“These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.” John 16:1
Kept From Stumbling – Yeshua does not want you to be scandalized. That’s the Greek word here – skandalizo – “to cause to offend or stumble.” In this context, Yeshua explains the process of faith so that we won’t trip and fall along the path. That implies there are pitfalls and traps along the way. The pathway isn’t paved with nice, smooth stones. There are things to watch out for. One of those things is the scandal of faith itself.
Why is faith a scandal? Because God “makes it burdensome for the believer and light for the unbeliever; and His revelation is nothing but a different form of hiding His face.” Buber makes a point we often overlook. It often appears easier to believe the critics and the skeptics than to trust in the word of YHWH. It often looks simpler to see life as nothing more than the span from birth to death than to concern ourselves with eternity. It often seems as though justice is not served, that the cruel and wicked prosper and that there is nothing anyone can do about it. Faith is a scandal. Unbelief is the easy way. Much of the time, God hides from the world. His invisible hand makes the act of relying on Him much more difficult.
Someone once asked me why God didn’t just paint the sky with a clear demonstration of His power and existence. “Wouldn’t that be easier?” he queried. Yes, but it would make faith superfluous. “Will the Son of Man find faith upon the earth?” asks Yeshua. That depends on how willing we are to accept the scandal of scanty evidence. We are called to the hard way, the way that isn’t obvious. Too often we forget that we are the ones who seem out of step with reality – and God made it that way on purpose.
Now we appreciate Yeshua’s comment about teaching in parables so that the crowds will not understand. Faith is never so obvious that it requires no act of the will to believe. To be kept from stumbling, I need to listen to the words and not rely on my sight. Scripture tells us to lean entirely on what God says and forget our own attempts to make sense of it all. Do you suppose that those instructions are part of the process of not stumbling?
We could point out that the Greek world is a visually based orientation while the Hebrew world is based in audio transformation. But that probably won’t offer much conciliation. We are surrounded by a culture that demands visible proof. We are the odd ones here. Even in our own lives, God often hides Himself in order that we may exercise faith in His promises without instant confirmation. But it’s all for a purpose. Each time we avoid the trap of skandalizo, we build a personal repertoire of faith-in-action. What does not kill us makes us stronger. Don’t expect the smooth highway. Look for the rocks in the road and rejoice. You’re on the right path when there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid.
Topical Index: stumbling, skandalizo, trap, faith, John 16:1
 Martin Buber, The Prophetic Faith, p. 177.