Was Jesus offensive? Yes, and he was offensive on purpose! Does that shock you to know?
We like the milk-toast image of a Jesus who just loves everyone, but Jesus was the most controversial and polarizing public figure in all of history! And he still is a stumbling stone to so many people. It’s a popular thing to say, “I like Jesus, it’s his followers that piss me off.” Even though the followers of Jesus aren’t perfect people and can sometimes be real jerks when left to their own devices, I’m sure if you knew all the hard things that Jesus said you would be pissed off with him too. Jesus got into some real knock-down-drag-out arguments with those religious leaders who abused the people they were supposed to be serving. He made a lot of people very angry.
As a matter of fact, his contemporaries (the religious leaders of his day) were so irrate at his claims to be God that they plotted to murder him and even paid his disciple Judas big bucks to betray him. The political leaders of his day were scared of him as well because he claimed to be the King of Kings. He claimed to be greater than any of them. This offended them too.
Jesus was so offensive that he even repelled many of his followers who were riding the fence, just hanging around for the miracles and the free food. Here’s how Pastor John Piper describes one of these scenes in the Gospel of John chapters 9 and 10 where Jesus offended a whole bunch of people… on purpose.
Jesus has just healed a blind man and then 41 verses of controversy follow as the Pharisees try to say that Jesus is not God, just a sinful man. And Jesus fights back by calling them blind. To prove that they are blind, he paints a word picture of a shepherd, a sheep pen with a door, and a flock of sheep- but he doesn’t explain what they all mean.
Jesus uses a figure of speech to test their hearts. They say “we see” but Jesus knows they are really blind spiritually, so he puts out this word picture without labels on the characters and says “what do you see?” He was provoking the Pharisees to recognize their blindness. (Watch the whole sermon by John Piper here on Youtube or read part of the transcript below taken from about the 20 minute mark.)
How does Jesus respond when the Pharisees don’t see the point? He makes himself look insane. Why? It pushes people to the brink of their blindness. Piper says, “He calls himself the bread of life. I am a loaf of bread, come down from heaven like manna landing in Jerusalem. And they take offense at him… What does he do when they take offense at this word picture? He makes it gross. He says, Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, what do you make of that? and they gag!… That’s why I say that no one can come to me without my Father drawing him. Without the Father, you gag at what I say, because you are so hostile.”
And he goes on to say, “In one sense, Jesus was making things clearer, in another sense, he was making himself absurd… He says, OK, you don’t grasp my figure of speech, then try this. I am a door and I am a shepherd. Oh watch yourself here, because how quickly intelligent America says, Mixed metaphor! Doesn’t work. Foolish, insane, blew it, bad writing, bad speaking. What out scholars! I’m the door and I’m the shepherd. Can’t be a door-shepherd. Either you’re a door or you’re a shepherd. Can’t be both. Really? That’s one response. The other response is, Oh Jesus, tell me about your doorness and tell me about your shepherdness… I don’t care about mixed metaphors… Where are you? Are you among the skeptics, sniffing at Jesus? Or are you desperate? I just need a door out of this mess! If I don’t have a shepherd I’m gonna fall off a cliff… I need a shepherd. What is your response?”
Jesus is the litmus test of the heart. His words draw out what is really in your heart. Are you hostile? Are you a skeptic? Are you blind? Or are you searching? Are you desperate and hungry? How you react to Jesus’s crazy, strange words indicates what’s really in your heart. So the answer is yes, Jesus was in-your-face offensive sometimes, on purpose. Why? To show you what is really in your heart and where you really stand with Him.