Wow, did Jesus really say that?
How often do we hear Christians say the following sorts of things? ‘Let’s make things as easy as we can for the non-believer. Let’s just tell them that God loves them just as they are and they need not do anything to be a buddy with Jesus. Let’s forget about rules and regulations and theology and just tell people that God is crazy about them.’
But it is not just a desire to make things easier for their non-Christian friends to be open to the gospel. Plenty of believers want to make things easier for themselves! They do not like the hard and demanding things found in the Bible. They do not like the things that challenge them and make them feel uncomfortable with their selfish and sinful lifestyle.
They just want to hear the good things, the happy things, the nice things, the pleasant things. Nothing too demanding. Nothing too onerous. Nothing to make them change their way of living. Nothing to make them feel ashamed of what they are doing.
Just an affirming celestial grandfather or butler who always pats them on the back, always smiles at them, always gives them nice things, and is always there to serve them when they have needs. That is the sort of God most folks want.
Well, they can crave such a deity, but they dare not then pretend they are serving the God of the Bible. They dare not claim to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was nothing at all like these sentimental and sickly sweet pictures of some buddy God who would never make things hard on you or ask anything too onerous of you.
But don’t take my word for it. Simply start reading the Bible. I mean really reading it, from cover to cover, and not just flicking through a few psalms once or twice a month. No one who actually reads the Bible carefully can ever come away with these false images of God.
Indeed, simply read through the four gospels and see the sort of Jesus being presented there. Anyone honestly and earnestly reading through the gospels will in fact likely be shocked at what is there. They will not find the tree-hugging peace-nik Jesus there. They will not find the heavenly Jeeves there. They will not find the pandering granddad figure there.
They will find the genuine Jesus who made hard demands and who said some very hard things. And that is exactly why so many people rejected him and hated him. If Jesus HAD been this Mr Nice Guy who simply caters to your every need, the masses would have loved him.
Let me share just some of the quite hard and harsh things Jesus said, especially to those who toyed with the idea of following him. But because the gospels have so much material on this, I am forced to just pick one of them. Here are some of the hard sayings of Jesus as found in the gospel of Matthew:
Matthew 6:19-24 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 8:19-22 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 10:13-15 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
Matthew 10:34-39 Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 11:20-24 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Matthew 12:33-36 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
Matthew 15:10-20 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 18:5-6 Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:7-9 Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 19:23-26 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 22:11-14 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Wow, is it any wonder that so many, upon hearing his words, turned away and refused to follow him? The reaction of the rich young ruler would be a typical response: “Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:21-22)
Sure, Jesus said many warm, inviting, comforting and loving things as well. But the sad truth is, most folks today only want to hear those sorts of words, while ignoring the rest. But that cannot be done. It is not up to us to pick and choose what we like about the teachings of Jesus. We either accept the whole package or we get none of it at all.