There is in Christendom an incessant twaddling on Sundays about the glorious and invaluable truths of Christianity, its mild consolation. But it is indeed evident that Christ lived 1800 years ago; for the rock of offense and object of faith has become a most charming fairy-story character, a kind of divine good old man. People have not the remotest idea of what it means to be offended by him, and still less, what it means to worship. The qualities for which Christ is magnified are precisely those which would have most enraged one, if one had been contemporaneous with him; whereas now one feels altogether secure, placing implicit confidence in the result and, relying altogether on the verdict of history that he was the great man, concludes therefore that it is correct to do so. That is to say, it is the correct, and the noble, and the exalted, and the true, thing—if it is he who does it; which is to say, again, that one does not in any deeper sense take the pains to understand what it is he does, and that one tries even less, to the best of one’s ability and with the help of God, to be like him in acting rightly and nobly, and in an exalted manner, and truthfully. For, not really fathoming it in any deeper sense, one may, in the exigency of a contemporaneous situation, judge him in exactly the opposite way. One is satisfied with admiring and extolling and is, perhaps, as was said of a translator who rendered his original word for word and therefore without making sense, “too conscientious,” —one is, perhaps, also too cowardly and too weak to wish to understand his real meaning. Christendom has done away with Christianity, without being aware of it. Therefore, if anything is to be done about it, the attempt must be made to re-introduce Christianity.
He who invites is, then, Jesus Christ in his abasement, it is he who spoke these words of invitation. It is not from his glory that they are spoken. If that were the case, then Christianity were heathendom and the name of Christ taken in vain, and for this reason it cannot be so. But if it were the case that he who is enthroned in glory had said these words: Come hither—as though it were so altogether easy a matter to be clasped in the arms of glory—well, what wonder, then, if crowds of men ran to him! But they who thus throng to him merely go on a wild goose chase, imagining they know who Christ is. But that no one knows; and in order to believe in him one has to begin with his abasement. He who invites and speaks these words, that is, he whose words they are—whereas the same words if spoken by some one else are, as we have seen, an historic falsification—he is the same lowly Jesus Christ, the humble man, born of a despised maiden, whose father is a carpenter, related to other simple folk of the very lowest class, the lowly man who at the same time (which, to be sure, is like oil poured on the fire) affirms himself to be God. It is the lowly Jesus Christ who spoke these words. And no word of Christ, not a single one, have you permission to appropriate to yourself, you have not the least share in him, are not in any way of his company, if you have not become his contemporary in lowliness in such fashion that you have become aware, precisely like his contemporaries, of his warning: “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.” You have no right to accept Christ’s words, and then lie him away; you have no right to accept Christ’s words, and then in a fantastic manner, and with the aid of history, utterly change the nature of Christ; for the chatter of history about him is literally not worth a fig.