I was a very young Christian when I first heard the Michael Card album ‘Scandalon’ (still one of my all-time favourites) which introduced me to the Biblical notion that Jesus is ‘a stone that makes men stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’ (‘Scandalon’, quoting Isaiah 8:14, Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:8) I am profoundly grateful that I learned this lesson early on in my Christian pilgrimage, for it disabused me of any notion that Jesus is nice.
‘Nice’ is one of the most over-used words in the English language. I learned that Jesus is radical, counter-cultural, devotedly obedient, passionately loving and wholly committed to doing God’s will, but is not the nice, saccharine, tame, people-pleasing Messiah many would like Him to be.
Jesus offended many people, especially religious people who thought they’d got God in a nicely ornamented and contained box and who missed the point entirely as a result. He continues to offend people today, especially the churchgoers who think they are safe and secure in their religion, smug and self-righteous. To be honest, if Jesus doesn’t offend us, there is a problem. Grace is outrageous, as the parable Dave expounded last night shows us. Forgiveness is revolutionary. Mercy chops down pride at the roots and love is not our instinctive response to anything that threatens our independence and comfort. If we’re not offended by Jesus, we haven’t really encountered Him or haven’t fully understood His message.