See how I bare you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto myself.” Ex.19: 4.

Royce Kennedy ◊ 909 Whistling Duck Drive ◊ Largo, MD 20774



Some of the hardest sayings of Christ” March 2013. Part 1


            In our family bibles containing a number of pictures, there is one featuring Jesus sitting on the slopes of Mount Olives, with a bunch of kids around him. They are filed with smiles, with some holding flowers. The same picture, or another of its kind can be seen in magazines published by the Watch Tower people [Jehovah’s Witnesses] handed out at 7-11 stores and in the parking lots of major supermarkets.

          Christ’s parable of us being lights in this world is featured in the little song we learned in Sunday school. “Jesus bids us shine with a pure, pure, light, like a little candle burning in the night.” Another one goes like this: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, black and yellow, red or white, they’re all precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

          Our earliest and possibly most memorable appearance of Jesus on the scene in ancient Palestine was when he sat on the side of Mount Olives and began the beatitudes by saying “Blessed are the poor—blessed are they that mourn—blessed are the meek—yes, here is the Lord in the early stage of his ministry serving up blessing on the right and on the left. We are moved to compose songs about this lowly man from Galilee and we top off our memories with the following song.

          “Everywhere he went, he was doing good gave beatitudes, fed the multitudes, everywhere he could. When the cripple saw him, they started walking, the dumb was speaking as they should; everywhere he went my Lord was doing good.” While all of the above holds true, we are going to examine the other aspects of the man from Galilee who was not so meek, not so kind, not so gentle in the gospel that he espoused. We will quickly see that Jesus did not bring an “appeasement gospel.” His task was not to make us feel good!

 He was not a conformist embracing the status quo; rather he became an antagonist and a radical against the “religious establishment” seated in the temple in Jerusalem. Let us join him as he emerged on the national scene announcing his mandate. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14, 15.

It was no coincidence that Jesus did not appear in his public ministry until after John was put in prison. This event marked the closing of one era and the opening of another. Up to this point, John was the one preaching the gospel unto repentance, but all the laws and the prophets prophesied until John and now that he is in prison Jesus came announcing a new message and a new gospel.

          Jesus called upon the people to repent [have a change of heart] and believe the gospel of the kingdom which was not a part of John’s mandate and he made that clear in his sermons, always pointing to the one who is to come after him. Take keen notice that along the way, Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, cleanse the leper and raised the dead. Multitudes sought after him to learn this new doctrine but this teacher was not like the other teachers of his day.

          “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Matthew 7: 28, 29. As Jesus took his place among the masses, one could say that “ A new sheriff is in town.” It is like looking on the side or windows of a large business establishment down on Main Street and see the sign “Under new management.” Here is another account: “And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.” Matthew 9: 33.  

          I like the way Jesus established himself as the new authority not only on religious matters, but the issues of life over all. He said, “It has been said by them of old time, but I say unto you. The past is over and gone! Now open your ears and listen to my words.” It is almost comical to notice that the poor, the sick, the outcast, ran to Jesus while the high priests and their crowd ran from Jesus. It was only a matter of time that Jesus would look orthodoxy in the face and called them out. It seems that popular trend or “protocol” obligates us as ministers to always be nice, always smiling, and never—offend others.

          Here are a few facts that made Jesus different from how the clergy functions today. First of all, he was not seeking to establish a new religion with an established Head Quarters in Jerusalem or Galilee or in Bethany. Secondly, and this is very important! He did not put himself in a position to be dependent on public support for the thrust and survival of his ministry.

          He was able to speak the truth without having to worry that someone will come along and pull the rug out from under his feet. He was who he was, all by himself, and not even his mother and father, brothers or sisters could influence and temper his ministry. He did only those things he saw his Father do!

Jesus showed little tolerance or respect for those who professed to know the way but their lives suggested otherwise. Seemingly, he responded in mercy and compassion to sin; but he hated hypocrisy and pretense and called them out in searing words. In today’s society some of his words and characterization of priests and others would find him standing in court answering the charge of slander and defamation of character. After all, people love to be pampered and told how nice they are.

            Matthew chapter 23 is filled with instances when Jesus called scribes and Pharisees hypocrites whited sepulchers, snakes, and murderers. But for this study we are going to follow closely and see what the simple sayings of Jesus meant back then, and what they still mean today. In our first story we find Jesus being accused of breaking the sabbath when he healed a man on this most sacred of days to the Jews. “The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute, and sought to slay him [what about thou shalt not kill?] because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Jesus did not allude to any outlandish notions or ideas. He did not try to create a big deal out of this simple statement.

