Month 9:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year 5935:245 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 10 December 2011
The True Meaning of the Cross
Left: Crux simplex, the "impalement" as viewed by Jehovah's Witnesses and Messianics; Right: Crux decussata, showing the crucifixion of St.Andrew
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el!
"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a tavnith (pattern). For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Messiah (Christ): whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Lord Jesus Christ), who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (Phil.3:17-21, NKJV).
Today's message has long been on my lev (heart) to preach to you. What prompted it was an offended messianic when he saw that we use the sign of the cross in our meeting place. For evangelicals this message will be nothing new but for some ultra-messianics, who have a Pharisaic aversion to the Cross, this will be an important testimony. When I use the word 'Cross' with a capital 'C' I am not primarily speaking of the instrument of execution but a theological concept which embraces the atonement of Messiah.
Raised as I was as an Anglican (Church of England), it never occurred to me that either the word or symbol of the cross would be so offensive to so many or that anyone would dispute that Yah'shua (Jesus) was crucified on anything but a traditional Roman cross consisting of two beams of wood crossing one another. Over the years, as I have sifted through the evidence, my opinion on this matter has flucuated. Today I have little doubt what I believe.
When I first investigated Christianity back in the 1970's as a student at Oxford I briefly studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses, and of course was exposed to their New World Translation (NWT) of the Bible in my Scripture investigations. One thing I could never wrap my mind around was their use of "torture stake" instead of "cross", as in this passage:
Years later, when I became a Messianic and started studying Messianic versions of the Bible, I also came across "stake" (ISRV), "execution stake" (JNT/CJB, RSTNE), "gallows" (HRV) and "etz shel hakarav atzmo" or "tree of self sacrifice" (OJB). Only one that I am acquainted with - the MRC - uses the word "cross". Why do these versions use these terms? I think there are at least three reasons:
"And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me" (Mt.10:38, NWT).
Personally, I have no time for religious or political correctness so I don't care if people are offended because of their prejudices over the use of this word or that. And whilst I will not seek to deliberately provoke them, neither will I surrender my beliefs to make them feel better. I will not be so chauvanistic as to reject a term because other groups and churches, whose history and theology are tainted, have used it.
- 1. So as not to offend Jews who hate the term, and thus facilitate witness to Jews;
- 2. Because it is used by Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox who are regarded as apostate and most of their teachings to be avoided; and
- 3. Because they believe this is the best translation of the receptor tongue.
Many Messianic translations go out of their way to change commonly accepted Christian terminology - 'esteem' instead of 'glory', 'reign' instead of 'kingdom', 'stake' instead of 'cross', 'immersion' instead of 'baptism', 'set-apartness' instead of 'holiness', 'right-ruling' instead of 'justice', and many more. Some of these are undoubtedly better than the orthodox Christian terminology and more closely align with the original sense but others are, in my opinion, just deliberate attempts to be 'different' - one or two versions replace the English words with Hebrew ones altogether (OJB, RSTNE). The effect of this can cause considerable confusion as well as erect barriers between believers. That is why I frequently use both sets of terminology. Our job is not to create further divisions but to bring believers together at the same time as explaining what words actually mean.
So I am not going to admit reasons #1 and #2 in our discussion today. Let's start with etymology - the meaning of words - which we must do so as not to be misunderstood. This is especially important for evangelicals who may come across Messianic Bible versions and literature and be put off by the strange terminology. Try not to be but rather seek to understand.
To start of with, the Greek noun which we render "cross" is stauros with its verb, stauroˇ, and, as Messianics correctly point out, it primarily means an upright stake or beam, but it can also mean a stake used as an instrument of punishment and execution. It is only used in this latter sense in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament). The noun occurs 28 times and the verb 46. The crucifixion of live criminals did not occur in the Tanakh (Old Testament) and where stauroˇ is used in the Septuagint (LXX) in Esther 7:10 it is rendering the Hebrew talÔ meaning to 'hang'. Yet as we know, dead bodies were occasionally hung on a tree as a warning (Dt.21:22-23; Josh.10:26) and were regarded as accursed (see Gal.3:13) and had to be removed and buried before nightfall (cp. Jn.19:31). This practice accounts for references in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) to Messiah's cross as an etz or 'tree' (Ac.5:30; 10:39; 13:29; 1 Pet.2:24), a symbol of humiliation.
