Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Scandalous Rock

A Scandalous Rock

Romans 9:33
as it is written,
“See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

This entire chapter is one in which there is discussion regarding the role and place of the Israelites as the children of God.  They are indeed born Israelites, but are they born children of God?  What they were unable to accomplish through the law is now able to be completed by those who are in Christ.  And here comes the description of the Messiah.  He is a stone which is laid among the Israelites, right in the center of Zion.  But the Israelites would struggle with him because he wasn't what they expected.  They stumbled into him and over him.  He was the rock that would make them fall and in the Greek the root of the word to fall is the root for the word scandal.  The religious leaders and others who were so arrogantly following the law found Jesus' behavior scandalous and so they tripped and fell, most of them never recovering.  

Scandals are embarrassing and shameful.  Jesus was an embarrassment to the established religious authorities.  But for those who did believe in him they were not put to shame!  The scandal of the rock left them eternally unscathed.


My husband and I enjoy the entertaining headlines on the tabloids as we check out at the supermarket.  There is always some kind of new scandal to try and draw you in for people just love that juicy scandalous news.  The twenty four hour news cycle feeds off of scandals.  Somehow we seem to find these scandals exciting and yet the scandal of the Messiah was a real threat to the religious authorities.  Thinking of this word scandal made me wonder whether we would find Jesus scandalous today.  Somehow I think we would because he would not fit all of our nice preconceived, often cultural notions, of what he ought to be like.  

How do we keep ourselves from being brought down by the scandal of the rock?  Honestly I'm not sure there is an easy answer for this because I'm afraid that when we really get to know Jesus we discover some of the things that he did and the places that he went to be quite scandalous.  Our focus and/or emphasis on his action on the cross tends to distract us from the way in which he lived his life.  It was his life that was a scandal to the religious believers and it was his life and our imitation of it which takes us beyond the scandal and shame.  Jesus' life becomes, for us, the model of the holy life.  And yes, that holy life took him out into the every day dirt of the world.  He hung out with rough people, he had women as part of his entourage, and he reached out and found the needy, taking care of their needs and forgiving their sins.  

Jesus spent time along with the father; long hours in prayer, but when he had done this he was ready to return to the work among the people.  For Jesus the holy life was not lived in seclusion from the filth of the world.  The world could not make Jesus unclean, rather he could make the world clean.  You also don't hear Jesus talk about his own rights.  He was constantly bending to the will of the father.  Whatever was prudent in the ushering in of the kingdom was what he wanted to do.  And this was seen as scandalous.

I've had a few scandalous conversations in my years; conversations  with good religious folk who say they want to do all they can to further the Kingdom of God.  And then they tell me that they can't adapt their style of worship for other people.  They need new young blood in the church but not if they have to sing some new songs!  They tell me that they won't share a pastor with another church (even if they don't have the money to support a pastor)...reiterating, "We don't share!"  And then I wonder what would happen if Jesus walked into the room?  What would he require?  And I'm guessing it would be scandalous what Jesus would suggest! And there are only two options, believe in him and trust in him to take care of things, or fall over the scandalous suggestions.  Where would we find ourselves?  Would we be with him or flat our on the floor?

We are being challenged to be reflections of Jesus Christ to our world.  This means that there will be times when he may ask us to do something that may seem scandalous and yet he has promised, those who trust in him will not be put to shame.  Are we willing to trust him?


Lord, trust is easier said than done.  Please give me your strength to trust each day.  Amen.  

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