The Folly of Preaching the Resurrection
In 1 Corinthians 1:18 & 23, Paul writes that the preaching of Christ crucified is “folly to those who are perishing” and “folly to the Greeks.” The Greek word behind “folly” is μωρια (moria), from which we get our word, “moron.” To illustrate the significance of this, in that same passage in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says that the preaching of the cross to the Jews is a stumbling-block, the Greek word behind “stumbling-block” being σκανδαλον (scandalon), from which we get our word, “scandal.” So Christ crucified scandalized the Jews, but it was just plain foolishness to the Greeks; I mean, how could anyone believe something so ridiculous?
Now here in Acts 17 when Paul is preaching Christ, instead of the crucifixion he makes mention of the resurrection, and his pagan Greek listeners immediately cut him off and refuse to hear anymore: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But some said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’” The Greeks were more than willing to hear about the immortality of the soul. They believed this themselves and referred to the body as a “prison-house” of the soul from which the soul needed to be liberated. The body was either something to beat into submission or something to simply ignore so that one might indulge one’s cravings; but whichever the case, the body didn’t matter—the soul did. Moreover, everyone knew that bodies decay and decompose. They are eaten by scavengers, worms, or fish, depending on where one died. How on earth could a body be resurrected? And who would want one?
Now Paul knew this doctrine would sound just plain silly to these pagan Athenians. Had Paul had the benefit of some twenty-first century believer with him then, he might have counseled Paul before preaching to leave that part for another time. But instead before these folk who had no knowledge of the true God, Paul shows us yet again the importance of preaching the truth of the whole gospel and the centrality of the resurrection of the dead—of our bodies—at the end of time. And if they go away mocking, then they go away mocking; the truth of the gospel must be preached.
By the way, I remember informing an old Christian gentleman whose body was worn and broken about the resurrection of the body. He knew nothing about it, whether from poor teaching or his own fault, I cannot tell. But I can tell you that his eyes lit up and the doctrine filled him with so much joy. Fools will always mock; Christians were made to rejoice.