          But watch how the crowd quickly unravel his statement, and put real unspoken meanings to the words of Christ. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. John 5: 15-18. Once again, let us repeat that Jesus did not even allude in the slightest way that he was equal with God. He simply said that his Father works and so does he.

 Here is the question! Were the Jews wrong in attaching to the statement the fact that if God is his Father, he must be equal with him?  They were right in their thinking and holding Christ is such low esteem as they did, claiming to be equal with God was worthy of death. But let us fast forward to our day! If saying that God was his Father made him equal with Him, where do we fit into this grand scheme of things? What does it mean based upon this understanding, when Jesus said: “Our Father which art in heaven?”   

What truths are transmitted from the heart of God to our hearts when Jesus said: “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” John 20: 17. Notice that Christ made no distinction between his Father and ours, neither between his God and ours, making the issue equal in all of its applications. Once again, let us take this slowly so as to grasp the full impact of what the lesson is teaching us. If Jesus in saying that God is his Father, makes him equal with God, what happens when we pray as Jesus taught, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Does not the same truth that was applied to Jesus’ case apply to ours also? Surely, Father God does not mean one thing to Jesus and another thing to us. But the unbelieving Jews, scribes and Pharisees were not about to let the issue die for lack of attention and vigorous pursuit. Jesus is in Jerusalem attending the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. He walked into Solomon’s porch and the Jews gathered around him asking him to come clean and tell if indeed, he is the Christ. Toward the end of his reply, Jesus said: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Too late! But Jesus you shouldn’t have said that! Here they come again from the rock quarry!

          “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them. Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. How and when did he do that? When he referred to God as being his Father! “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? [Psalm 82.6] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scriptures cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” John 10: 22-36.

What my God and my Father meant to Jesus, means the same thing to us today. But the church as we know it will not teach these truths, because the fullness of Christ and our completeness in him are always set above the horizon as something we must always aspire to but never being able to achieve in a lifetime. In St. John 6, Jesus embarked upon his teaching of what the bread from heaven really meant and enlarged upon the fact their fathers in the wilderness did not eat of that true bread, because they ate and still died.

 What was most troublesome for those listening to Jesus was the fact that he removed types, shadows, and all symbolism, inserting himself as being the true embodiment of those truths showed in shadows to the fathers. This is as heavy as it gets in real time! Here is a man we know and watched him grow up in our midst; but listen to this fellow speak! “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

Whoso eatheth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will riase him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

Listen, my friend, You and I have the luxury of reading from John chapter 6, and we can sing songs like “The cleansing stream I see I see” Bread of heaven feed me till I want no more.” These people had no reference point from which to start judging this man’s words. What he is saying, not even the high priests and rabbis could offer bits of explanation. This was all new and totally wild to these amazed and confused people. There was no time to go up into the mountains to consult with some wise men or gurus capable of shedding some light on these “out-of-the-world” ideas that this man Jesus just dropped in their laps like a bombshell. So how did his disciples react?

          Notice I said “his disciples” not the unbelieving Jews and other scoffers.

“These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? But no matter in which age we live, some truths are hard to digest, and I suppose that is one of the reasons some ministries would rather shun them and opt for preaching and teaching those concepts that are easily received and absorbed by the masses. Here is what happened in the case of Jesus himself.

          “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. John 6—read the entire chapter for good measure and a clearer understanding.

It is a well-known fact that many ministries that now hold center stage in the public’s eye, will not preach or teach their full beliefs. They avoid the hard sayings of Jesus even though they seem to contain the most life that can be obtained from the throne room of our Father.

 In some cases, it seems that these truths demanded too much of those who espoused them. Jesus was able to ask, “Which one of you convinces me of sin?” On the other hand it is too risky to offend our prime supporters, so let us feed their appetite as it currently stands, and what they don’t know won’t hurt them; but in the long run it will indeed hurt them. The main argument in this study is the relationship Christ had with his Father, based upon a concept that even the ordinary person on the street could understand.  It is selling ourselves short to infer: “O well, that was Jesus! He was the Son of God! But did we not say that as Jesus is, so are we in this world? Did we not say, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God?” So why do we always as a matter of practice put ourselves in a weakened defeated position that is unlike Christ?

Brother Kennedy