“Happy is the one who finds no cause for stumbling in me.”—MATT. 11:6.
SONG 54 “This Is the Way”
1. What may have surprised you when you first tried to share the Bible’s message with others?
DO YOU remember the moment when you first realized that you had found the truth? The Bible teachings that you were learning seemed so clear—crystal clear! You felt that everyone would want to accept the things you had come to believe. You were convinced that the Bible’s message would give them a meaningful life now and a wonderful hope for the future. (Ps. 119:105) So you enthusiastically shared the truths you had found with all your friends and relatives. But what happened? To your surprise, many rejected what you told them.
2-3. How did the majority of people in Jesus’ day react to him?
2 None of us should be surprised when others reject the message we preach. In Jesus’ day, the majority rejected him, even though he performed miracles, proving that he had God’s backing. For example, Jesus resurrected Lazarus—a miracle that those who opposed him could not deny. Nevertheless, the Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. They even wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus!—John 11:47, 48, 53; 12:9-11.
3 Jesus knew that most people would refuse to acknowledge him as the Messiah. (John 5:39-44) He told a group of disciples of John the Baptist: “Happy is the one who finds no cause for stumbling in me.” (Matt. 11:2, 3, 6) Why did so many reject Jesus?
4. What will we consider in this article?
4 In this article, as well as in the following one, we will examine a number of reasons why many in the first century did not put faith in Jesus. We will also see why many today allow themselves to be stumbled. Most important, we will learn why we can have strong faith in Jesus so that we are not stumbled.
(1) JESUS’ BACKGROUND
5. Why might some have concluded that Jesus could not be the foretold Messiah?
5 Many stumbled because of Jesus’ background. They admitted that Jesus was an amazing teacher and that he performed miracles. But to them, he was just the son of a humble carpenter. And he was from Nazareth, a city that may have been considered of little importance. Even Nathanael, who became a disciple of Jesus, at first said: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) Nathanael may have been unimpressed by the city in which Jesus then lived. Or he may have had in mind the prophecy found at Micah 5:2, which foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, not in Nazareth.
6. What should have helped people in Jesus’ day to identify Jesus as the Messiah?
6 What do the Scriptures say? The prophet Isaiah foretold that Jesus’ enemies would fail to concern themselves “with the details of [the Messiah’s] generation.” (Isa. 53:8) Many such details were prophesied. If those people had taken the time to examine all the facts, they would have learned that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that he was a descendant of King David. (Luke 2:4-7) So Jesus’ place of birth was in line with the prophecy found at Micah 5:2. What, then, was the problem? People were too quick to make a judgment. They did not have all the facts. Because of this, they were stumbled.
7. Why do many today reject Jehovah’s people?
7 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. As a whole, Jehovah’s people are of a humble background; they are viewed by many as being “uneducated and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13) Some feel that God’s people cannot teach about the Bible because they have not graduated from recognized theological schools. Others claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are an “American religion,” even though, in fact, only approximately 1 in 7 of Jehovah’s Witnesses lives in the United States. Still others have been told that the Witnesses do not accept Jesus. Over the years, Jehovah’s people have been labeled “Communists,” “American spies,” and “extremists.” Because those who are told these stories do not have or do not accept the facts, they are stumbled.
8. According to Acts 17:11, what should people do if they want to identify God’s servants today?
8 How can one avoid being stumbled? People need to examine the facts. That is what the Gospel writer Luke was determined to do. He made it a point to trace “all things from the start with accuracy.” He wanted his readers to “know fully the certainty of the things” they had heard about Jesus. (Luke 1:1-4) The Jewish people in ancient Beroea were like Luke. When they first heard the good news about Jesus, they consulted the Hebrew Scriptures to confirm what they were being told. (Read Acts 17:11.) In a similar way, people today need to examine the facts. They must compare what they are taught by God’s people with what the Scriptures say. They also need to study the record of Jehovah’s people in modern times. If they do a proper “background check,” they will not allow prejudice or hearsay to blind them.
(2) JESUS REFUSED TO PERFORM SHOWY SIGNS
9. What happened when Jesus refused to display a sign from heaven?
9 Some in Jesus’ day were not satisfied with his amazing teachings. They wanted more. They demanded that he prove that he was the Messiah by displaying “a sign from heaven.” (Matt. 16:1) Perhaps they based this demand on a misunderstanding of Daniel 7:13, 14. However, it was not Jehovah’s time for that prophecy to be fulfilled. What Jesus was teaching should have been enough to convince them that he was the Messiah. But when he refused to give them the sign they were seeking, they were stumbled.—Matt. 16:4.
10. How did Jesus fulfill what Isaiah wrote about the Messiah?
10 What do the Scriptures say? Of the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “He will not cry out or raise his voice, and he will not make his voice heard in the street.” (Isa. 42:1, 2) Jesus went about his ministry in a quiet and modest way. He did not build impressive temples, and he did not wear distinctive religious garments or demand to be addressed by pretentious religious titles. When he was on trial for his life, Jesus refused to try to impress King Herod by performing a sign for him. (Luke 23:8-11) Jesus did perform some miracles, but his main focus was on preaching the good news. “This is why I have come,” he told his disciples.—Mark 1:38.
11. What wrong expectations do some have today?
11 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. Today many are impressed by great cathedrals containing priceless artwork, by clergymen with high-sounding titles, and by ceremonies the origin and meaning of which have been forgotten by most. But what are people who attend religious services learning about God and his purposes? Those who attend our Christian meetings learn what Jehovah requires of us and how to act in harmony with his will. Our Kingdom Halls are clean and functional, but they are not extravagant. Those taking the lead do not wear distinctive garb; nor do they take on pretentious titles. God’s Word forms the basis for our teachings and beliefs. Even so, many today are stumbled because they think that our way of worship is too simple and that what we teach does not match what they want to hear.
