The Scandal (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27)

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be scandalized by me tonight, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’’”

(Matthew 26:31)

“And Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be scandalized, because it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered.’’”

(Mark 14:27)

“Scandalized?” We mean something a little different today when we speak of a scandal than they did two-thousand years ago, but not as different as you might think. The word that Jesus uses here is the Greek word, skandali/zw (skandalizo), which is where we get the English word of the same root.  Today, we refer to a scandal as any action that we feel is morally wrong and that gets folks upset. There are political scandals, celebrity scandals, and social scandals. We consider them both shocking and outrageous, though we are often drawn to them out of morbid curiosity, which is why scandals sell so many newspapers and magazines.

In Greek, the term skandali/zw (skandalizo) means either to cause someone to fall into sin or to be shocked and offended by someone or something. In other words, a scandal could be much like we use the term today, but it can also refer to a case where something is so far outside of societal norms that people simply cannot accept what is taking place. Typically, though, in the Greek language, a scandal was a statement or an event that would cause others to fall into sin, and certainly the abandonment of Christ by the disciples was just that: sin.  But why would Jesus set his disciples up for such a scandal?

Some, I have heard, have suggested that Jesus permitted this to protect his disciples from arrest or harm, but this view seriously underestimates the power of the Son of God who could call down a host of angels with but a word. Likely a better answer is that Jesus is showing his disciples (and us) the nature of man. In fear, we will flee and fall into sin if left on our own. We do not naturally do what is right thanks to our first parents, Adam and Eve, and these disciples will clearly fall into that pattern. And thus, God permits them their sin to show them their own depravity. After the resurrection, not one of them would be able to say to the other, “I stayed behind, I was faithful while you were not!” No, even the spokesman for the Apostles would have to say, “I denied the Lord not once, but three times.”

There is no room for pride of personal achievement in the service of Christ. We, like the Apostles, would have fled and do flee on a daily basis as it testified to by our actions. When the subject of Christian faith is brought up at the store, at a family gathering, or amongst coworkers, we typically hush up or comment that religion is a personal thing and a decision that everyone has to make on their own. Of course, we do not keep our opinions of politics or economics to ourselves in the same settings. What is the difference? Apart from the fact that one is infinitely more important and objectively more correct than the other, like the apostles, Christ often is a scandal to us. Jesus said, “Confess me before men and I will confess you before my Father” (Matthew 10:32). I wonder sometimes at how often Christ is confessing our names before his Father’s throne.

Beloved, this event would show the Apostles their depravity and would break them and humble them, taking them to the very brink of despair. Judas committed suicide over what he had done (Matthew 27:5). Learn from their failure. Jesus preserved his own through this event, but he permitted their sin nonetheless. If pride is seeping into our lives, God will do the same with us; yet, how blessed is the man who learns from those before him and speaks honestly and boldly about the truth of Christ to the glory of God. May we all strive toward that end.

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