He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! (NASB 95)
There are three words in this verse that I think bear enough weight to address in an exegetical fashion.
The first “inevitable” or ἀνένδεκτος is most literally understood as meaning impossible to not occur, the sense of the word in the original language also employs the idea that there is nothing that can be done to prevent stumbling. The first half of this teaching from Christ explicitly states that not only is it impossible for His Disciples to not stumble and make mistakes, but that there is nothing they can do to prevent it.
The second “woe” or οὐαί is in practicality a proclamation of coming hardship and inevitable suffering. This first phrase is incredibly harsh. It is the third word which really gives us some puzzling to figure out what Jesus is teaching. ὅς or “him” has two possible applications which move us toward an interesting conclusion. ὅς can either be a reference to the primary cause (see notes at bottom) of Evil which could be either the Devil or otherworldly influences or the corrupted free will of Man. Alternatively ὅς can be a reference to a secondary cause (see notes at bottom) which could be any person. Both of these seem to be valid approaches and help us understand two pieces of Theology.
Satan is held to account for leading people into Sin.
Humans are held responsible for the result of their influence upon others.
For the Christian leader, the first is a message of hope, the second one of warning. The Christian leader is judged and held to account for a few things: their influence, the influence of those they give authority to, and ultimately the direct result of their teaching.
The challenge I leave myself and other individuals with influence in Christian communities is as follows: Are we taking this weight seriously? How carefully do we examine the fruit of our influence?
Primary and Secondary Causes: A primary cause is best understood as the action or individual responsible for the first event in a chain of events which causes a certain outcome. A secondary cause is best understood as a an action or individual who is responsible for causing some event in the chain as a result of an event in the chain prior.