As I begin this study, I want to talk about the premise. At first glance, the "offenses of Jesus" sounds like something totally against everything I know about my beloved Savior. How can anything Jesus does be offensive? He is love. He is compassion personified. He champions the down-trodden, the lonely, the forgotten, the untouchable, and the outcast. He makes friends with sinners. He calls the common man to follow Him. Offensive? That just can't be. But when I take a closer look at the gospels, I see that Jesus was indeed offensive to those who thought they knew how to be religious. Jesus wasn't just being rude, not at all. He used offensive language and actions to catch the religious elite off guard. Bill Johnson puts it best when he says, "Jesus offended the mind to reveal the heart." That's the idea I want to explore in this study.
Of the many people that Jesus encountered, there were two main groups: the common people and the religious leaders. Jesus dealt with the common man or woman with unrestrained love and care. He spoke to them in parables. He healed and delivered them. He fed them. He blessed their children. He raised their dead. So much of what we know and love of Jesus is learned by watching how He moved among the people. But then there was that other group of people. They were the Pharisees and other leaders of religious law that were always trying to trap and eventually kill Jesus. They were not moved by Jesus's compassion. But Jesus loved them, too. (He's not willing that any should parish.) With all wisdom, motivated by love, Jesus crafted His words and actions in order to rock their religious boat and in doing so, revealed the deeper status of their heart.
In the 28 chapters of the gospel of Matthew, I have come up with 15 instances where Jesus used offensive words and actions, and this is by no means exhaustive. It seems that Jesus thought this a worthy method of reaching the lost. Was it effective? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. In all cases, the hearer's heart was revealed. How they responded was up to them. Some believed, some went away sad, and some became murderous.
So why study the offenses of Jesus? I must confess that in the stories of Jesus and His encounters with the Pharisees, I often see my own sin in their example. I grew up in the church. I know how to "do" church with my eyes shut. And that is a problem. It's all too easy for me to be legalistic. I need my heart to be revealed. I need to be thrown off guard once in a while. I don't want to miss the true message of Jesus because I think I know better.
So join me if you will, as I journey down the road with Jesus. Let's see where we end up. I want to have a heart like His.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path
of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 NLT (Emphasis mine.)
The picture of Jesus (at top) hung in my room as a child. I'm sure He looks just like this!