Q. Why is Jesus a stumbling block to Jews in 1 Co 1:23 “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness”? Didn’t God want His chosen people saved?
A. God wants His chosen people saved, but on His terms, not theirs. In Jesus’ days the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (the Christ, the anointed one) was that He will be a mighty conqueror, overthrowing the Romans and restoring the kingdom to Israel:
• Mk 1:7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. (Also Lk 3:16; Acts 13:25)
• Acts 1:6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
They were looking for a military deliverer, similar to the judges in OT times, only greater. Jesus, however, was gentle and humble in heart (Mt 11:29) and did not fit their expectation, so they stumbled over Him.
Secondly, the Jews were pursuing a law of righteousness (Rom 9:31) i.e. they were trying to establish their own righteousness by works. They did not pursue righteousness by faith, so they stumbled over the stone of stumbling and rock of offense i.e. Christ:
• Rom 9:32-33 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
• 1 Pet 2:8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.
They stumbled because they were disobedient to the word, which says “the righteous will live by his faith” (Hab 2:4).
In summary, Jesus is a stumbling block to Jews because their preconceived notions about the Messiah prejudiced them, and their pride led them to perform to save themselves instead of trusting in the cross.
(To be continued)