The offence of the Cross
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 8/24/08
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
We read here in Paul’s words that the cross is, to some, an offence or a stumbling block and it’s to others foolishness, it’s silly or stupid. Why does Paul say that? The Jews were thinking of and expecting a Messiah that was some kind of a super hero like Samson maybe or a mighty warrior like King David, someone who would deliver them from the Romans not a crucified Messiah, hanging helpless on a tree. The Jews were not looking for: A crucified messiah but a triumphant King. A king who looked like he was a king and who acted like a king. They wanted a Messiah who was going to see their religious good works and be like the religious leaders at that time. They had for centuries been looking for a regal and victorious Messiah, who should exalt their special privileges.
One who would charge into Jerusalem and destroy the Romans. Remember they were under Roman occupation and they were oppressed by them and they were looking for a Messiah who was outwardly powerful, noble.
Who would set up an earthly kingdom and rule from Jerusalem and bring all the earth under his control and of course the Jew would be in power somehow.
To the Jews the Cross was an offence a disgrace, something to be shunned. Paul uses a word which means, that which causes stumbling or trouble, obstacle, that which causes offense or repulsion and results in opposition, disapproval, or hostility. We get our word scandal from this word.
Instead of seeing Christ victorious they saw Christ crucified. Much of what the Jews hopped for was contradicted in Jesus. It is no wonder that Paul said the cross was a stumbling block or a scandal. The hanging of Jesus on the cross would have been proof not of his being the messiah but of his not being the messiah. The Jew would have quoted or thought of Deuteronomy that mentioned everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.
Now the Greeks thought that a crucified Messiah was silly, what good can a dead messiah do? What kind of power does that show? What kind of wisdom is that?
To the Greeks the cross was foolish. A nobody dies in a back water place from a despised race of people. That’s the message of the cross? A criminal dies by the hands of the Romans and you want to preach that? The Greeks sought out fine sounding arguments and looked for people who could use words like an intoxicant but the message of the cross is blunt and unrefined and is a sobering thought not one that those seeking human wisdom and good sounding arguments would like to hear.
1) The cross speaks of
a. The cross is even today a stumbling block and foolishness
i. Many today seek pleasure but the cross speaks about sacrifice.
1. If it feels good do, just do it, is a motto we hear all the time. Have a Coke and a smile. Pleasure.
ii. Many today seek good feelings and selfish gains; we run from sacrifice unless it is a selfish kind and we worship the pursuit of money and success. Who wants to be a millionaire and Lotto fever, lifestyles of the rich and famous. But the cross speaks of sacrifice.
b. The cross speaks about the road of self denial. The hard road not the easy path. Not the path that caters to my selfish desires.
i. Many today don’t want to do anything that seems hard or time consuming. Doesn’t matter if they get paid for it or not, I work with some people like that.
2) The World sees the cross as
a. The world sees the cross as:
1. The world sees the cross as: Weak, without any real power. A dying Messiah, rejected by his own people is not powerful in our human eyes. It’s the weakest of the weak.
2. The world sees the cross as: A failure, not a triumph. He's not in the royal palace but hung on a tree outside of the city. On a garbage heap, rejected, not in fine clothing but naked.
3. The world sees the cross as: Foolishness, not wise but stupid. He should have been kinder to the religious powers in Jerusalem and got them on his side instead of making them angry. He should have made political allies and tried to be a people pleaser.
b. People then and now reject the cross because the cross says you cannot earn your way to God you can only come empty handed.
c. People then and now reject the cross because the cross says you blew it, you're not perfect and we like to think we are not that bad and that we are better than others.
d. People then and now reject the cross because
i. The cross says God loves everyone and not just you.
ii. God is not for the religious or “good people” only.
iii. God does not want people to be lost and dammed like many people today want. You see many religious people today going around say God hates these people or those people, not true, God loves all people that’s what the cross says.
iv. God does not want those people who see themselves as enemies of God to perish. If God wanted to wipe out his enemies we would not be here. We are told that we all have gone astray each one to his own way and that while we were his enemies Christ died for us. Christ died for his enemies, the enemies of God.
v. The cross says that God loves us all and that he wants all to come to him and have life but the fact is that not all will. Some will enter eternal death but not because God hates them but because they rejected Christ.
vi. The cross says God is holy
1. We don’t like that idea. If there is a god he must be a lovable old man who will let everyone in.
2. Gang members in L.A. were asked if they thought God was going to let them into heaven and they said yes. They were asked why they thought that and they said because that’s what God does, that’s who God is.
vii. The cross says God is holy and just that sin will be dealt with and we in our day don’t like that idea of accountability and holiness or justice. The Cross says that God is holy and just.
3) The cross is
a. The world sees the cross as weak but the cross is powerful.
i. Power to demolish strongholds and every demonic force out there
ii. Power to change lives, hearts, and create new communities from people who were enemies or of different social, economic, political, or racial backgrounds.
b. The world sees the Cross as a failure but the cross is victorious.
i. Victory over sin in your life, the lives of others who embrace the cross and over sin in this world. There is coming a day when there will be no sin.
ii. Victory over Satan who has from the beginning lied and tempted humans to rebel against God and who fights against those who embrace the cross. There is a day coming when Satan will be removed. He is a defeated foe.
iii. Victory over death. No more does a person who embraces the cross, have to fear death. Jesus talked about a person who put their trust in him would never die. Life is found in the cross.
c. The world sees the cross as foolishness but the cross is the wisdom of God.
i. Wiser than mans wisdom. Mans wisdom says don’t be a hero, save yourself while God’s wisdom brings in life from the death of Jesus. In death we find life, in the death of Jesus we find life.
ii. True wisdom is found in the cross. The cross reconciles the creator to his creation, humans to humans and humans to God. The cross in its wisdom brings about peace when the wisdom of man tries to bring about peace it fails but in the cross we have peace.
There are people even today who find the cross an offence and want to hear about anything but the cross. They will even come to a religious service if the cross is not mentioned, or not mentioned much. We only have one message, Jesus Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness to the world.
George H. Morrison said: “It were better to empty a church (building) and preach the cross, than to fill it by keeping silent like a coward.”
We preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to the self righteous and the so called religious, and foolishness to the philosophers and the so called wise or debtors of this world.