“Abundant peace belongs to those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”—PS. 119:165.
SONG 122 Be Steadfast, Immovable!
1-2. What comment did one writer make, and what will we discuss in this article?
TODAY millions claim to believe in Jesus, but they do not accept the things he taught. (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) In fact, a writer once stated: “If there were another ‘Jesus’ among us today who would say things the way the original Jesus said . . . , would we reject him today the way we did two thousand years ago? . . . The answer has generally been: Yes, we would.”
2 Many in the first century heard Jesus teach and saw him perform miracles, but they refused to put faith in him. Why? In the preceding article, we considered four reasons why people stumbled at what Jesus said and did. Let us consider four additional reasons. As we do, we will see why people today reject Jesus’ followers and how we can avoid being stumbled.
(1) JESUS WAS IMPARTIAL
3. What choice did Jesus make that led some to be stumbled?
3 While on earth, Jesus chose to associate with all types of people. He dined with the rich and the powerful, but he also spent much of his time with the poor and the downtrodden. In addition, he was compassionate toward those who were generally regarded as “sinners.” Some self-righteous individuals stumbled at what Jesus did. They asked his disciples: “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” To this, Jesus replied: “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I have come to call, not righteous people, but sinners to repentance.”—Luke 5:29-32.
4. According to the prophet Isaiah, what should the Jews have expected about the Messiah?
4 What do the Scriptures say? Long before the Messiah came, the prophet Isaiah described him as one who would not be accepted by the world. The prophecy foretold: “He was despised and was avoided by men . . . It was as if his face were hidden from us. He was despised, and we held him as of no account.” (Isa. 53:3) The Messiah was to be avoided “by men,” so those first-century Jews should have expected that Jesus would be rejected.
5. How do many today view Jesus’ followers?
5 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. Many clergymen are eager to accept as members of their congregations individuals who are prominent, wealthy, and viewed as wise by the world. Such clergy do this even though the morals and lifestyle of those new members often are out of harmony with God’s standards. The same clergymen look with disdain on Jehovah’s zealous, morally clean servants because they are not prominent by this world’s standards. As Paul said, God chose those who are “looked down on.” (1 Cor. 1:26-29) However, to Jehovah, all his faithful servants are precious.
6. How can we imitate Jesus’ attitude, as expressed at Matthew 11:25, 26?
6 How can we avoid being stumbled? (Read Matthew 11:25, 26.) Do not be influenced by the world’s view of God’s people. Recognize that Jehovah uses only humble people to do his will. (Ps. 138:6) And reflect on how much he has accomplished by using those whom the world does not consider to be wise or intellectual.
(2) JESUS EXPOSED WRONG IDEAS
7. Why did Jesus call the Pharisees hypocrites, and how did they react?
7 Jesus courageously denounced the hypocritical religious practices of his day. For example, he exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were more concerned with how they washed their hands than with how they cared for their parents. (Matt. 15:1-11) Jesus’ disciples may have been surprised by his words. In fact, they asked him: “Do you know that the Pharisees were stumbled at hearing what you said?” Jesus answered: “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:12-14) Jesus did not allow the negative reaction of the religious leaders to stop him from speaking the truth.
8. How did Jesus show that not all religious beliefs are acceptable to God?
8 Jesus also exposed false religious teachings. He did not say that all religious beliefs are acceptable to God. Rather, he spoke of many who would be on the spacious road that leads to destruction, whereas only a few would be on the cramped road to life. (Matt. 7:13, 14) He made it clear that some would appear to serve God, but in reality they were not serving him. He warned: “Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.”—Matt. 7:15-20.
9. What are some of the false religious teachings that Jesus exposed?
9 What do the Scriptures say? Bible prophecy foretold that the Messiah would be consumed by zeal for Jehovah’s house. (Ps. 69:9; John 2:14-17) That zeal moved Jesus to expose false religious beliefs and practices. For instance, the Pharisees believed that the soul is immortal; Jesus taught that the dead are sleeping. (John 11:11) The Sadducees denied the resurrection; Jesus resurrected his friend Lazarus. (John 11:43, 44; Acts 23:8) The Pharisees attributed everything to fate and to God; Jesus taught that humans can choose whether to serve God or not.—Matt. 11:28.
10. Why are many stumbled by our teachings?
10 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. Many are stumbled because our Bible-based teachings expose false religious ideas. Clergymen teach their flocks that God punishes the wicked in hell. They use that false teaching to maintain control over the people. As Jehovah’s servants, who worship a God of love, we expose that false teaching. The clergy also teach that the soul is immortal. We expose the pagan origin of that doctrine, which—if true—would make the resurrection irrelevant. And contrary to the belief in predestination that many religions embrace, we teach that man has free will and can choose to serve God. How do religious leaders respond? Often, they are furious!
11. According to Jesus’ words found at John 8:45-47, what does God require of his people?
11 How can we avoid being stumbled? If we love the truth, we must accept the sayings of God. (Read John 8:45-47.) Unlike Satan the Devil, we stand fast in the truth. We never compromise our beliefs. (John 8:44) God requires that his people “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good,” just as Jesus did.—Rom. 12:9; Heb. 1:9.
