesar, and I, Napoleon, seeking to control the world by power. When you see their lives contrasted with this one man, Jesus, a humble carpenter, you have to marvel at how the world has been so powerfully impacted and changed through this simple life of humility. Napoleon goes on to say,

“Time the great destroyer, powerless to extinguish this sacred flame, time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most. I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ

Use your imagination for a minute. If God gave you the task of creating a life, any life, for your son or your daughter, that would enable him or her to have a huge influence on the world, what would you choose? Assume that you can determine his or her giftedness, achievements, and wealth. What would you choose? President of the United States? King of England? Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Senator? President of Apple? A rock star, movie celebrity…an Academy Award winner or Heisman Trophy recipient? What would you choose?

Most of us would choose for our children a position of power and influence – some type of celebrity status, a mover and a shaker. A person of substance whose character, opinions, and actions extend deeply into the worlds of commerce and politics.

I ask that because this is what God could have easily provided for Jesus. He could have put Him in a wealthy Roman household or in Athens where all of the scholarly influence lived.

God could have given Jesus every advantage one would want in life, yet instead He was born and lived in the most desolate part of the Roman Empire, Palestine. For thirty years He lived a very quiet life with his parents. He worked as a carpenter. He left almost no traces of himself on earth, and He never owned any belongings or possessions that could be enshrined in a museum. He never wrote anything. He allowed himself to be taken into custody. He was mocked, beaten, spat upon, and, then, stripped naked in front of a massive crowd. He then was taken to the cross and was crucified between two criminals for all the world to see.

And He asked God the father to

forgive those who executed Him and then was buried in a tomb. Yet somehow Jesus and His small following have produced the dominant faith in Western civilization.

How do you explain this?

Philip Yancey wrote in one of his books about the accomplished life of French philosopher and anthropologist, Rene Girard. He ended his distinguished career as a professor at Stanford University. At a certain point in his studies and research, Girard began to notice that a cavalcade of liberation movements from the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, women’s rights, minority rights, human rights, had gathered speed in the twentieth century. The trend mystified Girard because he found nothing comparable in his readings of ancient literature. Through his further research, Girard traced this phenomenon back to the historical figure of Jesus.

It struck Girard that Jesus’ story cuts across the grain of every heroic story from its time. Indeed, Jesus chose poverty and disgrace. He spent His infancy as a refugee. He lived in a minority race under a harsh regime. He died as a prisoner. From the very beginning Jesus took the side of the underdog, the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the marginalized. His crucifixion, Girard concluded, introduced a new plot to history. The victim becomes a hero by becoming a victim. Girard recognized that, two thousand years later, the reverberations from Christ’s life have not stopped. And yet, ironically, at the center of the Christian faith, hangs a suffering Christ on the cross, dying in shame for all the world to see.

And to the shock and consternation of his friends and secular colleagues, Girard announced that he had become a Christian because of the unexplainable life of Christ.


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The largest part of this post comes from the book,

Reliable Truth (the Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism)

, published in 2012. Please click here to view it at



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