"And they were offended at him." - Mark. 6:3.
I. At whom were they offended?
(1) Not at a mere man only, for this would not be strange that a fallible mortal should offend his fellows. (2) Not at one rich and affluent, for he might have been proud and arrogant. (3) Not at an earthly ruler, for he might be tyrannical. But (4) they were offended at the Perfect One, even the Saviour - the friend and benefactor of all - who came to bear their sins and to carry their sorrow, to die for the wretched, whose sorrows He felt, atone for the sinful, whose guilt He assumed, and expire upon the cross that He might open the gates of life to all, and proffer to each a crown of unfading glory!
How strange that earth should have found a wretched mortal who would have been offended at, or ashamed of Him!
II. Who were offended?
(1) Political tyrants and despots who feared the loss of their power - Herod, etc.
(2) "Spiritual rulers" - religious hierarchs, who had thrust themselves "into Moses' seat" and claimed the prerogative to alter God's ordinances,
and to make laws; substitute their traditions instead of God's commandments.
(3) The scribes, Pharisees, and doctors of the law and divinity - false teachers who mislead the people, teaching them to regard their traditions as more sacred and inviolable than God's law, and to observe them to the neglect of His will.
(4) The blind and deluded followers of these leaders, and doctors, and elders, who regarded them as infallible, and who heeded their teachings as paramount to the plain revelations of heaven.
(5) Hypocrites, with long faces and broad phylacteries.
(6) And even some who believed on Him and professed to be His disciples.
III. Why were they offended?
(1) Political despots, because He came to redeem the enslaved and downtrodden millions from under their galling yoke, and to teach the subject that He alone is sovereign, and to bow to no other sceptre than to His which rules the universe.
(2) "Spiritual rulers" in high places, who arrogated to themselves the authority to rule, govern and lord it over the Church, hated Him because He denounced spiritual as well as political, tyranny in the strongest terms, and taught His followers to rebel against the unhallowed usurpation of their dearest rights; and not only to assume, but to repudiate the assumed authority of every such self-appointed and self-important hierarch, by
whatever name called - rabbi, pope, bishop, priest, or presbyter, and to call a mortal like himself his acknowledged master, i.e., ruler, in the Church of God.
(3) False teachers - rabbi, doctor of law and divinity - who claimed the right to make and change the laws of God, and to substitute their own, and who taught the people to yield a blind submission to the traditions of the elders, were offended at him because he would not observe their traditions and inventions, but openly and indignantly denounced them, declaring that they "made the commandment of God of none effect through their traditions and by so doing he would turn their followers away from them." See Matthew 15, Mark 7. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, saying, Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? And He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For laying aside the commandment of God ye hold the tradition of men. Full well ye reject the commandment of God that ye may keep your own tradition. Then came His disciples and said unto Him, Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? But He answered and said, Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up; let them alone (i.e., don't let what they can say distress you), they be blind leaders of the blind.
(4) The deluded followers of these teachers were offended, because He exposed the false teaching of their leaders, and rebuked and repudiated their errors, which they had been taught to hold in venerated sanctity.
(5) Sanctimonious hypocrites were offended at Him because He unmasked them. "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah say of you, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"1 (6) Sinners were offended, for His doctrines were not pleasing to the carnal heart, and required them to renounce the sins they delighted in. He was not the Saviour they wished. They desired one that would save them in, and with, their sins, as Universalists teach.
(7) Some of those who believed Him were offended at Him, and were afraid and ashamed to confess Him openly because His followers were poor and despised, for fear of the Jews - Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathsea.
(8) Many of those who had even for some time professed to be His disciples were at length offended because they found the doctrines of Christ
1 See Matthew 15:7-8; 23:13, 29, 33.
too spiritual; He required of them too great humility, too great self-denial, requiring them to be willing to give up all things, when called upon for His name - parents, friends, houses, possessions; and to be willing to have their names cast out for naught - and to suffer persecution, and even death for the truth. He required them to set their faces against every error, however popular, and by whomsoever held, at whatever hazard, though it would make them odious to spiritual rulers, and their followers - and that obloquy and contumely, and persecution would be their only reward in this life, but in the world to come everlasting life.
"From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him."
1. It is not wrong to give offence when the faithful exhibition of truth, and the fearless exposition of error and false teachers and hypocrites, is considered offensive.
2. A good man may give very great offence, to a great number, and those, professed Christians - and even ministers of religion. No man ever gave greater offence than Christ, to all the religious sects of His day.
3. It is no proof that a man is a bad man because he offends a great many, or has a great many bitter and violent enemies - among professed Christians and religious teachers.
4. It is no proof that a man has done wrong, or is pursuing a wrong policy, when he offends a great many of his professed friends, and of the cause he advocates - or even when they desert him, and oppose him, and even betray him.
5. If we are Christ's friends indeed, we shall imitate His example, and reprove error though throned high in popular and religious favour, and labour to pluck up every plant the Father hath not planted.
6. We have no reward to expect, no smiling Saviour to see, if we are here ashamed of, or are deterred from professing, Christ, in supporting His truth - "through fear of the Jews," through fear of becoming unpopular, and being persecuted. Did Christ say, "Well done" to those who were ashamed to confess Him for fear of the Jews?
7. Those who will do as Jesus did, and teach all His commands, and reprove sin, will be hated and persecuted and sought to be destroyed. "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you, . . . will think that he doeth God service." Were they not offended at Stephen, at Paul, and did not all the apostles die violent deaths save one? And since the days of Christ, have not more gone up from martyrdom than have died natural deaths?
8. Is it not proof of rectitude in one whose moral character is spotless, whose offence is his
untiring devotion to truth and his rebuke of error, false teachers and hypocrites?
9. The present is a peculiarly trying time, and calls upon every real friend of Christ to come out and espouse His reviled and persecuted cause, fearless of consequences. Persecution, calumny and reproach from the teachers of error, and opposition from professed friends of religion, now threaten every fearless friend of truth - yet, "whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto God more than unto them, judge ye."
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