(3) JESUS WAS PERSECUTED
12. Why was the manner of Jesus’ death a cause for stumbling to many Jewish people?
12 What was another stumbling block to the Jews in Jesus’ day? Paul said: “We preach Christ executed on the stake, to the Jews a cause for stumbling.” (1 Cor. 1:23) Why were many Jews disturbed by the way Jesus died? To them, Jesus’ death on a stake made him appear to be a criminal and a sinner—not the Messiah.—Deut. 21:22, 23.
13. What did those who stumbled at Jesus fail to recognize?
13 Those among the Jews who stumbled at Jesus failed to recognize that he was innocent, that he was falsely accused, and that he was treated unjustly. Those conducting Jesus’ trial made a mockery of justice. The Jewish supreme court was hastily convened, and the proceedings were most irregular. (Luke 22:54; John 18:24) Rather than impartially listen to the charges and the evidence against Jesus, the judges themselves sought “false testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death.” When that failed, the high priest tried to get Jesus to incriminate himself. This was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards. (Matt. 26:59; Mark 14:55-64) And after Jesus was raised from the dead, those unrighteous judges paid the Roman soldiers who were guarding his tomb “a considerable number of silver pieces” to spread a false story to explain why the tomb was empty.—Matt. 28:11-15.
14. What did the Scriptures foretell concerning the Messiah’s death?
14 What do the Scriptures say? Although many Jews in Jesus’ day did not expect that the Messiah would need to die, notice what had been prophesied in the Scriptures: “He poured out his life even to death and was counted among the transgressors; he carried the sin of many people, and he interceded for the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:12) So the Jews had no reason to be stumbled when Jesus was executed as a sinner.
15. What accusations against Jehovah’s Witnesses have caused some to stumble?
15 Do we see the same problem today? Absolutely! Jesus was charged and convicted unfairly, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have been subjected to similar unjust treatment. Note some examples. During the 1930’s and 1940’s in the United States, our freedom to worship God was time and again challenged in the courts. Some judges were shamelessly prejudiced against us. In Quebec, Canada, Church and State worked hand in glove in opposition to our work. Many publishers were jailed simply for speaking to their neighbors about God’s Kingdom. In Nazi Germany, a number of faithful young brothers were put to death by that godless regime. And in recent years, many of our brothers in Russia have been convicted and imprisoned for discussing the Bible, which has been classified as an “extremist activity.” Even the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in the Russian language has been banned and classified as “extremist material” because it uses the name Jehovah.
16. As highlighted at 1 John 4:1, why should we not be misled by false stories about Jehovah’s people?
16 How can we avoid being stumbled? Learn the facts. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his listeners that some would “lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against” them. (Matt. 5:11) The source of these lies is Satan. He influences opposers to spread malicious slander about those who love the truth. (Rev. 12:9, 10) We must reject the lies told by our opponents. Never should we allow such lies to intimidate us or to undermine our faith.—Read 1 John 4:1.
(4) JESUS WAS BETRAYED AND ABANDONED
17. In what way could the events prior to Jesus’ death have stumbled some?
17 Just before his death, Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 apostles. Another apostle denied Jesus three times, and all his apostles abandoned him on the evening before his death. (Matt. 26:14-16, 47, 56, 75) Jesus was not surprised. He had even foretold that this would happen. (John 6:64; 13:21, 26, 38; 16:32) On seeing this, some could have been stumbled, reasoning, ‘If that is the way Jesus’ apostles behave, I want no part of that group!’
18. What prophecies were fulfilled in the events surrounding Jesus’ death?
18 What do the Scriptures say? Centuries earlier, Jehovah revealed in his Word that the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. (Zech. 11:12, 13) The betrayer would be one of Jesus’ close companions. (Ps. 41:9) The prophet Zechariah also wrote: “Strike the shepherd, and let the flock be scattered.” (Zech. 13:7) Instead of being stumbled by these events, honesthearted ones should have been strengthened by seeing these prophecies fulfilled in Jesus.
19. What do honesthearted ones realize?
19 Do we see the same problem today? Yes. In modern times, a few well-known Witnesses have left the truth, become apostate, and then tried to turn others away. They have spread negative reports, half-truths, and outright lies about Jehovah’s Witnesses through the news media and the Internet. But honesthearted ones are not stumbled. On the contrary, they realize that the Bible foretold that such things would happen.—Matt. 24:24; 2 Pet. 2:18-22.
20. How can we avoid being stumbled by those who have left the truth? (2 Timothy 4:4, 5)
20 How can we avoid being stumbled? We need to keep our faith strong by studying regularly, by praying continually, and by keeping busy in the work that Jehovah has given us to do. (Read 2 Timothy 4:4, 5.) If we exercise faith, we will not panic when we hear negative reports. (Isa. 28:16) Our love for Jehovah, his Word, and our brothers will help us to avoid being stumbled by those who have left the truth.
21. Even though the majority of people today reject our message, of what can we be confident?
21 In the first century, many were stumbled, and they rejected Jesus. Yet, many others accepted him. These included at least one member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and even “a large crowd of priests.” (Acts 6:7; Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:43) Likewise today, millions have not been stumbled. Why not? Because they know and love the truths found in the Scriptures. God’s Word says: “Abundant peace belongs to those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”—Ps. 119:165.
SONG 124 Ever Loyal
In the preceding article, we discussed four reasons why people rejected Jesus in the past and why they reject his followers today. In this article, we will consider four additional reasons. We will also see why honesthearted individuals who love Jehovah do not allow themselves to be stumbled.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus shares a meal with Matthew and tax collectors.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Jesus is made to bear the torture stake.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss.