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“There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ ” (John 10:19,20).

WHEN JESUS SPOKE, PEOPLE WERE STIRRED. As Eric Hoffer put it, “Jesus was not a conservative.” Even after He was gone, the teaching of His apostles continued to have a disruptive effect. When Paul and his coworkers went to Thessalonica, for example, the city was soon in an uproar. Some shouted, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6).

J. B. Phillips once said, “Of all the epithets that could be applied to Christ, ‘mild’ seems one of the least appropriate.” If Jesus is now seen as being tame and temperate, it is because His religion has been legalized. He has become familiar to us. We may believe the gospel is still revolutionary, but we think it is other people (the “wicked”) who should be disturbed by it. “Oh, how society would be transformed if people would just listen to Jesus,” we think.

But are we listening? If we’re not disturbed by the “hard sayings” of Jesus (John 6:60), it may be that we’re not paying attention. Like the self-righteous scholars who came to hear John the Baptist preach (Matthew 3:5–8), perhaps we don’t see that what is being said applies to us as much as it does to anyone else.

One reason we’re not disturbed by Jesus is that our outward lives are, for the most part, in conformity with His teachings. We don’t feel personally challenged because we think we’ve already made the adjustments that Jesus’ teaching calls for. We’re kind, we help the needy, we attend worship services, and we say thanks before eating our meals — so we feel pretty good about ourselves.

But the external aspect of the gospel is easy compared to the harder part, which has to do with the heart. However “nice” my outward life may be, when I measure my heart (my thoughts, attitudes, and intentions) against Jesus’ teaching, I am ashamed. His teaching disturbs me greatly, if I have the least bit of self-honesty. So may we all — every one of us — listen to Jesus with a new attentiveness. We must be disturbed before we can be redeemed.

“The teaching of Jesus Christ does not appear at first to be what it is. At first it appears to be beautiful and pious and lukewarm; but before long it becomes a ripping and tearing torpedo which splits to atoms every preconceived notion a man ever had” (Oswald Chambers).

Gary Henry — +

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