The Hard Sayings of Our Lord Jesus Christ

By Joe McKeever

“This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60)

Let’s not be foolish or naïve. While we celebrate the magnificent sayings of our Lord—“No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46)—let us admit He said some other things that befuddled His hearers then and provoke modern disciples to scratch their heads.

Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53), which was what drove His disciples to ask the question above in the first place. Jesus went on to explain that He was speaking spiritually. “The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life” (6:63). Whatever else that means, it means those words should be interpreted “spiritually” and not literally. We recall that Scripture also says, “The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Does that help?

It does. But we are still left with a basket-load of questions. And the church has wrestled with that issue ever since: To what extent is the eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, literally or symbolically the body and blood of Jesus? The history of the Christian church has entire chapters devoted to that single question and is littered with the bodies of those brave soldiers who dared take an unpopular position. To our shame.

There are more such statements of our Lord that left His audience—and many of us—scratching our heads, wondering what to make of them. (In all  that follows, I’m including only those spoken by the Lord Jesus, not difficult passages from the apostles or prophets, of which there are quite a few.)

Here are three of my (ahem) favorites…

–“All sins will be forgiven the sons of men…but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:28-29).

Some preachers have done great harm by their faulty interpretation of the doctrine of the unpardonable sin, and have ended up burdening weak disciples with unbearable guilt and unendurable anguish.

In numerous cases—as here in Mark 3—as soon as the Lord’s statement is given, the Scripture writer explains it. Mark says, “(He said this) because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (3:30). So, clearly that infamous unpardonable sin involves attributing the works of the Lord to the enemy. These people were so far gone that they looked at black and called it white, at good and called it evil.

So, if you worry that you have committed the unpardonable sin and are in danger of eternal damnation, the very fact that it matters to you is proof you did not do it.

–“Whatsoever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (John 16:23).

Is that ever a get-out-of-jail card or what? You’re in trouble, just ask the Father in Jesus’ name and you’ve got it! Say what we will, that’s how it reads. On the surface at least. (And reading it “in context” doesn’t help. It says what it says.)

Clearly, the apostles did not interpret this verse as the name-it-and-claim-it magical formula some have made it. Otherwise, they would not have spent a single night in jail or endured one lash of the whip. However. Take a gander at  the sad list of Paul’s scars in 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 and stand in awe. Such is the price this beloved apostle paid for the gospel of Jesus Christ. So—why didn’t he claim John 16:23 and shortcut the suffering? Answer: Because he did not interpret the Lord’s promise as it appears to read on the surface. Furthermore, no one else did either. We don’t see any of the 12 apostles playing that card.

What exactly does it mean? It must mean that the Father will do what you ask if it is in line with His will, and if it isn’t, He won’t. We get this from the full treatment the Lord Jesus gives to the subject in all four gospels, but not from any one verse.

–“This generation shall not pass away until all these things take place” (Mark 13:30). Boy, have the prophecy guys had fun with this one over the years. Through the decade of the 1950s, they said the birth of Israel in 1948 started the clock ticking, and within one generation “all these things” would occur. (I lived through that decade; I heard those sermons.)

They were wrong.

The two interpretations that seem to endure are: a) it refers to the generation living when “all these things” begin to occur; and b) “generation” (genea) may refer to the race of people (the Jews). Vines says genea may refer to a race of people, a family or successive members of a genealogy (hmmm…genealogy…there’s that word—genea).

There are other possibilities, of course. The main one being: We don’t know what it means. Personally, I have no trouble with that.

Click here to read more.

Source: Church Leaders