“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2) I could be wrong, but I don’t think that Saul before his name was changed by God to Paul was a very nice person, at least not in regards to his religious zealousness.
He was adamant about adhering to the precepts set down by the law, and even those traditions that the Pharisees had placed upon the people, he may perhaps even been instrumental in bringing some of them into being. He was chosen because of his zeal to hunt down those who were following that usurper Jesus, to cast them into the prison house, and kill them. Not everyone who is adamant about their faith is a nice guy.
The truth about that verse that opens this short letter to you was beyond perplexing to him, the idea of it consumed him, he understood fully the sacrifices at the alter that had gone on for the most part for thousands of years, he understood about the reasoning behind them, he understood the blood, but he could not comprehend fully the love that was behind the blood that dripped from that cross that day. “No man taketh 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 commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18)
In the strictest sense of the word, no animal ever willingly offered itself as a sacrifice, they were chosen because they happened to be without spot or blemish, they were led without their knowledge of what was going to happen to them to the alter, and killed with no desire, if an animal knows desire, against their will. The Lord Jesus did not need to be herded to the cross, He did not fight and struggle, He did not plead for His life, and He did not go there in despairing recognition of His fate, He walked to that cross willingly and of His own accord.
“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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) “And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” (Luke 23:35)
I speak only from perhaps too imaginative of a mind here, but I do not think that Paul, whose name was still Saul at the time of the cross, was concerned at all with losing any power over the people of that day, he was not concerned that respect was being drawn away from the religious leaders, of which he was one, but his thoughts were of a mere man, indeed perhaps a prophet sent by God, attested to by the miracles performed, but nevertheless a mere man who claimed not only to be sent by God, but to be God Himself. He would not suffer His God to be dishonored in such a way, and so not only did this man Jesus need to die, but everyone that followed Him.
Paul did not say “Who are you” on the road to Damascus when he was blinded, “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:5) He was not taught by the apostles or any other human being about Christ, he was taught by Jesus Himself. (Gal. 1:12) “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Heb. 10:4) And Him crucified, willingly, without question, for the glory of God, for us.
That verse screams the desire to know why, why would the Creator and Sustainer of all that is stoop so low as to belittle Himself for dust, where does that type of love exist, what would prompt the Almighty, who is no respecter of persons, (Romans 2:11) to sacrifice Himself for that which continuously rebels against Him. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12)
And none of us ever will. We may be in the presence of the fullness of joy as Psalm 16:11 states, but we will never know perpetually that love that went to the cross that day, we know the reason, but we can never fully understand why. That depth of love rests only in the heart of God, we can experience it, but we will never truly understand it.