It would be better to empty a church and preach the cross, than to fill it by keeping silent like a coward. It would be better to fail as Paul failed in trying to reach his own people of Jewish descent, than to succeed by being a traitor to the cross. This is why I look with uncertainty at today’s Church. Christianity is not pleasant entertainment. When the offense of the cross ceases, it is lost.
Why was the cross an offense to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day?
- It blighted all their hopes. They waited for a triumphant Messiah and got a suffering One. Not Christ victorious, but Christ crucified. Every hope they had was contradicted. This is still true today. Written across Calvary is sacrifice; written across our age is pleasure. On the lips of Jesus, I must die. On the lips of this age of ours, I must enjoy.
- It swept away much they took pride in. The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had taken the things that lead to God and let their hearts grow centered upon them. With the cross, the need for ceremonial and sacrificial laws disappeared. This is still true today for us. The offense today is that a person must come with empty hands. People today are proud of achievement that a call to unconditional surrender is an offense. Calvary cost us nothing and God everything. In a commercial age there is something suspicious or offensive there.
- It obliterated national distinctions. Israel was called out by God to be a blessing to the world. Rather it led them to isolation and pride. They held the rest of the world in contempt. But the cross leveled all such distinctions. That made the cross offensive. Some Christians have let their relationship with God lead them to self-righteousness. They forget where their standing was before Christ and who actually earned their reconciliation.