Hard Sayings of Jesus
Don’t let anything — however shocking — keep you from Jesus
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
God’s Word, the Bible, is full of promises and comforting words. But in both the Old and New Testaments we find words that challenge rather than comfort us, or even cause us to be troubled or confused.
Some of Jesus’ words are hard because His goal was not our happiness in this life, but our sanctification. That is, that we live holy lives that bring glory to Him.
Let’s allow the difficulty of some of God’s words cause us to praise Him in faith, knowing that His wisdom and knowledge are infinite and perfect. And let us rejoice, knowing that though we see Him only dimly now through a clouded glass, we will soon see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Here are a few of Jesus’ hard sayings, with a short explanation of each. I trust they will help you know and follow Him better.
No. 1: Eat His flesh and drink His blood
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54)
This is one of Jesus’ most famous hard sayings. Many of his followers left him after hearing it, and the disciples even said, “This is a hard saying” (John 6:60).
We also know that some critics, taking the words literally, accused Christians of being cannibals. So what did Jesus mean when he said these words?
Jesus was not instructing people to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood, but that his body and blood, broken and shed for us on the cross, were going to be life-giving and nourishing for all who believed in him. Later, during the Last Supper, He explained further:
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28)
So in saying that His followers were to “eat his flesh” and “drink His blood,” Jesus was telling us that we must take Him – His very life – into ourselves to receive His forgiveness. And to this day, we celebrate Holy Communion as a remembrance of His sacrifice.
No. 2: Hate your family and yourself
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Is Jesus, the God of Love, really telling us to hate? No! Jesus here is using hyperbole, or exaggeration, to make His point. We know that He never endorsed breaking any of the Ten Commandments, including “Honor your father and mother.”
Jesus is saying that, in comparison to the love and devotion He deserves, any other love, including for ourselves, should look like hatred. He calls us to learn to love Him so deeply and to obey Him so completely, that any human allegiance, even the desire to preserve one’s life, looks like hate in comparison.
Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one this, than that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And of course, He demonstrated this when He went to the cross, laying down His own life for the forgiveness of mankind.
No. 3: Tear out your eye
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)
Here’s another use of hyperbole. Jesus is telling us here that if anything keeps us from following him, it requires drastic action. Our very eternal destiny may be at stake.
In practical terms, it means that I may need to end that dating relationship that keeps drawing me into sin. Or, I may need to quit my job if my boss demands that I cheat. To avoid sin, God might ask me to enroll in a different school or even move to another city. That’s how important that is to Him. We should be desperate to live holy lives, in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Were Jesus' teachings hard, radical, even shocking? Yes! They still have great power to give us reason to worry about indifference toward Him. As Missionary Hudson Taylor reportedly said: "Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all." As you encounter other difficult sayings in God’s Word, always trust that He, and His words, are faithful and true. And as you dig a little deeper and ask for His wisdom, He will teach and guide you, enabling you to live a life that glorifies Him.
Pray this week:
Lord Jesus, as your disciples said, who else would I turn to? You have the words of eternal life. However challenging your call is to me, I will love and follow you, because you are my only hope.
For you, what is the hardest thing about following Jesus? Write for prayer and help.