Reflecting on First Corinthians for the Third Sunday of Lent

From First Corinthians by George T. Montague, SM, commenting on First Corinthians 1:22-23:

The tendency of the Jews who opposed the ministry of Jesus and that of Paul (compare Matt 12:3842; Luke 11:2932), was to demand signs, miracles or spectacular deeds of power, and Greeks look for wisdom, something that will captivate but not disturb the cultured mind. Paul here shows his grasp of the psychology of both cultures, which made him an apt instrument for reaching both, but he does so by proclaiming something that goes counter to, because it goes beyond, the natural tastes of each: Christ crucified. Jews indeed looked for a Messiah, but the fact that Jesus died on the cross proved that he was not the glorious liberator they desired. For them, the cross was a stumbling block, an obstacle to faith.

The Greek understanding of time and history was not eschatological: it did not have a conception of a goal toward which history was moving. . . . A founder who stands the world’s values on its head by going to death on a cross–the fate of the criminal dregs of humanity–would indeed have no chance of winning the Greek, even less by claiming that the cross was followed by the resurrection of the body. As for the Jewish critic, the apparent failure of one who claimed to be the Messiah was proof that he was not. That is why it takes a special grace, a divine call, to read in the cross more than stupidity and weakness.

© 2011 George T. Montague, SM and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.