Crucifixion was practised by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians and later used extensively by the Romans. Only slaves, provincials, and the lowest types of criminals were crucified, but rarely Roman citizens. Thus the fact that Peter was crucified and Paul (a Roman citizen) was beheaded is in line with ancient practice.
In identifying what the instrument of such execution looked like, we are faced by a problem, because in the time of the Messiah the Romans used four types of "execution stake" on which the victims were tied or impaled:
- 1. The single upright post (crux simplex, as is supposed by Jehovah's Witnesses and most Messianics (see below);
- 2. St.Anthony's Cross (crux commissa) shaped like a capital T, though by some to be derived from the symbol of the god Tammuz, but also the Hebrew letter Taw, equivalent to the Greek omega, the last letter of the alphabet;
- 3. St.Andrew's Cross (crux decussata) shaped like the letter X (see below); and
- 4. The two-beamed Cross (crux immissa), the familiar cross used throughout Western Christendom (see top of devotional).
After weighing the evidence on this subject now for the last 35 years, I have come to the conclusion that the bulk of the evidence favours the crux immissa, the traditional cross-beams used as a symbol of Christianity everywhere. The fact that monstrous and murderous cults have used it as a symbol too cannot undo the emet (truth). The evidence is extensive and, in my opinion, undeniable. Yah'shua (Jesus) was not impaled on a vertical stake even though he could have been. Irenaeus (Haer. ii.24.4) maintains it was a crux immissa and his claims are strengthened by the references in the four Gospels (Mt.27:37; Mk.15:26; Lk.23:38; Jn.19:19-22) to the title nailed to the cross of Messiah over His head, as we shall now see.
After a criminal's condemnation Yah'shua (Jesus) was made to carry the cross-beam (patibulum) to the scene of his torture and death, always outside the city, while a herald carried in front of him the 'title', his written accusation. It was this patibulum, not the whole cross or vertical beam, which Yah'shua (Jesus) was too weak to carry, and which was born by Simon the Cyrenian. The condemned man was stripped naked, laid on the ground with the cross-beam under his shoulders, and his hands tied or nailed (Jn.20:25) to it. This cross-bar was then lifted and secured to the upright post (already in the ground), so that the victim's feet, which were then tied, were just clear of the ground, not high up as so often depicted. The main weight of the body was usually borne by a projecting peg called a sedile, astride which the victim sat. There the condemned man was left to die of hunger and exhaustion. Contemporary writers describe this as a most painful form of death. This much we know about the instrument of execution. Therefore I am forced to reject the idea that Yah'shua (Jesus) was nailed to a single vertical stake as depicted in most Messianic versions. He was executed on a crux immissa, the traditionally understood cross.
Having got this matter resolved, let us now squarely focus on the B'rit Chadashah (New Testament) writers' interest in the cross which is neither archaeological nor historical but Christological. In other words, the writers of Scripture are solely concerned with the eternal, cosmic, soteriological (salvational) significance of what happened once for all in the death of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), on the cross. Thus when when they - and we - use the word 'Cross', what we are summarising or encapsulating - in a single word - is a description of the whole gospel of salvation, that Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) "died for our sins". Thus the "preaching of the Besorah (Gospel)" is "the davar (word) of the Cross", "the preaching of Messiah crucified" (1 Cor.1:17ff). So the apostle glories "in the cross of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)", and speaks of suffering persceution "for the Cross of Messiah".
Whether we like it or not, centuries of use have transformed the English word "cross" from a crux immissa into the whole glad announcement of our redemption through the atoning death of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). The word has a spiritual resonance that the words 'stake', 'torture stake', 'execution stake' and 'gallows' never can or will, in my opinion. We must deal with language as it is and what words have come to mean through constant use.
