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Acts 7:51-60

 

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." 

 

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)

 

An Offense That Creates None

Tuesday of Epiphany 2

21 January 2014

The old liberals all wanted to reduce Jesus Christ to something a little more palatable to their own prejudices and presuppositions about piety and religion. The tweedy university professors all took their swing at remaking Jesus into a pattern they preferred. They deconstructed Him and reconstructed Him with all their academic brilliance and skill. What did the reconstruction look like? Lo and behold, He looked like a tweedy professor; just like them. They had proved Schopenhauer correct that our view of divinity is merely a projection of ourselves. The Jesus the professors projected became a proponent of social justice, an activist for tolerance, and a supporter of the climate change theory, gay marriage, or whatever the most recent politically correct mania might be (it is something of a moving target).

 

These cultured despisers of our faith were doing everything they could to remove the offensive aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, so that they could piously speak of Jesus, but in such a way that they would not suffer the ridicule of the world. His death by crucifixion was ignored or at best heralded as a sacrificial act worthy of our emulation. They failed to speak of that one death as the bloody atonement for the sin of the world. They declined to mention that He came not to be merely emulated but to serve us sinners by His substitutionary atonement. They refused to laud the divine plan that called for God to die on the cross. They mocked the idea that His incarnation had as its goal his sacrificial death. No, their Christ was much more sedate and wise; he was a philosopher king, a faculty doyen, and a deep thinker. Certainly not a lamb led to the slaughter for sinners.

 

Then what is all the fuss about Christianity? Why then do Jesus and His Apostle Paul both warn that there will be persecution for those who profess Him? Why do the wise of the world desire to portray Him as a buffoon who died an accidental, if tragic, death? If He is a man like other men, what then is offensive about His ministry? If He is but a kindly professor patiently teaching ethics to the poor benighted peasants of first-century Palestine, why were his followers so viciously persecuted? And why were those same followers willing to be torn apart by wild animals rather than abjure His name? No, the offense of the cross is not in the cross itself, for the cross has devoured thousands of victims over the centuries of man's inhumanity to man. The offense of the cross is that these things were done to God and that He suffered them to be done to Him (Jn 12:16). The offense of the cross is that God in Christ had these things done to Him in our place. The tweedy professor's Jesus is an offense because he creates none.

 

John Cassian

 

"Tell me then, you heretic, you enemy of all men, but of yourself above all, to whom the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is an offence as with the Jews, and foolishness as with the Gentiles, you who reject the mysteries of true salvation, with the stumbling of the former, and the foolish stubbornness of the others, why was the preaching of the Apostle Paul foolishness to the pagans, and a stumbling block to the Jews? Surely, it would never have offended men, if Paul had taught that Christ was, as you maintain He is, a mere man? For who would think that His birth, passion, cross, and death were incredible or a difficulty? Or what would there have been novel or strange about the preaching of Paul, if he had said that a merely human Christ suffered that which human nature daily endures among men everywhere? However, surely the Apostle declared that Christ whom they, like you, fancied to be a mere man, was God, was the foolishness the Gentiles could not receive and the unbelief of the Jews rejected. This it certainly was which the thoughts of these wicked men rejected, which the ears of the faithless could not endure, that the birth of God should be proclaimed in the man Jesus Christ, that the passion of God should be asserted, and the cross of God proclaimed. This was a difficulty. This was what was incredible. For what was incredible to the hearing of men, was what had never been heard of as happening to the divine nature. And so you are quite secure, with such an announcement and teaching as yours, that your preaching will never be either foolishness to the Gentiles or a stumbling-block to the Jews. You will never be crucified with Peter by Jews and Gentiles, nor stoned with James, nor beheaded with Paul. For there is nothing in your preaching to offend them. You maintain that a mere man was born, a mere man suffered. You need not be afraid of their troubling you with persecution, for you are helping them by your preaching."

 

John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 3.9
 

Prayer

Dear Jesus, You have suffered the ridicule of worldly wisdom, because You suffered the ignominy of the cross. Grant that we might suffer with you by confessing faithfully that you are the crucified God, who died for us poor sinners. Amen.

 

For all those suffering from inclement winter weather, that they would be kept safe in the midst of bad conditions

 

For Pr. Ian Pacey, as he travels to the theological symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that his travels would be safe and his time at the symposia fruitful

 

For those who are living in marriages of recrimination and acrimony, that they would find the strength to forgive and live at peace in the Lord's gift of holy matrimony

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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