Over the next few months, we’ll be writing and sharing several articles interacting with what are often referred to as the “hard sayings of Jesus.”

We know that one of Jesus’ primary roles during his earthly ministry was that of teacher. Jesus preached sermons, taught using stories and parables, and even publicly debated with religious leaders. Many of His teachings and ideas are recognized and well-known even outside the realm of Christianity. For instance, many non-Christians or even non-religious people could tell you the Golden Rule. Jesus was quite literally the best teacher to ever walk the earth.

On one occasion, when the Pharisees send officers to arrest Jesus because people had begun considering Him to be the Messiah, the officers return empty-handed. “Why did you not bring him?” asked the Pharisees. The officers then respond with these memorable words: “No one ever spoke like this man!” Jesus taught in such a way to make spiritual truth accessible and understandable to any who would have ears to hear and a willing heart to receive.

And yet, occasionally Jesus taught in such a way that was quite difficult to understand and comprehend. For example, He often made his parables intentionally mysterious and perplexing so that the meaning could only be accessible to those who really pressed their noses up against the glass to try and understand. In addition to these longer parables, there are some of Jesus’ one-liners that are especially difficult to understand.

  • In Matthew 10:34, Jesus says that he came to bring not peace but a sword. That doesn’t exactly go well on a coffee mug.
  • In Luke 16:9 Jesus tells us to make friends by means of unrighteous wealth. Sounds a bit more like the mafia’s mentality than the Messiah’s.
  • In Mark 3:29, Jesus teaches that there is an eternal, unpardonable sin. What is it and what if I’ve committed it?

These are hard sayings indeed.

Jesus’ own disciples once confronted him about His hard sayings. In John 6, after feeding the 5,000, Jesus goes on to teach about how He himself is like bread that gives life and satisfies hunger. He likens Himself to the manna given to the Israelites during their desert wanderings, but goes on to say that He is the true bread from heaven. The people don’t get it. Jesus then gets even more cryptic by saying that only those who eat his flesh and drink His blood will experience life. Some of his disciples come to Him and say, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

Jesus responds by saying that these hard sayings must be discerned spiritually, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and that the Father Himself is the one who draws people near to Christ.

After these things, “many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” Turning to the Twelve, Jesus asks them if they want to go away as well. Peter, frequently the spokesman for the group, responds with these famous words: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed He does, hard sayings included.

In the coming weeks, we’ll consider some of these hard sayings spoken by the One who has the words of eternal life. We do this precisely because these hard sayings themselves are included in Jesus’ “words of eternal life.” We want to know what they mean, and even more importantly, what they mean for our lives as followers of Jesus. We’ll press our noses up against the glass to try and discern what exactly Jesus wants to teach us through these words. Join us, and may we learn and grow together along the way.