When I say that I have been "crucified (stauroˇ) with Messiah" it has a depth that 'torture-staked', 'execution-staked' or 'gallowed' never can. Just as we would never clumsily say, "In the beginning was the unit of speech or writing that is the smallest isolatable meaningful element of language or morpheme" instead of "In the beginning was the Word" (Jn.1:1), so it is neater and more profound to use the word "cross" instead of "I have been impaled on the execution stake with Messiah", even if both mean the same thing and both statements are true in a metaphorical sense. For me it is primarily a matter of reverence and the theological associations one makes with words.
The excuse is often made - by Jews principally - that the nazis were 'Christians', the cross is the symbol of Christianity, and therefore Jews were murdered in the name of the cross, making it an obnoxious symbol. That is false. The nazi murderers were not Christians by any Biblical definition of the term - they served under the swastika - the hooked-cross, not the Cross of Calvary.
This attempt to demonise the cross and Christians has, in truth a much deeper root - its origin is the hatred by the religious leaders of Yah'shua's (Jesus') day, and their modern day descendants in the "Synagogue of Satan" (Rev.2:9; 3:9) of what the cross represents - the atonement of Messiah whom they rejected, which is why the Talmud demonises Him. Many bad things may have been - and were - done in the name of 'Christ' (the Anglicised Greek word for Messiah) and the 'Cross' over the centuries by apostate believers but this does not make these criminals true representatives of either Messiah or what the Cross actually represents, anymore than the Synagogue of Satan represents all Jews. The Cross cannot be so easily tarnished by its enemies.
We are here to preach "the Davar (Word) of the Cross" as the central message of the Besorah (Gospel). It is "the Davar (Word) of Reconcilliation" (2 Cor.5:19), a theme that emerges with crystal clarity in Ephesians and Colossians. It is "through the Cross" that Elohim (God) has reconciled Hebrews and Gentiles, abolishing the middle wall of partition, as well as their separate identity - there is no such thing as a 'Messianic Jew' and a 'Messianc Greek' or 'Messianic Gentile' - we are all 'Messianics' or 'Christians' - the labels of separation have gone because we all serve the same Messiah and live (or are supposed to live) the same lifestyle:
It is "through the blood of His Cross" that Yahweh has made shalom (peace), in "reconciling all things to Himself" (Col.1:20ff.). This reconcilliation is at once personal and cosmic. It comes because Yah'shua (Jesus) has set aside the Sin Debt Note which stood against us because of our transgression against Him caused by disobedience to His Torah, "nailing it to His Cross" (Col.2:14).
"We have come to realise that a person is not declared righteous by Elohim (God) on the ground of his legalistic observance of the Torah mitzvot (commandments), but through the Messiah Yah'shua's (Yeshua's/Jesus') trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus) and become faithful to Him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of Messiah's trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah mitzvot (commandments). For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah mitzvot (commandments), 'no one will be declared righteous' (Ps.143:2)" (Eph.2:16, JNT/CJB).
This is one thing evangelicals have a blindspot for - they think the Torah has been nailed to the cross when it is the punishment for sin that is nailed to the cross if we repent, if we accept and surrender to Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). He pays the price for our Torah-disobedience which we could never pay for - He does not abolish His own laws or lifestyle!
Now the cross, in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament), is a symbol of shame and humiliation, as well as of Yahweh's wisdom and glory revealed through it. Rome used it not only as an instrument of torture and execution but also as a shameful pillory reserved for the worst and lowest. To the Judeans it was a sign of being accursed (Dt.21:23; Gal.3:13). This was the death Yah'shua (Jesus) died, and for which the crowd clamoured. He "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb.12:2). The lowest rung in the ladder of our Master's humiliation was that He endured "even the death of the cross" (Phil.2:8). For this reason it was a "stumblingblock" to the Jews (1 Cor.1:23; cp. Gal.5:11) and still is today. The shameful spectacle of a victim carrying a patibulum (the cross-beam) was so familiar to His hearers, that Yah'shua (Jesus) three times spoke of the road of discipleship as that of cross-bearing (Mt.10:38; Mk.8:34; Lk.14:27) - a willingness to suffer and be humiliated for His sake.
