Mark Twain is remembered for numerous pithy sayings on various subjects. When it came to the Bible he is reported to have said that the things that bothered him most were not those that he did not understand but those that he did understand – because the latter he would have to do something about! This is especially true of the teaching of Jesus. We might find Jesus’ sayings ‘hard’ because they challenge us to put things into practice (e.g. ‘love your enemies’) or we might find them ‘hard’ simply because we lack understanding of the culture and context in which the words were spoken. Or we might find Jesus’ sayings hard because we are be required to think; this can be very hard work when we find our contemporary prejudices and convictions challenged. The distinguished Bible scholar F. F. Bruce wrote in the introduction of his book The Hard Sayings of Jesus: “It is all too easy believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination – an inoffensive person who no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offence right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of ‘sensible’ people, was bound to lead to disaster.”
We all find some thing Jesus said hard to understand or accept or put into practice. A recent Sunday gospel passage (Matthew 10.24-39) caused some people real difficulty. What did Jesus mean by ‘I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’ and ‘I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother’? I didn’t address the passage at the time (I had other fish to fry!) but I do intend to. I wonder if there are other hard sayings of Jesus that you would like to see addressed in a future sermon series. Please drop me a note about it (the barest details only are required) and the ministry team will do their best to throw some light on it.