Jesus is Offensive

While down in Seattle I went to church with Dan and Stacey at All Saints (which is where I will probably be going when I move back down) and pastor Bill Berger gave a wonderful sermon out of Mark about the offensiveness of Jesus. I thought that I would share of few of my thoughts on the issue. Mark 6:1-3 tells us that Jesus came back to Nazareth,

his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Why did they take offense? Why do many people today take offense?

Christ will offend everyone, but in different ways. To many in the pacific northwest (well, and all over they country too), it is extremely offensive to say “Jesus Christ is the only way to redemption and salvation.” People can very easily use the “à la carte” method of religion or spirituality: they take what they like of any religion they want (little of this, little of that…), and leave out the stuff they don’t like, or that offends them. So for a Christian to come along and say “Christ is the only way” will tick people off. While this might be true for much of western society, if you went to the Middle East, they wouldn’t be offended by that claim; they would disagree with the claim, but they wouldn’t be offended by it. They are used to absolute claims like that about God. But they would be offended by Christ’s claim to love your enemy, Jesus’ call to graciousness and forgiveness. That call doesn’t make sense in that context and is offensive. The point here is that Christ will offend everyone in different ways.

The people of Jesus’ hometown were offended because Jesus was preaching on the Sabbath, he was making claims about the Kingdom, he was son of Mary: his claims were that of divinity, but coming from an ordinary carpenter, not only that, but a bastard carpenter. Them calling him Mary’s son (instead of Joseph’s) is disparaging. How could He be the savior? It is completely offensive to think that He could be our redemption.

Salvation in most religions has the deity releasing us from the ordinary. But God, Yahweh, Jesus, saves us through the ordinary. He is reclaiming the ordinary and making it right again. Only Christianity offers this kind of salvation. This is a huge blessing. This means we don’t have to worry about trying to do something (big or small) to be redeemed. Our humanness is what God transcended to in Jesus and we don’t have to try to be anything more that what He has made us to be. One of Bill’s saying is that “the ground at the foot of the Cross is level.” Regardless of who you are or what you have done, you are eligible for redemption. It is a free gift that is offered graciously, all you have to do is accept it.

It is offensive to say that being a good person is not enough. It is offensive to say a mass murderer could repent and turn to Jesus and be saved. There are lots of things that are offensive about Jesus. A free offering of salvation is offensive to many. You need to wrestle with the offensiveness. This might mean letting go of pride.

There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. There is nothing you can do to deserve salvation. All you have to do is accept the amazing blessings and gifts that are offered by Christ. Christ is only offensive when you don’t accept the Truth of reality. Wrestle with it, but don’t let it keep you away. The end of Relient K‘s song Deathbed says it well:

I am the Way. Follow Me and take My hand. And I am the Truth. Embrace Me and you’ll understand. I am the Life. Through Me you’ll live again. For I am Love. I am Love. I am Love

Categories: Religion
  1. salmypal
    April 17th, 2007 at 07:54 | #1

    I was just talking with someone the other day about the parable of the man who hired people to work in his fields and paid the same wages to those he hired in the afternoon as those he hired in the morning. That’s so UNFAIR! Especially to our Western/Capitalistic sensibilities and yet so typical of the graciousness of the Lord we serve and worship.

  2. April 17th, 2007 at 15:32 | #2

    This is the part that gets me: And are not his sisters here with us?

    If anybody should have known that Jesus was divine, his family ought to have. So his sisters, and perhaps other family members, were nearby, and did not defend him. I forget the passage, but there’s another place where they come to him and try to talk him out of his ministry. (His response, to paraphrase, was “my family are those who know God’s will and do it” or something along those lines.) It may sound weird, but I take a lot of comfort in the idea that even Jesus had difficult relatives. :-)

  3. April 17th, 2007 at 17:39 | #3

    Great example Sal! Another of my favorite Relient K quotes is “the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” If only we could actually accept that and get it into our mindset; maybe then we would stop complaining about fairness.

    Indeed Laura! Heh, and I say this after Sal (my cousin) has just commented. ;) Jesus makes some offensive statements about family (Mark 3:31-35):

    And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

    That is offensive NOW, and HUGELY offensive back then. The Kingdom is more important than our earthly family (of course it is always nice when those families line up).

  4. April 19th, 2007 at 02:45 | #4

    Wonderful post. It actually made me tear up a little bit. “The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair” is one of my very favorite lines. I’m going to definitely have to download the other song you referenced.

  5. April 19th, 2007 at 12:57 | #5

    Shhhh: Deathbead. It will take a while to download as it is a 12 minute song. I REALLY love the song because it is basically the story of a fallen and redeemed man that ends with the lyrics I posted (sung by Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman). It is a really moving and epic song in my opinion.

    Relient K is strange because they can write such crazy and silly songs and then turn around and have some really profound moments.

  6. April 20th, 2007 at 21:37 | #6

    Well-said, Matt. In our “tolerant” and “diverse” society, people seem to think “there are many paths to truth.”

    There is only one Truth, our Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone is the Way and the Life.

  7. April 23rd, 2007 at 08:32 | #7

    “Salvation in most religions has the deity releasing us from the ordinary. But God, Yahweh, Jesus, saves us through the ordinary. He is reclaiming the ordinary and making it right again.”

    This reminds me of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, restoring the world. We play a part in restoring the world with Messiah. We can’t escape into asceticism in order to find the Kingdom of God. the Kingdom of God is within us, and we need to infect the world with it at every turn.

  8. April 23rd, 2007 at 13:40 | #8

    Amen Lillie!

    Well said Julia! I LOVE that notion of being part of the Kingdom. Well not even just being part of it, but being active in it, having a role in it. Such a wonderful thing!

  1. April 18th, 2007 at 01:26 | #1
  2. June 18th, 2007 at 23:53 | #2

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