We live in an age of “feel goodism” in a super-sensitive society in which people are offended by any perceived slight. Politically correct police patrol the air waves and red flag certain buzzwords and label those who use them as bigots, racists, sexists and extremists. Freedom of speech is under attack, especially religious speech, which is often tagged “hate speech” by secularists who reject biblical truth. Paul warned Timothy, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4, NLT).
Contrary to some opinions, Jesus wasn’t always a Mr. Nice Guy who never offended anyone with His words and always avoided controversy. Some people have the misguided notion that Jesus was a “feel good” preacher who was always sweet, kind, diplomatic and never made waves or rocked the boat. Are you kidding me? What Bible have they been reading?
Jesus offended many people with unvarnished truth that made them feel uncomfortable (Jn. 6:60-61). The late Jammie Buckingham expressed this reality in his clever book title, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Make You Miserable. Sometimes the truth hurts; it hits us right between the eyes and cuts like a knife. Jesus didn’t preach what I call “cotton candy sermons” that are in vogue today—fluffy strings of sugar-coated thoughts woven together to make people feel good, but containing little spiritual substance. In fact, Mark 13:37 indicates that “The common people heard Him gladly,” probably because He told the truth without any religious pretenses or pulling any punches. But make no mistake, not everyone heard Jesus gladly.
I’m not suggesting Jesus intentionally offended people, but the truth He spoke had a way of separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. To be clear, Jesus was loving, graceful, compassionate, and tender-hearted toward the outcasts and downtrodden of society. In fact, He went out of His way to visit where others refused to go. Most Jews, due to prejudice, traveled around Samaria. Jesus deliberately went through it and broke down cultural and racial barriers by even speaking to “The Woman at the Well” (Jn. 4:4-9). Some things He did were considered scandalous in His culture—touching and healing lepers, befriending publicans and sinners, allowing a “sinful” woman to touch/anoint Him (Lk. 7:36-39), healing on the Sabbath day, etc. He worked outside the lines of social norms for a Jewish man, especially a Rabbi.
Even His own cousin, John the Baptist, didn’t fully understand Him. He sent messengers asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Mt. 11:3, NKJV) Jesus responded by telling how people were being healed and receiving the Gospel, but then added this tagline, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Mt. 11:6, NKJV). Apparently, John was offended by Jesus. Why? He was suffering in prison while Jesus was socializing at dinner parties with sinners. Jesus’ style and methods didn’t fit the mold of what John expected in a Messiah.