The Hard Sayings of Jesus

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The Gospel narratives often highlighted the people’s reactions to Jesus Christ’s words, including Mark’s insight that they were often “amazed” or “astonished” (Mark 1:22, 27). John recalled the reaction to the Bread of Life Sermon delivered in Capernaum when Jesus declared that he was the “living manna” and that all must “eat his flesh and drink his blood,” noting that many of Jesus’ disciples responded, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (John 6:60; emphasis added). Apparently, for many, this was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back because, as John noted, “From that time many of his disciples. . . walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

Jesus Christ Lamb MormonThis was the only time Jesus Christ said something that was a “hard saying” for his audience. In another setting, Jesus prefaced his remarks by indicating that “all men cannot receive this saying” (Matthew 19:11) as he talked about dedication to the kingdom. Not only did those who lived during Jesus’ ministry find some of his sayings difficult to understand or to live but also succeeding generations have found something “hard” in the sayings of Jesus Christ, sayings that have often baffled readers and symied commentators who have attempted to soften or explain what Jesus said. Perhaps above all else, they represent a personal teaching method of Jesus, who clearly presented part of his message using hyperbole:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).”

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

“Another of his disciples said unto him, Lord suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury the dead” (Matthew 8:21).

“All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb; and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” (Matthew 19:11-12).

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Following the Bread of Life Sermon when many of his disciples walked away from him, Jesus Christ asked the Twelve if they would go away also. Peter, speaking for the group, asked, “To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life”  (John 6:67-68). Although showing a very human side of the Lord, Jesus’ question challenged the audience of the first century as it does the modern audience.

Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, Eric D. Huntsman, Thomas A. Wayment, Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament, 2006, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, p. 48.

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The Hard Sayings of Jesus Christ
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Jesus used metaphors and in his sermons and teachings, presented truths sometimes referred to as the "hard sayings."

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5 Responses to “The Hard Sayings of Jesus”

  1. michele Tomasetti Says:

    Yes Jesus’s spoke in a manner that is hard to discern. Because He used parables and hyperbole it is often difficult to understand what exactly he meant. Then there is comparing scripture to scripture which makes it even more difficult. It almost seems that Jesus meant it to be difficult for some and yet for others easier. There is so much division in the world right now over scripture that people are fighting with one another. I can see two sides to a scripture reading. Sometimes they both sound understandable to me and that is frustrating.

  2. karenrose Says:

    Michele, thanks for visiting our lay site, and for your candid comment. It’s true that many times truth is spun around in ways that leave you wondering. I suggest you listen to a wonderful talk by T. Callister at the recent LDS Conference–Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ. I’ll email you the link to that talk.

    Additionally, I think parables in particular are meant to have layers and levels of meaning for us. In some cases, they continue to expand depending on where we are in our spiritual journey. So if we pray to have open to us the revelations ‘we’ need from those parables, it may help us see what the Lord intends us to see and apply what he intends us to apply. If what we are gleaning from the parables moves us closer to Christ, we are on the right track and He will open more to our eyes. That said, there are also just difficult passages of scripture that require the same prayerful process. There are some erroneous interpretations of passages even, that are significant. That may be where you find yourself frustrated and where the above talk may assist in giving you two points of reference–the Bible ‘and’ The Book of Mormon.

    Let us know if you’ve further questions. Keep checking back for more posts on Jesus Christ as our Advocate, Savior, and Friend. God bless you.

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