But the Cross is also glorious for the true talmid (disciple) because it is the symbol of our union with Messiah, not simply by virtue of our following His example, but by virtue of what He has done for us and in us. In His substitutory death for us on the cross, we died "IN Him" (cp. 2 Cor.5:14), that by His indwelling Ruach (Spirit) we might walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4ff.; Gal.2:20; 5:24ff; 6:14), abiding "IN Him".
The whole walk in Messiah is a gross offense to pride, the flesh, and to Satan. The Cross is probably the chief stumbling block to test the response of those unbelievers who hear the Davar (Word) preached to them. Indeed, were not most people offended by Him? And those who followed Him, were they not scandalised? Yes, the Cross is the scandal of true Emunah (Faith). And this scandal - this "offense of the cross" (Gal.5:11) is so precious that we, like Paul, should fight tooth and nail to defend it. Therefore, what shall we do, and in spite of what?
The Cross offends dignity, perceived rights and entitlements, pride, position, power...everything the world values. Yahweh chose this most potent symbol precisely because it would challenge these notions of self-security and self-entitlement. On one level the Cross represents barbarity and cruelty - how, many reason, could a religion of ahavah (love) identify with that?
"We preach Messiah crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Messiah the power of Elohim (God) and the wisdom of Elohim (God). Because the foolishness of Elohim (God) is wiser than men, and the weakness of Elohim (God) is stronger than men" (1 Cor.1:23-25, NKJV).
I know some of you here have seen the movie called The Green Mile (1999), a story about the lives of guards on Death Row leading up to the execution of a black man accused of child murder and rape, who has the power of faith-healing. There is a horrific scene where this man is slowly fried to death in the electric chair at the hands of a cruel guard. The prisoner is terribly burned and thrashes back and forth until his body is disfigured into charred remains. It is a disgusting, offensive scene, but in reality it is no comparison to the shame, agony and tortuous death suffered during a Roman crucifixion. Part of the reason the Cross is so offensive in the minds of so-called 'decent' and 'civilised' people is that they can't understand how Elohim (God) could have anything to do with such torture and cruelty. Greeks and Jews were offended for different reasons. John J. Parson writes:
Today's 'Greeks' are your humanists, rationalists and atheists who always attack a version of God sculptured by their own finite mind in the laboratory of their own futile thinking, creating the ultimate Straw Man to easily knock down.
"To the Gentiles, the image of a crucified man was a symbol of shame, weakness, and disgrace. The Greek mind esteemed learning, virtue, aesthetics and strength as the path of attaining wisdom, and therefore regarded the idea of "a god dying on a cross" as the utmost in "foolishness" (1 Cor.1:23). Furthermore, the Greek mind gloried in the autonomous use of reason to discern a world of order and perfection. [Elohim (God)] was understood as "Divine Mind," an "Unmoved Mover," and a philosophical construct that gave order and purpose to the universe. The very thought that the Creator would require the torture of an innocent man to atone for the sins of others was regarded as immoral, indecent, and ultimately as preposterous" (The Offence of the Cross).
All false religion believes in 'salvation by merit', the Judaism of the Pharisees and modern Judaism no less than the others. There is no Cross in a meritocracy - ever. That is why salvational system based on merit are dead-ends.
"The Jewish mind, on the other hand, regarded anyone "hung on a tree" as irrevocably cursed by [Yahweh] (Deut. 21:23). The Law of Moses permitted that someone who was to be executed could be hung (or impaled) and exposed, presumably as a warning [to] others. According to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 6:4), a pole with a horizontal beam was erected and the dead man's hands were bound and slung over the beam, leaving the body suspended. The ancient Greek translation of the Torah (i.e., the LXX or Septuagint) inverted the word order and translated this as "hang him on wood so that he dies," which later was used to justify the Roman practice of crucifixion (see Y. Yadim, Megillat Hamikdash). It was required by law that the exposed body be buried before sundown on the day of execution. Besides the shame and degradation of this manner of death, the executed person would be unable to fall to their knees as a final act of repentance before [Yahweh], thereby implying that they were under the irrevocable curse of God.
