According to Pope Francis, the Cross of Christ is “God’s Great Failure”
Pope Francis is certainly one of the most popular and well liked people currently on the world stage. He was named Time Magazine’s person of the year in 2013, was greeted with the equivalent to a royal welcome by the US Congress and American people during his trip to the United States in 2015, and was one of the leading candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. People of other faiths like Islam & Judiasm, those who follow after New Age teachings, politicians, heads of state, and even those who have no faith at all and deny God’s existence seem to be enamored by this Pope. Indeed, practically everywhere he goes, Pope Francis is enthusiastically welcomed with open arms and has become known as, “the people’s pope”.
It isn’t hard to see why Pope Francis is held in such high regard by so many diverse groups of people. He is quite unlike many of his most recent predecessors. Everywhere he goes, he interacts directly with the people. Instead of traveling behind bulletproof glass in the “pope mobile”, Francis rides out in the open so he can touch the outstretched arms of the people who come to see him. He has washed the feet of the poor and didn’t bat an eye when a child walked up to his side during a public speech. He has worked with world leaders to bring peace between nations, most notably the United States and Cuba. Furthermore he has also worked diligently to bring reconciliation between the various faiths of the world. Indeed, to the undiscerning there is every reason to hold Pope Francis in high regard.
To those, however, who are students of Biblical truth, a different picture of the Pope is increasingly becoming apparent. More and more Pope Fancis says and does things that contradict the word of God. Rather than upholding sound doctrine and Biblical truth, Fancis has made statements that are radical, controversial, diverge from long held Christian theology, and dare I say downright heretical? On several occasions, he’s made allusions to salvation being made available without accepting Jesus as one’s Savior, promoted acceptance of homosexuality, and most recently asserted that people of all religions are simply “seeking or meeting God in different ways”.
While all of these things should be concerning to faithful followers of Jesus, most alarming of all is Pope Francis’ recent remarks refering to the Cross of Christ as God’s great failure. In a speech at the end of his visit to the US back in September, Francis made the following remarks:
“God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus… and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross” (Click Here for Full Transcript)
Naturally this statement shocked Christians of many different denominations including Catholics. How is it possible that the head of the Catholic Church could actually refer to the Cross of Christ as a failure? Well, the response from some Catholics is that this isn’t exactly what he meant and that the satement is being misunderstood. The assertion is that what Pope Francis actually meant was if the cross is viewed from a merely human perspective, Jesus’ death might look like a failure even though it actually wasn’t.
But is that in fact what Pope Francis meant? Was his reference to Jesus’ death on the cross as a failure meant to be understood as something else? Fortunately, clarity about the Pope’s meaning can be found by looking at a second speech which was given to a large group of youths in Kenya this past November just two months after his speech to Congress. To quote the Pope:
“When you don’t understand something, when desperation hits you then look at the cross. That is the great failure of God, that is the destruction of God, and it’s a challenge to our faith. And this is hope, because history did not end in that failure. Rather it’s in the resurrection of Christ that renewed all of us… I am going to tell you something private. In my pocket I always carry two thing: a rosary to pray something which seems odd, this is here is the history of God’s failure, it’s the way of the cross, a small way of the cross, as Jesus suffered and when they condemned him right up to where he was buried with these two things I do the best I can. And thanks to these two things, I never lose hope.” (Click Here for Full Transcript)
Unlike his first speech, Pope Francis did not descibe Jesus’ death on the cross as a failure “in human terms” or “humanly speaking”; rather, he referred to the cross as “the great failure of God”, “the destruction of God”, and “the history of God’s failure”.
Excuse me? What? Jesus’ death on the cross is a great failure and the destruction of God? With all due respect to Pope Francis, this is blasphemy. How on Earth could the head of the Catholic Church refer to the cross of Christ in this manner in light of what the Bible has to say and specifically, what Jesus Himself had to say about the cross.
Jesus’ death on the cross was the start of the greatest victory in human history. It is impossible to view the crucifixion as a failure when considering Jesus’ own words:
John 10:11, 15, 17-18 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for ours. He willingly died on the cross because He loves us. It cannot be more clear that it was Jesus’ choice to die. He died in accordance to the will of God the Father and therefore, it was not a failure at all. It was mission accomplished! Consider the following verses:
Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Matthew 26:52-54 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
Luke 22:41-42 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
It is evident from the passages above that Jesus gladly endured the cross. Though it was an incomprehensibly painful death full of suffering and torture, it brought Jesus joy to endure the cross because He knew it would bring salvation to the human race for those who would accept it. It is also clear that had Jesus chosen not to endure the cross, He could have easily done so. At the time of His arrest, He rebuked Peter for trying to stop it and affirmed that if He really desired not to go through with it, God would instantly send twelve legions of angels to His aid. Yet, Jesus chose to be obedient to the will of His Father and as such, accomplished exactly what He set out to do.
Jesus came into this world specifically for the purpose of dying, being buried, and resurrecting three days later as prophesied in the Scriptures. This can even be seen at the time of his birth when the Wise Men from the East gave gifts of frankensence and myrrh, elements used for the embalming and preservation of corpses, symbolizing and predicting Jesus’ death that would occur in the future.
Furthermore, it is absurd to think that anything God does could be considered a failure. God cannot fail. God is infallible. If God had the potential of failue it would by nature imply that He is imperfect, capable of making mistakes, and something less than divine. If that were true, it would then open up the possiblity for God to be sinful because He would theoretically be suseptible to error. Simply put, it would mean that God is not God. Hopefully you can see how slippery this slope is, and how proposterous and dangerous the remarks from Pope Francis really are.
Thus for Pope Francis to refer to the cross as a failure either demonstrates a lack of understanding of God’s word, or intentionality in use of language that contradicts the Scriptures. Either way it’s problematic and troubling. For someone who is supposed to be the leader of the largest denomination of Christians not to understand one of the most central and foundational doctrines of the church is not only inexcuseable, but should cause faithful Catholics to be alarmed.
While I think there are many reasons to be concerned and cautious about Pope Francis, remarks such as these are among the most significant. I will reserve my additional thoughts about the Pope for a future post to the blog, but hope that this post demonstrates the importance for all followers of Jesus to study and understand the word of God for themselves to avoid being led astray. Let me leave you with these words from the book of Joshua:
Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.