In Matthew 26:31, Jesus made a most startling prediction to His disciples. He said, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” In the King James Version it says, “All of you will be offended because of Me this night.” The word translated “offended” comes from the Greek word skandalizo, from which we get the word scandalize. It literally means that you will be caused to trip up, to stumble, or to fall down. In this warning, Jesus was not talking about physically falling down, He was talking about their spiritual experience. That night the disciples would stumble. They would become offended and angry. Eventually they would all forsake Christ.
Before we look at why Jesus gave this warning, we need to understand the significance of who these men were. Back in Old Testament times, God had a chosen people. When He was rejected by the descendents of Adam, and all the world was destroyed by a universal flood, except for a family of eight people, those eight were His chosen people. After the almost universal apostasy at the tower of Babel, God chose Abraham and his descendents as His people. Alas, Israel too apostatized, and the two remaining tribes were called Judah. When the Messiah arrived over a thousand years later, almost all of the Jewish nation rejected Him!
The time has come, the night when Jesus is to be betrayed. His followers have been winnowed time and time again, and there are only eleven men present who have remained faithful. (There were also a few men and women who still followed Him, but they were not present.) If you had been watching Jesus’ popularity decline, until there were just eleven followers remaining, what would you have said? Some were saying that Jesus could not be the Messiah, because if He was He would be more successful. “Look,” they said, “If He was really the Messiah, crowds would be following Him, and His disciples would be the rich and learned, not a bunch of scrappy fishermen.”
Of these eleven men who followed Jesus, Matthew was a tax collector (the group despised by the Jews as the lowest class of society), another was Simon the Zealot who belonged to a sect that wanted to overthrow the Romans. Then there was Peter who was always sticking his foot in his mouth, and James and John, who were so hot headed that Jesus Himself called them the sons of thunder.
Not only were there just eleven men left, but these eleven could not even seem to get along. That very night they had been quarreling and bickering over who would be the greatest in the earthly kingdom that they envisioned. In the middle of this Jesus makes the startling announcement, “All of you will be offended because of Me this night.”
This was incomprehensible. They are the eleven faithful ones who had gone through everything with Christ. Everyone else forsaken Him, but they still held on. And yet Jesus says to them, “You will all be offended. You will be caused to stumble because of Me this night.”
We need to understand how this could be. What reasons are revealed in Scripture for this remnant group becoming offended and losing their hold on Jesus? Here are three:
- Events were going to develop that night which they did not expect. It is bad to meet a crisis, when you expect it, but it is even worse when it comes as a total surprise.
I remember in 1976, my wife and I and her family went to Hawaii. There we took a tour of the memorial to what happened on December 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor. The memorial was built on top of the sunken battleship U.S.S. Arizona. On a white marble monument are engraved the names of all the people who were on that battleship and died that morning. It was terrible what happened there, but it was worse than it needed to be because it was unexpected.
- The crisis the disciples would face that night was severe and they were not prepared for it.
They had no idea that in less than twenty-four hours Jesus would be dead. That night Jesus would be betrayed, mocked, scourged and spat upon. They did not know that the next morning He would be lead to the cross and crucified. They should have known, they had been given several opportunities, but they did not.
- The severe, unexpected trial that they would face would seem to them to be totally unexplainable and unreasonable. They would not be able to explain how or why they were going through these awful trials.
Have you ever been through a terrible experience and you could not find any reasons why? As a Pastor I hear from people in situations like this often. Sometimes a person will come to me and say, “My wife (or my husband) decided to divorce me, and until they told me they wanted to file for a divorce, I did not know that anything was wrong in our marriage.” A person in that kind of situation is in a terrible dilemma. They cannot explain what is going on, and it seems totally unfair and unreasonable.
When you have severe, unexpected trials, that seem unexplainable and unreasonable, you are tempted to become discouraged and overwhelmed with the blackness of despair. The temptation is very strong to just give up. Not just to give up on yourselves, but to give up on God.
I cannot count how many times people have asked me a question like, “If there is a God in heaven and if He is so powerful, why am I going through such an awful experience?” So often our first reaction is to blame God for all of our problems, and give up on Him because we doubt His mercy and love for us. But if this temptation is not resisted, you will lose your hold on God. As a result of despair and hopelessness, your faith will be lost and you will become a victim of unbelief. Then you are really in trouble because you are in a mental condition where the devil’s angels can tremendously influence your mind.
Who Would Be Offended?
