Now it is necessary to remember the meaning of the word "offend." In its original form it is the very word we frequently use - scandalize, and has the force of causing to stumble. So we may translate and expand this saying of Christ as being: "Blessed is he who does not find in Me any cause of stumbling; who can keep his feet in My ways; who is not tripped up by any obstacles in the path into which I have directed him." He uses the word quite frequently in this sense; as, for instance, when He speaks of a man's hand or eye being a cause of stumbling to him, when He denounces those who cause little ones to be offended, and when He declares that in the day of His glory all things that offend shall be rooted out of His kingdom.
But He never uses it so surprisingly as when He declares the possibility of men finding occasion of stumbling in Him. We are prepared to find it in the world, in the opposition of the devil, in the proven insincerity of others - but in Him! This is surely the most startling of all His warnings. For in Him we have already found life and salvation, guidance and peace, inspiration and satisfaction. And now to contemplate finding in Him also any cause of offence fairly staggers us. Had this word been applicable to men of the world, it would have occasioned little, if any, surprise. For instance, we are not greatly taken aback when those who knew Him so familiarly should treat Him so contemptuously and say: "Is not this the carpenter's
son?" Nor are we entirely unprepared to find that the Pharisees were offended in Him when He spoke to them of the evil thoughts, adulteries, murders, and the like, which proceed from the hearts of men; for His words convicted them of sin. We are not much surprised that He should be a rock of offence to those who are avowedly disobedient to His demands. But that His own friends, those who really know Him, and have been admitted into the intimacies of fellowship with Him, should find cause of offence in Him is passing strange. And its very mystery warns us to take heed to ourselves.
The setting of the first of these gives us the key to their significance. John the Baptist was languishing in prison on the shores of the Dead Sea as the outcome of a life of the utmost faithfulness. He had been tremendously loyal to Christ, splendidly in earnest concerning his mission, wonderfully courageous in giving forth the message committed to him, and yet it had all ended in a dungeon.
What a test for such a man!
It seemed as though his faith, his self-restriction, his willingness to decrease that Christ might increase, had all been unrecognized and unvalued. His experience so entirely contradicted God's assurance, that it is easy to understand the perplexity of mind which led him to send his disciples to Christ with the pathetic query: "Art thou He that should come?" For here is One who has avowedly come to deliver captives, and yet He does not deliver the man who, more than all others, seemed to have claims upon Him. He has proclaimed His own mission in terms of sympathy and love for the heat-broken, and yet here is a crushed and heart-broken man of whom He apparently takes no notice.
(continued with # 3)