Jesus is the Christ!
These are words that detonate thoughts of joyous grace and mercy for many; fits of rage, persecution, and murder for others.
For Stephen, they were the words of life; for Saul, they were a heretical attack against his religion (Acts 7), both being convinced that Judaism and Christianity were entirely incompatible.
What makes these words so offensive for the many? Why can the religious world be so tolerant of every religion and so antagonistic toward the faith of Christianity?
Is it not because the proclamation “Jesus is the Christ” unearths the false premise behind every other religion on earth? If Jesus is the Messiah, then every other attempt to gain access to God is fraudulent in its promises.
Jesus cannot be both ‘the’ way and also ‘a’ way to God. If there is any path to God, save for Him; He is ‘no way’ at all. Yet, Jesus is the Christ!
For Paul (Saul), this meant coming to the complete understanding that his entire past life in the fold of Judaism was nothing more than street garbage (Philippians 3:3-8) as far as pleasing God was concerned. He came to the knowledge that not one single thing he did under the guise of a religious Jew earned him an audience with his God. By the way, he was a Hebrew among the Hebrews… a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was sold out and surrendered to the cause of Judaism.
Previous to his Damascus road conversion, the words “Jesus is the Christ” angered him so greatly that he sought to rid the world of its message. As a faithful Pharisee, he pleaded for permission to imprison, even kill Christians carrying the gospel of Jesus. The message of the Cross is that offensive.
The anger and hatred toward Christianity is entirely an indicator of how prideful a fallen people we are. We can’t stand the thought of not being able to do it on our own, or that we can be eternally wrong.
When the Bible tells us that Jesus is God’s Messiah, it is the good news that because of our inability, God took care of our sin problem all by Himself. Sin erected an unbridgeable gap between man and God, so He entered our rebellious world of death and decay, and paid our penalty for us.
Do you see why those trapped in the world of religion would hate these words? Recognizing that “Jesus is the Christ” means first understanding that all other ways lead to destruction. True life is only available through Jesus the Son of God.
The gospel grates the conscience of the religious because it leaves them level in their nakedness among all of humanity, desperately needing to be robed with the righteousness of Jesus the Christ!