Now that we have seen why the disciples were offended, we need to consider another part of this text. Jesus said to them, “ALL of you will be offended because of Me this night.” Why did Jesus say all? The reason that every member of the church at that time would be offended was because they all had imperfect characters. The events that would unfold that night would cause everyone in the church, who had an imperfect character, to become offended.
Why did Jesus make this statement? Was it because He just wanted to rebuke them? “Jesus stood ready to reveal Himself to Peter. In His great love, He told Peter of his denial. He sought to reveal the defects of his character and his necessity for the help which Christ alone could give.” Signs of the Times, November 11, 1897. [All emphasis supplied.]
Jesus gave Peter, and the other disciples, this warning because He loved them. This is a lesson that we need to learn as well. God speaks to His people because He loves them—even when He rebukes them, it is for their own good. Jesus wanted the disciples to know that something terrible was about to happen, and they needed to get ready for it. He revealed to Peter his character defects in hopes that he would come to Him and ask for help. By this time, He had already told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crew. Peter should have said, “Lord, if you see that I am going to do this, please do something so that I can be changed and I will not deny you.” But instead he turned self-confidently away.
If the disciples had gone to the Lord and asked for special grace to resist the temptation, He would have heard their prayers. He wanted them to turn to Him for help and that is why He gave them this solemn warning.
Remember the story of Jonah? God sent Jonah to tell the nation of Nineveh that they were going to be destroyed in forty days. Why did God send this message through Jonah? He wanted the people of Nineveh to know that if they continued in the path they were taking they would be destroyed. They started praying, repenting of their sinfulness, and begging for mercy, so God gave them another chance. And that is what Jesus was trying to do for His disciples.
These men had been with Jesus for over three years. They had seen His miracles, and watched as He read the hearts and minds of men. They should have known by this time that Jesus knew them better than they knew themselves, but they were too self-confident to listen.
Later that same evening when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus came to the disciples and all of them were asleep. Jesus told them, “Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation.” But did they listen? No, they were too self-confident. When Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Him, Peter self-assuredly said, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.” Matthew 26:35. He had already made his decision. He thought he knew himself, but did he really?
Could We Become Offended ?
Is there any chance that something like this could happen again? Not only is there a chance, but it is a matter of prophecy that what happened at the end of Jesus’ first coming will happen again just before His second coming. Jesus talked about it in His discussion with His disciples which is recorded in Matthew 24. He said, “All of these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended (skandalizo) and will betray one another and will hate one another.” Matthew 24:8–10. The first step in becoming offended is when you get irritated with someone. Before the irritation is passed, you do not like them and eventually you hate them so much that you are willing to betray them. These are exactly the steps that Judas took when he became offended.
Continuing on in Matthew 24 Jesus said, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:11, 12. We are in that time right now when lawlessness is abounding. It is sickening to see how wicked this world has become, but Jesus concludes this passage with a wonderful promise: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Verse 13.
Here in Matthew 24 there is a prediction that the same thing that happened to Jesus’ disciples is going to happen in the Christian world at the end of time. The following is a comment on the parable of the ten virgins and it sheds some light on this subject. “The coming of the bridegroom was at midnight, the darkest hour. So the coming of Christ will take place in the darkest period of this earth’s history. The great apostasy will develop into darkness deep as midnight, impenetrable as sackcloth of hair.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 414.
We are approaching that midnight right now, as the Second Coming of Christ is very near, and Jesus says to every person in His church who has an imperfect character, “This night all of you will be offended.” Many people, like Peter, are saying, “Oh, no, Lord, not me. I am going to be faithful to the end.” But Jesus says to everyone who has an imperfect character, “This night you will be offended, all of you.” Unless you have a perfect character, events will develop that will cause you to be offended.
There are some that are especially in danger of being offended. Let us look carefully at some of these classes.
Just before the end of the world, many young people will be offended. These are people that have gone through many shaking experiences with God’s people, but they are finally going to say, “We have worked hard trying to do the work of the Lord. We have invested our lives, given the strength of our blood, sweat and tears for God’s work and yet nobody appreciates our efforts. We have given everything we have to become qualified to do God’s work, and we have not gone back on the historic, New Testament teachings. We have endured many times of apostasy and trouble and now it is all for naught because no one trusts us.”
Young people have different temptations than adults. In a commentary written on this text in The Youth’s Instructor, June 5, 1902, Mrs. White said this: “Filled with self-sufficiency they make no effort to correct the objectionable traits of character that have been handed down to them as a birthright. They are constantly making mistakes, but when corrected, they show impatience.”
