We all know that Jesus had strong words for the Jewish religious leaders of his day. For an example, consider the “woes” that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious leaders in Matthew 23. He used such strong terms as “blind guides,” “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs,” and “serpents.” These are not the kinds of terms that would help Jesus win friends and influence people. And, none of us want Jesus to use these kinds of terms to refer to us.
But, did you know that Jesus did not reserve “strong words” only for those hypocritical religious leaders?
Primarily, I write for audience of people who are followers of Jesus, disciples, believers, Christians, those who are saved, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and children of God.
And… here’s the part that we don’t talk about much… Jesus often spoke “strong words” toward people who were seeking the truth from him, toward those who were following him, and even toward those who he had chosen as apostles. (And, I’m not even going to include Judas Iscariot in this…)
Jesus was surprised at their lack of understanding:
But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he [Jesus] said, “Are you also still without understanding?” (Matthew 15:15-16 ESV)
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” (John 3:10 ESV)
He made demands on them:
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5 ESV)
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:18-22 ESV)
He made seemingly impossible demands of them:
And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-37 ESV)
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6 ESV)
He rebuked them sometimes calling them names, sometimes using sarcasm and exaggeration:
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26 ESV)
But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.” (Matthew 16:23 ESV)
“And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” (Luke 9:40-41 ESV)
Now, some may disagree with how I’ve labeled some of the passages above. But, it’s clear that Jesus used strong words when speaking with his disciples. In the same way, he could (and probably does) use strong words when speaking with us, too.
I think the only ones who are surprised at Jesus’ strong words to us (his disciples) would be those who think they’ve got it all together… But, I could be wrong.
What do you think?