We should be honest, honest with ourselves and honest with those around us. Jesus dying on the cross is often received with a shrug by you and by me. As Christians it is often received as tired, old tune. For others is seems senseless, barbaric, and out-dated. Christians lose joy and excitement in the cross because they do not embrace the reason it is so controversial for everyone else. Instead we shy away from the controversy.
How can love be displayed in the death of the innocent? How can a loving Father kill his Son for the injustice of others? Why does blood have to be shed? Why would the death of God the Son bring life? Doesn't the cross portray a vengeful, wrathful, morbid God rather than a God of love?
The Gospel defies conventional wisdom (ex. above questions), does it not?
These are good questions, but they are questions that stem from a fundamental misunderstanding. This thinking flows out of a complete/partial dismissal of sin. Sin is not a mere breaking of a rule, or the violation of an arbitrary standard. If this is all that sin is, then such a display of God's wrath as the cross would rightly be an overreaction. Sin is a rebellion against the authority of God as God. It is the rejection of his nature, his character, his attributes, and his person. It is a declaration of war against all that God is. It is the natural drive of every human to say, "I will do what is right in my own eyes." We desire to determine what is good, which is described solely of God in Genesis 1 & 2. The sin of mankind was not eating of some fruit, nor was it the mere dismal of God's rules. The sin of mankind was the decision to see the world as glorious, rather than God. Reread Genesis 3. Our sin was to define good as we see fit, and reject God's rule all together. The fall was a revolution, humanity's attempt to set on the throne as the ultimate authority. It was a declaration of anarchy. You and I have committed high treason!
Could we really expect God just to forget the fact that we completely reject Him as Ruler of the Universe? We do reject him everyday. We don't even have to do anything necessarily "bad" in order to do this. All we have to do is live life the way we see fit, try to be a good person, and hope for the best. "God, sorry about my complete disregard for you on a daily basis, but I am going to do things my way and things will ok between us." This statement is the reality that most folks who acknowledge the existence of God live in. We can insult, disregard, disrespect, despise, and refuse to submit to God, but since he is loving he can't get mad. Right? Wrong!
We all wish God was really like that, because a god like that is like a boss who lets you do whatever you want. Sure you like the guy, but you will never respect him or take him seriously. In truth, most of the time we delude ourselves with the idea that God is some soft old man in the clouds. We refuse to see that God is all powerful and very just. Meaning everyone will get exactly what they deserve and He has the authority and power to make the penalty match the crime. In light of the earlier paragraph, can we really expect heaven? To slight an infinitely perfect being, is an immeasurably weighty sin. This is the highest form of treason. Only an eternal punishment will do....hell.
So back to the cross. At the cross the infinite wrath of God was poured out on the Man-God, Jesus (fully man and fully God), because only an infinite being could absorb infinite wrath. Death is the penalty for high treason, even today in almost every country. Out of love God paid the penalty for your and my highest treason so that you and I might live. So what may seem very foolish to our culture and most cultures on the planet, is the power of God for your and my salvation from his wrath. This reality is only beautiful to those who first realize that they actually stand before God as rebels, but now through Christ realize that they stand before God wearing Jesus' perfection. Do you live in light of the gospel as the power of God or without a second thought to the gospel (treating it as foolishness)?