"To the Jew, the idea that [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] had to die a death cursed by the law of Moses is regarded as entirely repugnant to the fundamental meritocracy of the Jewish faith. How could the Messiah - the anointed one of [Elohim (God)] - ever be truly cursed? On the contrary, the Messiah would be blessed by [Elohim (God)] to reign as King of Israel who would usher in worldwide peace (Dan.7:27)! Despite various prophecies in the Tanakh (e.g., Isa.53, Psalm 22, Zech.12:10, etc.) of a "suffering servant" for Israel's sins, [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] was rejected as the Messianic expectation of Israel. Indeed, the entire concept that the Messiah was made sin (2 Cor.5:21) and made a curse (Gal.3:13) to redeem us from the "curse of the law" is regarded as offensive to Jewish religion to this day.... To Jewish religious sensibilities, [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] simply had "no form or comlineness" - lo-to'ar lo, v'lo hadar (Isa. 53:2)." (Ibid.)
This is the Great Contest in our lives, is it not? It is the contest between self-worship - self as god (666) and Yahweh-worship - Yahweh as Elohim (God) (777). Every choice we makes revolves around THIS Key Choice - the Choice of choices. Will we yield to Elohim (God) or will we yield to self? The Cross is the Way of the Master, and the upturned cross of satanism is the way of the flesh, demnation and Satan. It's really as simple as that.
"Second, the message of the cross offends because it reveals the unvarnished truth about our spiritual condition. The "real [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)]" offends us and deflates our pride. [Elohim's (God)]'s way of salvation is an affront, a scandal, an insult, and ultimately a verdict about the insufficiency of human effort to attain righteousness before a Holy [Elohim (God)]. Human "works" or merits are useless before [Elohim (God)]. The truth about the human condition is offensive. It is not flattering to say we are twisted and broken and helpless. No, the world wants the image of beauty, strength, capability, power, etc. The world wants us to worship idealized man (or woman), whereas [Elohim (God)] wants us confess our inner bankruptcy and need for Him" (Ibid.)
The great inner battles we fight are over this very issue - or whether we fall for the devil's lies about our supposed inherent goodness that bombard us daily, or whether we accept Yahweh's perspective that we are truly lost and have no hope apart from Him.
"The message of the cross -- the gospel -- is offensive to fallen human nature that seeks to justify its life here on earth. The gospel message implies that our sinful condition is so profound that it literally took the death of Yeshua to satisfy God's wrath for us. The cross implies that we are both helpless to save ourselves and hopelessly lost in sin. La'[Yahweh] Yeshuah: "Salvation is of [Yahweh]." We can do nothing to save ourselves. This is an affront to human pride that wants to add something of its own doing to "perfect" [Elohim's (God's)] work of deliverance.
"The message of the cross implies that humanity is sinful and under the sentence of divine wrath, and therefore the cross is an offense because it represents condemnation of the world. Contrary to the romantic notions of optimists, New Age thinkers, and progressive liberals, "the whole world lies in the wickedness" (1 John 5:19). Human nature is not inherently good. The cross declares that all of the religiosity and moral attempts of mankind are entirely incapable of pleasing [Elohim (God)], and that humanity itself is unable to attain genuine revelation about ultimate reality. The cross reveals that we are lost... Apart from God's intervention and saving grace, all people are doomed" (Ibid.).
The two lives - one a life of the flesh and the other a life in Messiah - are so radically different that the latter can never be seen or comprehended by the former. We cannot come into the Kingdom of Messiah until we have been willing to get over our offenedness at Yahweh's Way being entirely dissimilar to that of the world's.
"Third, the message of the cross is offensive because it requires the death of the ego. A Hebrew is one who has "passed over" to the other side. Crucifixion with [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] is the ultimate "going over." [(Pesach)] The history of the fallen human race was finished with the cross of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] at Moriah (2 Cor.5:14-15). We are now a new creation (briah chadashah). The "flesh" (i.e., the principle of ego and self-sufficiency) is crucified with Messiah, and that means all our ideals and our former identity (Jew, Gentile, male, female) are inapplicable under the New Covenant (2 Cor.5:16). The "old sin ature" has been crucified with Messiah, which means that the ego is "dead to rights" regarding our new identity. In Jewish terms, the cross is an offense because it eliminates the hallowed "mark of circumcision" - the token that something man can add is needed to be right with God (Gal.5:16).
