Most people love a buffet. It’s the opportunity to pick and choose what you’d like to eat, no matter the eclectic combination of foods. “I like that, but I don’t like that.” We say that at the buffet, but sometimes we also say that about the Bible.
Let’s face it, there are many things in the Bible that we find hard to stomach. Things that we either don’t understand, or that challenge our assumptions, or that we disagree with, or find outright offensive. The teaching of Jesus Christ is probably the most famous body of teaching in human history, yet if you read it closely enough, you’ll find some things that he says difficult to swallow. Over the next four Sundays, we’re going to look at some of the hard things Jesus says.
Why are we doing this? Isn’t Christianity more comfortable for us when we just look at the pleasant and more palatable things that Jesus says? We’re doing this because a mature faith comes when we examine our doubts and difficulties with the Bible. If we avoid the hard aspects of Jesus’ teaching, then we’re setting the agenda of what we’ll learn, not Jesus. We get a limited picture of him and what he has to say to us.
Over these four weeks, we’ll just look at a portion of the buffet that’s available as we explore the middle of Luke’s Gospel. We’ll see hard things that Jesus says about judgment, prioritising him ahead of other relationships, hell, and money.
By way of disclaimer, as we explore these hard sayings, you might find that you’re confronted by two things.
First, you’ll be confronted by the uncomfortable authority of Jesus. I say “uncomfortable” because we’d prefer a controllable Jesus, someone who’s going to agree with us. But the reality is, if Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then he’s going to say things that contradict us. He is God, and we are not. We’d rather not hear what he has to say about judgement, money, and all sorts of other things, because we’d prefer to be sovereign in these areas of life. But if you follow Jesus, there’s no room for selectivity. You either follow him completely on his terms (even when he says things you don’t like), or you follow a fabrication of him, a Jesus of your own construction and convenience.
Second, you’ll be confronted by your own limitations. If Jesus says something that contradicts and offends us, maybe that’s an insight into our own condition. We don’t have a full understanding of God’s will and purposes, and we need to be corrected. We have our false assumptions and blind spots that need to be challenged. Wisdom comes with humble self-reflection.
However, we can also be comforted. Jesus calls his followers his friends (John 15:15). Real friends speak the truth in love to one another, even when that truth is difficult. And that’s what Jesus does to us.