Basics of Christianity: 7C – The Stumbling Block
Supposedly over 80% of all people believe in a creator God. You may not, but for most it is not a stretch to believe that much. People can believe that God can create all the matter the universe consists of and order it in a way that it can function and continue to function for as long as He wants it to. They believe that he can populate his universe with all kinds of plants and animals and plan it out so each of these living things can survive, for a time. Finally, most people believe that God can create us and allow us to live as we feel inclined to live here in his universe, again, for a time. But, when we get to Jesus, things fall apart.
The Bible itself calls Jesus the “stumbling block”. He is where the road splits. When we get to Jesus, we must make a choice, and it might be an unpopular choice. The ones whose approval we crave might take the other road. Maybe we are not sure if we believe as they do anymore but we are comfortable with them, we know what it’s like to travel with them. It may not feel right but at least it doesn’t scare us. There is something about this other road though; It does feel right. We are drawn to it. We look up that road and long to see where it leads. We may have to go on without our gang though, which seems terrifying.
They came for Jesus in the middle of the night; a detachment of soldiers and officials sent from the Pharisees, carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus didn’t sleep that night, so he would have heard and seen them coming long before they arrived. It was dark, he could have escaped, could have run. Instead, he walked towards them and asked who they wanted. Why?
They hauled Jesus to the compound of homes where the chief priest lived, and hastily arranged a sham of a trial, while the guards beat him. The Pharisees had many false witnesses testify against him, but Jesus himself kept silent. Caiaphas, the high priest, seemed to be getting frustrated by Jesus’ lack of response. The trial wasn’t going as he had planned. Trying to have him executed by the testimony of unreliable men would give the wrong impression. Finally, though, Jesus did answer a question. He told them that he was the Son of God Himself, a capital crime, and unforgivable blasphemy in that place and time… unless it was true.
Jesus, knowing the Pharisees were having trouble making their case against him, gave them exactly what they wanted, sealing his own fate. Why?
The Pharisees were not allowed by the occupying Romans to execute anyone, so they marched Jesus to the palace of Pilate, the Roman Governor. With a large unruly crowd at their back, the Pharisees shouted their accusations.
Pilate tried to set Jesus free, having a clear sense that Jesus was not your average man, and certainly not a criminal. The crowd made him nervous though. They were in a frenzy, spurred on by the chief priests and other Pharisees. Still, Pilate wanted to free him, and if Jesus had only defended himself against the accusations of the Pharisees, it seems as if he would have. Instead, Jesus seemed resigned to take an unspeakably horrific punishment and death, punishment which he did not deserve. Why?
It is the “why” of all this that makes men stumble over Jesus, because we are the why. Our shame over the idea that we put Jesus in that position causes us to deny it altogether. We must get past the shame though, because we are missing the point. We are looking at it backwards. Instead of shame, we should be feeling an incredible sense of worth, because we are the why. We are the reason for it all. That is how much God loves us, how much Jesus loves us.
Too good to be true? That is for you to decide; No one can decide for you.
The next post will be difficult, if you think it could be true. It is whole lot easier though, if you remember that You Are The Reason Jesus would go through it all. A.J.
P.S. The first eight posts of the “Basics” series are further down this page.