Some things simply defy our logic. Or at least the logical power we can bring to bear right now. (It wont always be that way, by the way.)

Calculus was never one of my favorite words. To be honest, math as a whole has never been my strong suite. I remember sitting in a calculus class for my undergraduate degree. It was a requirement for the degree, which meant I had to pass the class in order to qualify for the overall degree.

I was sitting in the classroom when the teacher walked in at the start of the first session. After announcing the title to a room filled with a hundred or so students he said, “Put your hands up if this is your second or greater time trying to pass this class.” Over half the hands in the room were raised, and my spirit sunk. But it was about to get worse. “Keep them up if this is your third or greater time.” Many of the hands remained up. “Fourth or greater.” Still quite a few hands were raised. I wanted to throw up. Then the teacher snapped his fingers as he said, “If you think for THAT LONG (snap) you’re going to spend less than three to four hours OUT OF THE CLASSROOM working on calculus for every hour you spend with me IN THE CLASSROOM, then you’ll be here next semester raising your hand.”

I spent the rest of the semester essentially living in the mathematic lab of the college. Though calculus never made sense (then or now) I did manage to pass the course. Not by much, mind you, but I passed. I’m not alone. There are lots of people that can just sort of “squeak by” in the realm of mathematics.

You want to know something else that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people? The message of the cross. People try to figure it out , try to plug the message of the cross into he things that make sense to them.

One group thinks that Jesus should have come in amazing power. They feel like He should have overthrown Rome’s heavy-handed rulership. they want SIGNS of His power and glory. His servant’s heart doesn’t make sense to them. They want God to FORCE PEOPLE to stop being evil, and just do the right thing.

Another group wants Jesus to explain everything with such clarity and overpowering wisdom that He will “make sense” and be appealing to the intellectuals among us. Teachers and philosophers can get this mess straightened out, so they say. But not this silly parable-based instruction about sowing in fields and such nonsense.

Paul the apostle saw the same issues. When he wrote about the people who were seeking signs of power or incredible wisdom he said, “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

The truth of the matter is that calculus is one of the most powerful applications of mathematics on the planet. There are calculations of slopes, curves, velocities and tangents you simply cannot possibly measure without calculus. Even if you don’t personally understand it, that doesn’t change the problem or the solution.

The truth of the matter is Christ IS powerful and Christ IS wise, even if the message of the cross seems like foolishness to you. Even if you don’t personally understand it, that doesn’t change the problem of your sin or the only solution available to you.

Do I understand fully WHY Jesus came not to be served, but to be a servant. No, I do not; but I am learning more and more about how to be a servant like Him as each day passes. Can I plumb all of the depths and complexities of how and why he gave His life as a ransom for your and mine? Well, compared to the depths of the riches of THAT topic, I cannot even scratch the surface. But I do know that He changed my life.

With calculus, there was a test coming. I had to pass the final exam. No passing grade meant no degree. Period.

With Jesus, there is a final exam coming as well. You and I have already failed it. Our only hope is that HE takes the test for us. He will pass. ONLY He will pass that test. We rely upon Him, or we have already failed. Period. (And, by the way, we only get one shot at this test. There will be no sitting in makeup classes trying to pass it again and again. )

You can argue about the “foolishness of the cross” if you wish. You can debate its shape and its form. You can argue whether Jesus carried a complete cross composed of the stipes and the patibulum through the city of Jerusalem or only the cross piece. You can do many, many things … and fail the exam because you’ve been so busy debating the cross you’ve missed the power and wisdom of the Giver and the gift.

Or you can take the approach I took to calculus. Do what needs to be done to pass the test.

Jesus came to serve, and TO GIVE HIS LIFE as a ransom for many. The other side of GIVING is always RECEIVING.
Receive the gift he came to give you. It is the only way to pass the exam.

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