Is it true that Jesus only spoke against the religious leaders of his day? Did he stay mum when it came to confronting the sins of the common people and outcasts he encountered? Was he only concerned about making them feel welcomed and taking care of their needs? Two popular preachers were recently in the news implying these very things by their actions, telling the world about a seeker-sensitive, milquetoast, limp-wristed Jesus that didn’t seem to have any intestinal fortitude or a backbone.
However, I’m happy to report that Jesus confronted the sins of all kinds of people that crossed his path, from the poor to the rich, from the popular to the outcasts, including pointing out their wrong ideas. If he did anything less, that would mean he was someone given to favoritism when the scriptures tell us time and again that God is not one to participate in partiality. Sometimes Jesus was subtle about it and at other times he was very direct. I’ve gathered just a few of many examples where this happened as follows:
- Woman at the well (John 4): Jesus confronted her about the five husbands she had in the past and the man she was shacking up with at the time. She then tried to steer the argument to the subject of religion and how wrong the Jews were. Jesus then pointed out instead that she was the one who was wrong when it came to how to worship God and brought to her attention that “salvation is of the Jews.” In the end, she was happy that she was confronted and that Jesus used her sin to get her attention–so happy that she ran and told her whole town (the men at least).
- The man healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5): Jesus healed the man who was sick 38 years, then disappeared without telling him who he was. But later that day, Jesus found him in the temple and told him point blank, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.“
- The woman caught in adultery (John 8): Jesus shamed the religious and civic leaders who wanted to stone her to death. After they left, he told her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.“
- The Jews who believed (intellectually) what Jesus taught (John 8): The Lord chastised them about their unbelieving hearts and their desire to murder him, then tells them their spiritual father is the devil.
- Disciple who wanted to first bury his father (Matthew 8): Jesus told him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” Jesus was confronting several of this disciple’s sins–procrastination, materialism, and placing family before God. The disciple wanted to wait until his father died before doing God’s work that required his immediate attention. This would have included the man waiting around to receive his inheritance when it’s possible in this situation that his father’s death was not yet imminent.
- Disciples crossing the sea in a storm (Matthew 8): The disciples panicked when a storm came up as they were crossing the Sea of Galilee and ran crying to Jesus, who responded, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” We know that this incident was preceded by Jesus telling them that they were going to the other side of the sea, so they should have known that what he said would come to pass.
- The man who wanted Jesus to settle an estate dispute with his brother (Luke 12): A man upset that his brother wouldn’t fork over his part of the inheritance went to Jesus and wanted Jesus to settle the dispute in his favor. Jesus told him, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?” and then gave a quick lecture to the crowd about resisting covetousness like the man was displaying.
- The people of Nazareth (Luke 4): Jesus went to his hometown to the synagogue in his neighborhood among the neighbors he grew up around. He then confronted them about the hardness of their hearts in how they rejected him as Lord, yet they still expected him to do miracles for them. Then he told them outright that he wasn’t going to do any miracles for them because of their faithlessness. They got so enraged that they mobbed him and tried to throw him down a steep hill to kill him, but he escaped.
If anything, these incidents reveal Jesus was not a wimp and told it like it was without fear of reprisals because that’s just how much he loved even those who hated him. I believe he expects his church to be the same way.
Harry A. Gaylord