The challenge of his Sayings. Why are some of Jesus’ sayings so “hard”? Are they hard to accept? Hard to understand? Hard to follow? Hard to believe?
Study and Discussion Questions
- What is it about Jesus’ sayings that lead people to write books about the “hard sayings” of Jesus? Shouldn’t the incarnate God make things simple and plain?
The Hard Teachings:
- Divorce. Matthew 19:3-12: No divorce at all? No divorce except for adultery? In Jesus’ day a woman had no security at all. Only a man could initiate a divorce and a trivial offense was often the only cause. When Jesus spoke of a heavy hand, did that help restore a woman’s rights?
- Forgiveness, Matthew 18:21-22. Forgiving seventy times seven? How can unlimited forgiveness be possible? Was Jesus’ practicing what he preached when he prayed for his enemies on the cross? What then are we to make of some of the violent prayers in the Psalms (e.g. Psa 69) or by the prophets (e.g. Jeremiah 18:19-23)?
- Money: Luke 18:18-25, rich young ruler;Luke 19:1-9, Zacchaeus.; Luke 21:1-4. If one looks at all of Jesus’ stories on money, they are a sobering, but mixed lot. The rich young ruler was asked to give everything; the desperately poor widow was commended for giving her two mites, all that she had; yet Zacchaeus was commended for only giving half of his goods.
- Perfection. Matthew 5:48 in comparison with Luke 6:36. In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonishes his listeners to be perfect like their heavenly Father; in the parallel Sermon on the Plain in Luke, he admonishes them to be merciful like their heavenly Father? Which message is harder to accept and apply? Why?
- Family. Matthew 10:34-39. Was Jesus’ really serious about loving him more than we are to love our own family? Are their counterbalancing stories elsewhere in the Gospels that might temper this radical call?