“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:23
In Jewish terms, the idea of the Messiah (Christ) being crucified is a contradiction in terms. To the Jews the Messiah is to be a king like David, who would come and establish an eternal rule. It would be a Coming One of power and great might subduing the world under his rule. A true Israel would be established and the world would honor and respect this rule being in turn blessed by the justice this Christ brings. But to be crucified is to be hanged on a tree and a hanged man is cursed by God, a bandit, insurrectionist or criminal (Deut 21:23). It is blasphemy to Jewish ears to say that the Messiah had come but died.
Gentiles heard that Christians were following a new king, yet this king was not present on earth. In fact they understood Christians to be following a God/king who was killed by the hands of men. In all the gods of the Gentiles, who would believe stories about a god who could be killed, by men, and still a king to follow who was not present? A killed king was one who was defeated by a more powerful ruler. Religious overtones would even add that if a king fell, it was because they were out of favor with God.
All these things we modern Christians attest are true and have a more spiritual understanding. But we only have this assurance because we believe that Christ did not remain dead, crucified and buried, but that He rose again from the grave. In this manner Christ triumphs over all other kings, rulers and what would be gods. We can preach the offense/foolishness of the cross, because we believe the story did not end there. Yet without the resurrection these things would be just what Jews and Gentiles say they are (1 Cor. 15:14).