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The Offensive Christ

by Johnny Ramsey
via Gospel Minutes, Vol. 55, No. 24, June 16, 2006

In Galatians 5:11, we read of "the offense of the cross." To some in Corinth, nothing was as distasteful as the preaching of the crucified Savior. In Athens, Paul was mocked for preaching the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 17:12). To be perfectly honest, Christ was a "rock of offense" and a "stone of stumbling" to many among His own people and in the Roman Empire (Romans 9:33). Why did Jesus offend so many? He was despised in the region of Gadarenes because people there thought more of swine than of lost souls (Mark 5).

The Master Teacher offended the Pharisees because of His blunt rebuke of their customs and traditions (Matthew 15:7-12). The absolute authority of the Lord caused a sword of separation within some families (Matthew 10:34-35). When Christ comes on the stage of life, the human scene must give attention to His claims. One cannot be neutral in regard to the Man of Nazareth. Jesus plainly reminds us in Matt. 12:30 that men are either "for or against" Him. But why was our blessed Redeemer such a controversial person?

His Perfection Made Others Uncomfortable

To be in the presence of the Son of God made anyone else's fame pale into nothingness. His speech, action, attitude and endeavor formed a matchless framework of beauty. The scribes waned in power when Jesus unfolded the Scriptures. The righteous pretense of the Pharisees disintegrated in the marvelous purity of the Messiah. Arrogant claims of the Sadducees were easily put asunder by one clear word of logic by the Savior. Caesars and Herods were always dwarfed by the heavenly countenance of the Redeemer. Since very few people enjoy being "upstaged," Jesus was intently hated. Pilate realized that "for envy he had been delivered up" (Mark 15:10).

His Salvation Was Spiritual, Not Temporal

"Hosanna" had become a popular cry among the Jews by the time the Lord walked the Judean soil. Since the days of the Maccabees, it was a term of deliverance and meant simply, "Save us, we pray." In Mark 11 is told the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But however brilliant the palm-strewn road may have seemed that day, our Redeemer was a bitter disappointment to the Jews because He came not to save them from Rome, but to save sinners from Satan's hold. He told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36), and those coming to Him for loaves and fishes went away distraught.

He Embarrassed The Socially Elite

The Savior's propensity of eating with sinners caused a revolt within the upper echelon of society (Mark 2; Luke 19). Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10), but the doctors of the law were upset with practical application of that maxim. It bothered them intensely when the large crowds came to hear him teach, because Jesus had not gone to one of their schools (John 7). The piercing logic by which Christ nailed their hides to the wall was constantly embarrassing (Mark 12:14; John 8:39-40). Jesus unveiled their evil hearts of selfishness in the person of the "older brother" (Luke 15:11-31), and their vain ritualistic piety in the story of the priests and Levites who "pass by on the other side" (Luke 10:27-37). No wonder they were offended! Of course, they could have repented, but that would have called for more humility than they could muster. Are there any sadder words in Scripture than John 1:11? "He came unto His own, but His own received Him not." Rather than being offended in Jesus, may God help us always to stand up valiantly for Him in the midst of a godless, decadent world.

It is hardly conceivable that anyone as wonderful as Jesus Christ would have had as many enemies as He did. As our minds retrace the beautiful life He led, the perfect pattern He set, we are amazed to recall the fact that many in His day coldly rejected Him. How could anyone spurn such an unselfish love? Even though we cannot answer these questions completely, it remains a sobering, heart-breaking fact that thousands of His day turned a deaf ear to heaven's will, expressed so capably in Jesus, the Son of God.