Offended by Jesus? (a meditation on Matthew 11:6)

There’s a line in the Gospels that I’ve wrestled with for a long time. It is in Matthew 11:6. It reads – “And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.” (HCSB)

This has not made sense to me until now.

Here it is in context –
Mt 11:2-6 (HCSB)
2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Him, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news. 6 And if anyone is not offended because of Me, he is blessed.”

Here is the rendition I put together for the Condensed Gospel, using HCSB, TLB, NRSV and NIV –

John’s disciples brought him reports about everything that Jesus was doing when John was in prison. John sent two of them to Jesus to ask him “Are you the one we have been waiting for, or should we keep looking?” Jesus was healing many people of physical and mental illness at this time. He answered their question “Report back to John everything that you have seen and heard – the blind are able to see, the lame can now walk, skin diseases are cleared up, the deaf can now hear, the dead are raised back to life, and the good news is preached to the poor. Also tell him this – anyone who is not outraged by who I am is happy.”

And yet this still isn’t enough.

I now know about a Messianic Jewish translation of the Bible that is called the Tree of Life. Here is that same section in that version –

2 Now when John heard in prison about the works of the Messiah, he sent word through his disciples 3 and said to Yeshua, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 4 Yeshua replied, “Go report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind see and the lame walk, those with tzara’at are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Blessed is the one who is not led to stumble because of Me.”

For further study, the TLV cross references with the verses in Isaiah that Jesus is referring to. They are these – 35:5-6; 26:19; 29:18-19; 61:1. They prove that Jesus (Yeshua) is fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah, which for John would be enough to know that this means that Jesus is the One that they had been awaiting – the Messiah.

As an aside, I think it is important to note that Jesus never came out and said that he was the Messiah (which is the charge leveled against him by the Sanhedrin – a charge he was innocent of). He simply pointed people towards the prophecies – the signs of what to look for and then pointed to what he was doing. Do they match? If so, there is your answer.

But verse 6 in Matthew 11 is the focus right now – “Blessed is the one who is not led to stumble because of Me.”

Jesus often talks about how important it is that religious leaders teach their students how to follow in the correct path. He often railed against the Pharisees who made up extra rules for people to follow and in so doing caused them to ignore or even violate the commandments of God. He often said that to cause anyone to be led astray is a huge offense.

It is important to understand that God’s commandments are not really laws, but a way of life. The word “Halacha” which is translated as “Jewish Law” means something so much deeper. It really means “Walk”. It is a way of living that makes you holy. It is a path towards and with God.

What Jesus is saying here is related to the idea of “You will know a tree by its fruit”. Look at those who follow him and see what they do. They are doing good deeds and living correctly. This is proof that his teaching is valid. Those who follow his teachings are blessed, because they have not been made to falter in their walk. He teaches correctly, and his followers are blessed because of it. They are not harmed by him, like so many other people’s followers are, but blessed and strengthened.