A Scandalous Easter Story

Flagellation of Christ by Caravaggio You can hear anything at my local coffee-shop. Yesterday I was chatting with an old regular who had this to say about the upcoming Easter holiday, “For God so loved the world that he killed his Son. That’s exactly how I’d want to spend my Easter Sunday, just hanging around [stretches out his arms] like Jesus.”

To say I felt my stomach turn would be an understatement. I felt sick, stressed, defensive, defenseless, flabbergasted, heartbroken. Yes, Americans have a freedom of speech – as has been so plainly demonstrated in recent news – but how the free speech of others threatens to quell our own!

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a Christian. It is troubling to me how I can so freely share my faith when set the terms, like on my blog, but when push comes to shove I find myself gaping and speechless. I’ve begun to pray more fervently for matching boldness and double portions of grace. To my shame, I was less than bold and too shocked to be gracious yesterday.

This dude was already on an impressive rant about whatever else had gotten his goat during the course of the morning. I had even jokingly asked what was put in his coffee and where could I get some. As it turns out he wasn’t just hopped up on caffeine. He was hopped up on his own hubris. So full of himself that, to put it forcefully, he blasphemed the nature and character of God.

Which is exactly why Jesus “hung around” on a cross.

Today is Good Friday. Over two-thousand years ago, on a Friday like this one, a group of Roman soldiers drove nails through the hands and feet of Jesus of Nazareth; a crowd of people, just like you and I, begged for it to be done. Jesus of Nazareth, though, wasn’t just a carpenter that hailed from Galilee. He claimed to be the Son of God. Either Jesus was lying, sorely mistaken, or telling the truth. As a Christian, I do believe Jesus was who he claimed to be – God incarnate, Emmanuel, God with us.

The cross of Christ is foolish to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). Even more so, as my coffee-shop buddy indicated, it is scandalous. It is scandalous that God would make a plan to restore ruined sinners to himself. (I would highly recommend D.A. Carson’s’ well-written and well-argued thoughts on the scandalous nature of the crucifixion for more on the subject.) Maybe you think I’m crazy for believing this wild story, just like that guy. I grant the story is wild. The gospel is wild. The concept is so far out, it either has to be the most outlandish lie ever created or the most fantastic truth of all time.

Thankfully, the burden of proof isn’t on me. If you think the Gospel is false, you prove it. Scripture has made its case. You make yours. As the old Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon is quoted as saying:

“The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage.”

May the Gospel roar.

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