"The devil advises using the world's methods for the promotion of the "gospel" and is ready to promote to prominence those who rely on the "flesh" to "do God's work." The world's standard for "success" is always contrary to the Spirit of Messiah, and therefore another aspect of the offense of the cross is paradox. "I have been crucified with the Messiah, therefore I no longer live but the Messiah lives in me" (Gal.2:20). Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of [Elohim (God)] (1 Cor.15:50). We die with Him in order to live with Him. We "reckon ourselves" dead to the flesh (Rom.6:11) and thereby "put away" its deeds (Col.3:5). Through teshuvah (repentance) we turn our back forever on the principle of the flesh (i.e., the "rule" of the ego and its demands). We take up our cross daily and follow the Master (Luke 9:23).
"The message of the cross is offensive because it deflates human pride and condemns the "works of religion." As Paul put it, we cannot be made "perfect by the flesh" (Gal.3:3). In traditional Judaism, ritual circumcision is symbolic of being a Jew. Circumcision is regarded as a "rite of passage" into covenant relationship with [Yahweh], a type of "giving birth" to a member of Israel. But the cross is an offense because it states that circumcision does not make you a true heir of salvation (1 Cor.7:19). Indeed, ritual circumcision implies an agreement to abide by the terms of the old covenant and therefore makes you its debtor. The two covenants are mutually exclusive on this point. Works righteousness is antithetical to the grace of [Elohim (God)] given in the Messiah (Gal.5:2-4). The divide of the Cross represents an absolute break with traditional Judaism. We are justified by trusting in [Yahweh] and not by the deeds of the Torah (Rom.3:20; Titus 3:5-6; Eph.2:8-10, etc.). Followers of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] put no confidence "in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). A counterfeit gospel always adds something more to the finished work of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] for our salvation (Gal. 1:6).
"(The flip side of this idea is that while religiously observant people were offended by [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] and his message, those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] scandalized the religious, the self-assured, the smug, the self-righteous, the philosopher, and the "intellectual," but He was receptive to the outcast and the humble (Matt.9:12-13; 21:31; Luke 15:31-32; 9:10). [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] makes the burden of salvation "easy" for those who are broken and in need of a physician (Matt. 11:28; Luke 9:12, Mark 2:17). He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.)
"The Cross of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] implies that the ceremonial expression of the Torah - the Mishkan/Temple - has forever become obsolete (Heb.7:12; 8:13). When [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)], our great High Priest [(Cohen Gadol)] after the order of Malki-Tzedek (the very first priest/king to whom Abraham... offered obeisance) cried out, "It is finished," the parochet [(veil)] in the Temple was rent asunder and "the way into the holiest of all" was now opened for all (Heb.9:8). All of the ritual law of the Torah - the sacrifices and elaborate Yom Kippur ritual - was done away, and we now have an Intercessor of indestructible life as our Advocate. To the Jew, this means the end of traditional Judaism, and this is yet another source of offense. [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] is truly a "Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense" (Isa.8:14; Matt.21:44; Rom.9:32; 1 Cor.1:23; 1 Pet.2:7-8) (Ibid. ).
The world loves existentialism and systems that artificially unite. Marxism, and all its derivatives, is the counterfeit of the authentic Way of echad (unity) in Yahweh.
"Fourth, the message of the cross is offensive because it is exclusivist. The cross is an offense because it declares that faith in the atoning sacrifice of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] is the ONLY way to be forgiven by [Yahweh]. There is no other name than the Name of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] for the salvation of human beings (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor.1:23; 1 John 2:23). Many church growth experts offer up an "inoffensive" gospel that appeals to the "felt needs" of seekers (i.e., pagans). Although good works are commendable, there is no offense in promoting social justice in the world today, just as there is no offense in seeking to alleviate the suffering of the world's poor and downtrodden. However there is considerable offense by proclaiming that [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] is the ONLY way of salvation, and there is offense by stating that His sacrifice upon the cross (alone) is the ONLY thing that makes us right with [Elohim (God)]. That kind of talk will be regarded as offensive -- intolerant and even hateful -- to those who attempt to justify themselves apart from [Elohim (God)]. The pragmatist is willing to overlook the offense of the gospel for the sake of "unity" that brings the people of the world together. Ecumenicism is therefore the "holy grail" of the organized church. However, there is NO model for this approach given in Scripture, and especially not in the teaching and ministry of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] our Messiah" (Ibid.).