This is a great temptation for young people. Often young people will say to me, “Pastor John, the person that is correcting me does not know enough about the situation. He does not know as much about it as I do.” That may be true. It is possible that in certain situations a person fifty years old may not know as much as a person eighteen years old. It is possible that someone may make a mistake no matter how old and wise they are. But suppose that you are absolutely sure that you are right and that the person who is trying to correct you is wrong, can you still be patient?
Sometimes a young person says something like this, “Well, even though I am young, I am not stupid,” or “even though I am young, that does not mean I do not have any talents.” Inspiration admonishes us, “It is the superficial thinker who deems himself wise. Men of solid worth and high attainments are generally most ready to admit the weakness of their own understanding. Humility is the constant attendant of true wisdom.” Ibid. Do not be self-confident. (That applies to everyone.) There is nothing so offensive to God as a person who is full of pride and self-sufficiency.
The Aged and Wise
Young people are not the only class who are going to be offended at the end of the world. The second group in the church who are going to be offended are the aged and the wise. They are prone to say something similar to this: “We have given wise counsel to keep men and women from making serious mistakes, but no one is listening. And as a result, the work of God seems to be disorganized and in shambles.”
Many who esteem themselves experienced Christians will become offended because events are not taking place, as they believed they should. They will say, “This cannot be God’s church because if it was there would not be all this dissention and division.” And these “wise” men will seek a human organization in which to place their confidence.
The Rich and the Poor
At the end of the world, the rich people in the church are going to become offended. They will say, “We invested all these resources in God’s work because we wanted to see God’s work finished quickly. However, the people that we asked to manage the projects were not faithful to their trust, because they did not follow our instructions, and look at the terrible losses that are happening! I do not think I want to be involved any more financially in finishing God’s work because every time I try to help, the resources I give are mismanaged.”
Every poor person who does not have a perfect character is going to be offended, too. They are going to say, “I have invested my life in God’s work with no financial remuneration at all. I have sacrificed my time, my strength and all my talents in God’s work—not expecting any remuneration in this world. After I have given my entire life to God’s work and done the best that I can, all I get is criticism. I am told that I have not managed it right, or that I should have spent the money more wisely.” And so they too are offended.
Every minister that does not have a perfect character before Jesus comes is going to be offended. What are they going to say? I have already heard it over and over. “I have invested my whole life, gone to colleges and universities to get a training to help in God’s work for a very low salary. I have invested my whole life in God’s work and when I give people counsel, they will not listen, but when things go wrong, I get the blame for it.”
And the common people of all nations will be offended because Jesus said, “The sheep will be scattered.” Everyone that has an imperfect character will be offended.
What is the answer to this dilemma that all of us face? What can we do when we are faced with an unexpected severe trial? What could Peter have done? Peter was always the first one to talk. The first thing Peter could have done was realize that this was the time when silence would be eloquent, and it was not the time to talk until he had done some serious thinking.
When Jesus said, “You are all going to be offended,” what He was saying to Peter was, “Look, Peter, you are a lot weaker than you think you are.” Is there any danger that we could be weaker than we think we are? If we begin to feel our personal weakness, is there anything that can be done about this weakness? There is plenty that can be done if you realize that you have a problem and you go to the Lord and ask for help.
Paul knew about this kind of experience: “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me and a messenger of Satan to buffet me lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me and He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. Paul went to the Lord and said, “I am in trouble. I want you to take me out of this trouble.” The Lord said, “No, I cannot take you out of the trouble, but I will give you sufficient grace to endure.” In other words, He is going to give you of His divine power and provide all the help you need.
We are rapidly approaching the midnight of earth’s history and while theologians are arguing over whether character perfection is necessary, Jesus says to every Christian who has an imperfect character, “This night all of you will become offended because of Me.” We must be praying night and day that the Lord will impart to each one of us a perfect character so that no matter what happens, we will not become irritated with our wife or our husband or a church member or someone we work with. No matter how unreasonable they are, no matter how unexpected the trials are, no matter how fiery the trials are.
Do you want this to happen in your life? Do you want it to happen in your home? The principles that we have looked at, if they are applied, could save a lot of marriages. If you want these principles to be applied in your life, if you want Jesus to bring His love into your heart and life, ask Him today. He has promised that He will never turn a sincere seeker away.