“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23,24).
The word Paul uses in Greek for “stumbling block,” is skandalon – a “scandal,” or an “offense.” First century people did not feel warm and fuzzy emotions when they thought about crucifixions; they felt fear and revulsion.
The cross was not a pretty gold pendant around a devotee’s neck, it was a symbol of shame and humiliation, rather like wearing a gold electric chair around one’s neck.
But you knew that already, no doubt. The real question is whether the cross can still offend today?
I believe it does. The cross bears mute testimony to some things we would rather not hear.
It tells us we were sinners. It tells us that our sin was so severe that only the death penalty would repay the debt we owed. It tells us we could not clean up this mess ourselves, that Jesus had to do that for us. It tells us we needed this level of help. We didn’t “mess up.” We didn’t make a few mistakes. We were sinners, deeply sunk into a pit, in no condition to help ourselves, and Jesus had to pull us out.
That hits us directly in the ego. It offends our pride.
But we need to move from being offended to being contrite. The mute testimony of the cross – that we were sinners in need of that death – is one that we should hear and take to heart.
So as you partake of the communion this Sunday, move beyond its scandal to its savior.