This is such essential teaching - such concentrated emet (truth) that it needs to be repeated time and time again. There is no escaping the cross if you are honest and sincere about salvation. It is salvation's essence. Parsons concludes:
"Fifth, the message of the cross is offensive because of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)], the "Skandalon of [Elohim (God)]." The Man who was regarded as a criminal was really the King; the powerless one became [Master] over all; the one who could not save Himself became the Savior; the one who was killed became Victor over death itself. Indeed, as Kierkegaard pointed out, [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)] is the Absolute Paradox ([Elohim (God)] in Messiah; [Elohim (God)] on the Cross). The eternal, essential truth has entered into time; the infinite has been joined to the finite, the necessary has been joined with the contingent. "The absurd is that the eternal truth has come into exis tence in time, that [Elohim (God)] has come into existence, has been born, has grown up, has come into existence exactly as an individual human being, indistinguishable from any other human being." To the natural mind, the mind that seeks "objective truth" and rational comprehension, this is an offense as well. "Christianity claims to be the eternal, essential truth that has come into existence in time. It proclaims itself as the paradox and thus requires the inwardness of faith - that which is an offense to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, and an absurdity to the understanding."
"The offense of the cross is inextricably part of the proclamation of the message of salvation itself. This is an offense that never was intended to cease (Gal. 5:11). "Take up your cross and follow Me!" We are called to forsake everything we know -- family, friends, culture, traditions, a sense of identity as a Jew -- to experience the miracle of newness of life. "Paul never glamorized the gospel. It is not success, but sacrifice! It's not a glamorous gospel, but a bloody gospel, a gory gospel, and a sacrificial gospel! Five minutes inside eternity and we will wish that we had sacrificed more, wept more, bled more, grieved more, loved more, prayed more, given more" (Leonard Ravenhill). The cross is a death sentence to this world but a "crossing over" to the world to come. And while it is scandalous to worldly wisdom and human reason, it is of inestimable worth, a "pearl of great price," the true treasure of the heart, a joy unspeakable and full of [Elohim's (God's)] glory" (Ibid.).
It is for Messianics like the man who was upset at the image of the cross on my Sukkot pulpit this year that I dedicate this sermon, in the sincere prayer that they will come to realise that they are being offended in the same way as the unsaved...which ought to scare them, I hope, into re-examining their prejudices and see that what appears to be a scandal is in truth the means of their deliverance.
"It's a bit ironic that some Messianic believers have a "problem" with the cross of [Yah'shua (Yeshua/Jesus)], especially since it is clear that the cross was always intended to be an object of offense (as well as a symbol of [Elohim's (God's)] triumph)... That's not to deny, of course, the horrors of false Christians who waged "crusades" and did other evils under the emblem of the cross... Indeed, Hitler ... co-opted the organized "church" in Germany to help further the Nazi agenda! It's tragic that the cross - originally an offense regarding man's sinfulness and yet the means for obtaining forgiveness - has become associated itself with the perpetration of horrible sins committed in its name! Still, the New Testament is clear that there is an offense associated with the Cross, and it is good to remind ourselves what that offense really means...." (Ibid.).
I am not ashamed of the cross or its symbol. I proclaim it, and I proclaim it loudly. We wear it on our pulpits. I love the classical hymn, The Old RuggŔd Cross, that is a part of this ministry's hymnody. In this matter I am 100% evangelical and will not yield an iota of its emet (truth) to appease any messianic prejudice. Let the unrepentant be offended but let them realise too that to persist in this offense is to march down to hell with the devil in hand.
May you find shalom (peace) in the Cross! Amen.