“And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” – Matthew 11:6
Offended? Who could be offended at this guy? He’s got your back, right? Many people in the world finds something in common with Jesus, and that commonality tends to become the foundation of what they think is a complete knowledge of Him. From Huckabee to Obama, from Dave Matthews to John Stewart, most people claim a knowledge of Jesus, but how many are offended at Him?
When one reads what Jesus actually said about Himself, we see that the Jesus in the common Western cultural conception is not the one that we find in the Scriptures. In some ways, they couldn’t be farther apart.
I knew this difference to be true in the States. I had no idea I’d see the same kinds of false conceptions in Central Asia.
The reality of where we live is that people are constantly offended by who Jesus claims to be, because they, too, believe in a Jesus of their own design (or rather the design of their culture). I’ve yet to find someone in our city who has heard the things that Jesus said or did. They are surprised. You see, in the culture here, Jesus was a good man, a prophet even, but when people hear or read who Jesus said he was (His person) and the things that He did (His work), they are taken back. They are told from the time that they are young that they truly follow Jesus. (This belief may be one with which you in the West are not familiar. People here think they are Jesus followers, because to them, Jesus was just one of many prophets that God has sent to lead people back to the true religion. Therefore, to them, Jesus taught the same things that all the prophets taught, including Mohammed.)
So, it is understandable that they are offended when they read the things that Jesus claimed to be true of Himself and that His actions proved about Him. And they are often genuinely offended.
But again, this offense is not that much different than our home culture. In America, even in the most religious areas, Jesus is great to have on our side (and frankly we all assume Him to be), but when one gets down into the details of who He said he was and what He came to do, offense is the natural response of us all.
Why is offense often the case? Because as long as He is nothing more than a role model or good teacher, then we can objectify him and take his words as advice. But when Jesus not only tells us what we should do and then tells us that He has the authority to tell us to do it and then hold us responsible for it – that becomes offensive.
In the context of the “offense” verse above (Matt. 11:6), Jesus speaks to cities in which He did the greatest miracles (Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum – 11:20-24), none of which repented from their sins and followed Him. What is strange is that He takes offense at them. And here we see a similarity between our offense at Jesus, and His offense at us. When we take offense at Him, the problem is that we do not have a right understanding of Him; and when He takes offense at us, it is because…we do not have a right understanding of Him. These three cities saw the authority that Jesus had as expressed in the miracles He worked there, but they overlaid their own cultural purpose and reason onto the miracles, so that in the end, their knowledge of Him was not joined with faith (their believing of what Jesus said).
Why was it not joined with faith? I can’t speak to those ancient cities, but from what I see in my context here, it is usually (I can’t be comprehensive, of course) because while a person can have a knowledge of Jesus, they likely will join that knowledge with other preconceived notions of Him. This wall of incomplete, faithless knowledge can only be torn down by the two-pronged work of imparting of Scriptural knowledge of Jesus (His person and work) and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. This first prong of imparting Scriptural knowledge is given to the church as a task. The second prong of Spiritual illumination is the work of God, but one which the church must be praying for those with which they share this knowledge.
So, as you read the Scriptures or hear them taught, do you find yourself offended or blessed? Are you offended that this Jesus claims authority over you and calls you to repent from your law breaking and to trust in the one who keeps the Law on your behalf? Or are you blessed, truly happy because while you have reason to be offended by Him, you have lost your life so that you may find it in Him?
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. – Philippians 3:12