It’s almost Christmas, the season where we focus on Jesus as a helpless babe lying in a manger, gentle, meek and mild.
But Jesus isn’t a magic baby. He’s our living Lord. And truth be told, he isn’t so very meek and mild.
I’ve been reading Luke this month, a chapter a day. I want to remind myself again of who Jesus really is.
I want to listen to his words, life-giving and soul-shredding all at once.
It’s one thing to live by the Golden Rule. How about some of Jesus’ more difficult words? Here are some in Luke’s gospel:
- Jesus said we should rejoice when people hate us, exclude us, revile us, and spurn our name as evil on his account (Luke 6:22).
- He spoke “woe” to the rich, full and popular (6:24-26).
- He rebuked those who called him “Lord,” but didn’t obey him (6:46).
- He rebuked the Pharisee Simon for his lack of love — at Simon’s dinner table, no less (7:44-46).
But wait, there’s more.
Jesus used parables on purpose so his teachings would be hard to understand ((8:10). He said if we are ashamed of him, he will be ashamed of us when he comes again (9:26).
He called his disciples “faithless and twisted generation” (9:41). He spoke “woes” over unrepentant towns where he did miracles — that it would be more bearable for sinful Gentile cities in the judgment than for them (10:13-15).
He described the crowds around him as an “evil generation.” (11:29).
He called the Pharisees “fools” for paying attention only to externals and loving position, power and praise (11:37-44).
He spoke woes to the lawyers for loading people with burdens, taking away the key of knowledge, preventing others from entering the kingdom, and failing to enter themselves (11:46-52).
He said blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (12:10). He warned not to lay up treasure towards self, but towards God (12:16-21).
He called the Pharisees “hypocrites” (13:15).
By the way, all those rebukes leveled at the Pharisees? You and I are not off the hook.
Jesus spoke three-fourths as often to the Pharisees as he did to his disciples. Those words are recorded for a reason. We are all prone to Pharisaical thinking.
That means we must take to heart every hard word that Jesus spoke. Which is a good thing, for two reasons.
One, Jesus’ words are truth. Two, Jesus’ motive is love. That’s why we can embrace even his hard words.
And embrace them we must.
“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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.… So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
This is a difficult saying. Sure, “hate” is a Semitic term meaning “to love less.” But still!
Jesus is saying if I don’t carry my own cross, follow him and renounce all that I have — my family, my possessions, my very life — that I can’t be his disciple.
You and I can’t afford to ignore this teaching. There’s too much at stake here. When it comes to our hearts, Jesus is not kidding.
He wants our undivided devotion.
I want to embrace this truth afresh today. I want my thought life, my actions, my motives to reflect a “Jesus first” attitude.
Because he’s not just a sweet baby in a manger. He’s my Lord.
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