The Offense of the Cross

Lesslie Newbigin, a great missionary to India once asked, “How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross?” Great question. It seems foolish, it seem weird, and it seems offensive. In the Bible, “the cross” is said by Paul to be foolish, a stumbling block, and yet “the power of God to salvation.” We don’t have to look far to see this reaction to the message of the cross. In fact, we see it in the text we will look at this week. Just go read the text and you will see it plainly – it is in fact all you see (Mark 15:25-32)! Pilate’s inscription on the cross is a mockery, “The King of the Jews.” The crowd was merciless – a crucificed Messiah is a contradiction in terms and they railed, “save yourself, and come down from the cross!” The religious leaders of Jesus’ own people hurled their insults, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.” Even the men who shared his fate reviled him. Why?

Paul said a curious thing in Galatians and it gets at why the cross is so offense to all of us, “But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Galatians 5:11) Paul is basically getting at why we hate the cross, and were it not for God’s grace we would continue to hate it. Paul is basically saying, we don’t like it that we can’t save ourselves and when it comes to God, his grace is our only hope. Paul says, if I preached do religious things and God will save you, then I would not be persecuted by pagans and religious people alike. The reason I am persecuted is because the gospel says, you can only be saved by what God did for you – plus nothing!

Is there power in that? Is that a message that will really make all things new? Will that really change a human heart, help us in suffering, and transform our lives? Well, this Sunday we will talk about it. Hope to see you there. We also have more new members joining our family. Looks like a great day to glory in the power of the cross!