12 How can we avoid being stumbled? The apostle Paul told Christians living in Rome: “Faith follows the thing heard. In turn, what is heard is through the word about Christ.” (Rom. 10:17) So we build up our faith by studying the Scriptures, not by participating in unscriptural religious ceremonies, no matter how pleasing to the eye these ceremonies might be. We must acquire strong faith based on accurate knowledge because “without faith it is impossible to please God well.” (Read Hebrews 11:1, 6.) Thus, we do not need to see a spectacular sign from heaven to prove that we have found the truth. A careful examination of the Bible’s faith-strengthening teachings is enough to convince us and to dispel any doubt.
(3) JESUS DISREGARDED MANY JEWISH TRADITIONS
13. What caused many to condemn Jesus?
13 In Jesus’ day, the disciples of John the Baptist were puzzled because Jesus’ disciples did not fast. Jesus explained that they had no reason to fast while he was still alive. (Matt. 9:14-17) Even so, the Pharisees and other opposers of Jesus condemned him because he did not follow their customs and traditions. They got angry when he chose to heal sick ones on the Sabbath. (Mark 3:1-6; John 9:16) On the one hand, they piously claimed to honor the Sabbath; but on the other hand, they had no problem doing business in the temple. They were furious when Jesus condemned them for it. (Matt. 21:12, 13, 15) And those to whom Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth were incensed when Jesus made unfavorable historical comparisons that exposed their selfishness and lack of faith. (Luke 4:16, 25-30) Jesus’ unexpected behavior caused many to stumble.—Matt. 11:16-19.
14. Why did Jesus condemn human traditions that did not harmonize with the Scriptures?
14 What do the Scriptures say? Jehovah said through his prophet Isaiah: “This people approach me with their mouth and they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from me; and their fear of me is based on commands of men that they have been taught.” (Isa. 29:13) Jesus was right in condemning human traditions that did not harmonize with the Scriptures. Those who put man-made rules and traditions above the Scriptures rejected Jehovah and the one whom he sent as the Messiah.
15. What disturbs many today about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
15 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. Many become upset when Jehovah’s Witnesses do not join them in celebrating unscriptural traditions, such as birthdays and Christmas. Others become angry when Jehovah’s Witnesses do not join nationalistic celebrations or do not follow funeral customs that are out of harmony with God’s Word. Those who are stumbled in this way may sincerely believe that they are worshipping God acceptably. But they cannot please him if they prefer the world’s traditions to the clear teachings found in the Bible.—Mark 7:7-9.
16 How can we avoid being stumbled? We need to develop a strong love for Jehovah’s laws and principles. (Read Psalm 119:97, 113, 163-165.) When we love Jehovah, we will reject any traditions that displease him. We will not allow anything to interfere with our love for Jehovah.
(4) JESUS DID NOT PROVIDE AN IMMEDIATE POLITICAL SOLUTION
17. What expectations led many to stumble in Jesus’ day?
17 Some in Jesus’ day wanted an immediate political change. They expected the Messiah to free them from the rule of the Roman oppressors. But when they tried to make Jesus their king, he refused. (John 6:14, 15) Others—including the priests—were worried that Jesus would bring about a political change that would antagonize the Romans, who had granted those religious leaders a measure of power and authority. Such political concerns caused many Jews to stumble.
18. What Bible prophecies about the Messiah did many disregard?
18 What do the Scriptures say? Although many prophecies foretold that the Messiah would eventually be a victorious Warrior, other prophecies showed that he would first have to die for our sins. (Isa. 53:9, 12) So why did they have wrong expectations? Many in Jesus’ day disregarded any of the prophecies that did not promise immediate solutions to their problems.—John 6:26, 27.
19. What expectations have stumbled many today?
19 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. Many today are stumbled because of our neutral stand with regard to politics. They expect us to vote in elections. However, we realize that from Jehovah’s standpoint, if we choose a human leader to rule over us, we are rejecting Him. (1 Sam. 8:4-7) People may also feel that we should build schools and hospitals as well as perform other charitable works. They are stumbled because we focus our efforts on the preaching work, not on solving the world’s immediate problems.
20. As highlighted by Jesus’ words found at Matthew 7:21-23, what should be our main focus?
20 How can we avoid being stumbled? (Read Matthew 7:21-23.) Our main focus should be on doing the work that Jesus commanded us to do. (Matt. 28:19, 20) Never should we become distracted by the political and social issues of this world. We love people and care about their problems, but we know that the best way to assist our neighbors is by teaching them about God’s Kingdom and by helping them to develop a friendship with Jehovah.
21. What should be our determination?
21 In this article, we have considered four stumbling blocks that caused many to reject Jesus in the first century and could cause some today to reject Jesus’ followers. But are these the only things that we need to avoid? No. In the next article, we will examine four additional stumbling blocks. May we be determined to avoid being stumbled and to keep our faith strong!
SONG 56 Make the Truth Your Own
Even though Jesus was the greatest Teacher who ever walked the earth, the majority of people in his day were stumbled by him. Why? In this article, we will consider four reasons. We will also see why many today stumble at what Jesus’ true followers say and do. More important, we will learn why we can have strong faith in Jesus so that we are not stumbled.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Philip encourages Nathanael to meet Jesus.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus preaches the good news.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus cures a man with a withered hand as opposers look on.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus withdraws to a mountain all alone.