The Hard Sayings of Jesus

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Jesus said many things that people could not understand.  Even His own disciples had difficulty in understanding Him.  Many times those who were following Him followed Him no more because of the things He said were too hard to understand.  Why did Jesus use such language that was hard to accept?

Hard Sayings of Jesus

What are meant by the hard sayings of Jesus are those that are exaggeration or hyperbole.  One such example is when Jesus said in Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”  What Jesus was saying was much like what I once told a friend who was addicted to Internet pornography.  I suggested that he either gets rid of the Internet or have a friend put a password protected filter on it.  Now getting rid of the Internet might seem drastic but cutting off the access to the availability of pornography by getting rid of the Internet is more important to his walk with Christ because it is just too easy to access pornography.  Far better to cut off the Internet than to stay addicted to Internet pornography and be involved with sexual immorality which is clearly an abomination to God.  In fact sexual immorality is a very serious sin as Paul told the Corinthian church to Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body (1 Cor 6:18).  This is especially important because, the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders (1 Cor 6:9).  The Corinthian church had great difficulty with the sin of sexual immorality because of the culture in the city of Corinth where the church was located.

Hard Sayings of Jesus

The hard sayings of Jesus are not hard once a person has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and they come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Committing Murder in the Heart?

Jesus had just finished the so-called Sermon on the Mount which included the Beatitudes.  Just after these Jesus was revealing the true nature and meaning of the Law (Matt 5:21-43).  In this section Jesus was showing that the Ten Commandments were an application of the Law externally, but there was more to these laws than people thought.  Jesus said, You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matt 5:21-22).  The Sixth Commandment “you shall not murder” is an external application to God’s Law but Jesus took it a step further in essentially saying that murder starts in the heart and is internally motivated.  What happens in a person’s heart is just as bad as what happens externally because the external is motivated by the internal feelings of mankind.  To hate someone is equal to murdering them in their heart.  Even calling someone a name, like “fool!” is hating someone with a hate equal to murdering them in the spirit.

Eat My Flesh?

This statement of Jesus made many of the Jews question Jesus’ sanity and many of His disciples ceased from following Him anymore because this was hard to understand.  Jesus said, I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:48-52).   The Jews were not the only ones who began to argue about this saying.  On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?(John 6:60).  And so, From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66).  The Old Testament laws clearly stated that the bread that came down from heaven was manna which means “what is it?”  This eating of Jesus’ flesh was too much to handle for most of them and so even those disciples who had been following Jesus, followed Him no more.  What Jesus was saying was that He is the Bread of Life and He was that God of the Old Testament that provided the manna from heaven.  There is some symbolism perhaps of the New Covenant that Jesus would initiate and have the church participate in the new symbols of the bread and wine at Communion.   This ties into the fact that Jesus said that He will give for the life of the world.”

Drink My Blood?

In the Old Testament God forbid Israel from drinking the blood because God had said that the life is in the blood (Gen 9:4).  In fact God stated in His Law that I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.  For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.  Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood (Lev 17:10-12).   How shocked must the Jews have been when, Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them (John 6:53-56).   This symbolizes the New Covenant Communion too at Passover by the drinking of the wine just as His flesh did the bread at the Passover Meal.  Something in Leviticus is interesting because it said, For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement (Lev 17:11). Jesus blood would soon be the atonement for our sins.  This seems like a hard saying because the Jews knew it was wrong to drink blood but Jesus was giving an image of His ultimate sacrifice as the Lamb of God.

Literal or Metaphorical?

When reading Jesus’ words in John chapter six and elsewhere, it is good to remember that when something seems exaggerated to the extreme, Jesus is trying to show that there is a deeper, symbolic meaning to His words.   He often used parables to hide the meaning from the religious leaders of His day.  Jesus explains why He did this:

“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them (Matt 13:11-15).  Any time that Jesus or the Apostle Paul talks about a “mystery” it means that before the church was established and Jesus began His public ministry, there were hidden mysteries and they were not clearly revealed in the Old Testament. There are hidden symbols and images of Jesus Christ throughout the Old Testament, but the New Covenant made clear the meaning of the Old Testament sacrificial offerings, rituals, and laws.

Mysteries Revealed

The hard sayings of Jesus are not hard once a person has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and they come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  What was once a mystery becomes plain to a person once the Holy Spirit opens up their understanding (Matt 16:17).  As Paul said, “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen (Rom 16:25-27).  Only God can reveal this mystery of Who Jesus is.  “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:26-27).  I love a good mystery…particularly, when the mystery has been made clear.  What was once hidden had been revealed to His saints.  What appear to be hard sayings by Jesus are made easy to understand once a person places their faith and trust in Jesus Christ Who alone makes easy the hard sayings to understand. Whoever has ears, let them hear (Matt 11:15).

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Julius Olugbenga Oyelakin April 30, 2012 at 8:29 am

Thank you for your soul lifting and highly explanatory articles.
They are very useful to me. Please send more to me.
Thank you sincerely.


Jack April 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Thank you so much Julius for your comment. Truly, you are an encourager and I appreciate your visiting us. Please come back soon. If you want more of these, please subscribe to our newsletter and get a free copy of our Ebook, “15 Questions Christians Want To Know” and you can get regular articles sent to you.


Chevelle October 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Hey Jack! I noticed alot of controversy over the book of leviticus. What is up with that?


Jack Wellman October 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Hello Chevelle, Thanks for your question. Good to hear from you. I am not aware of any controversy about the book of Leviticus. Is it from all of the animal sacrifices? Is so, this is a vivid reminder of just how awesome the consequences of sin are. In fact, holiness is spoken of 152 times in the book of Leviticus. It is mentioned here more than ANY other book of the Bible. God was teaching his people that they were to be set apart or “separated” for holiness. Just like the Israelites, we are to be different from the world. We are to devote every area of our lives to God. But how can we, sinful people, worship and obey a holy God? Our sin must be dealt with first. For this reason Leviticus opens with instructions for offerings and sacrifices.

I recently gave an expository sermon from this most holy book and it speaks with how we deal with sin. The sacrifices and offerings detailed in Leviticus were a means of atonement, or symbols of repentance from sin and obedience to God. Sin required a sacrifice – a life for a life. The sacrificial offerings had to be perfect (i.e. Jesus).


Chevelle October 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Hi Jack, your response serves me well. To be more specific,
I am referring to whenever someone wants to down or degrade the Bible and Christianity, they go to specific points in Leviticus like the text where a woman is supposed to marry her rapist, and to be stoned when she is not “chaste”. To me, these laws have a message to them. But people place the social justice issues into the Bible when the Bible already speaks of justice. I just don’t know what to say to them.


Jack Wellman October 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Chevelle, could you tell me the Scripture verse and chapter? People that have issues with the Old Testament Laws (that are no longer in effect & were only for Israel) just want to pick an argument and they are trying to use the Old Testament to bring down the whole Bible, and thus, God. Lets say, we used to hang people or we used to light them on fire and burn them at the stake. Why did these non-CHristian nations do that, you could ask them? Do all non-Christians feel like this? See their reasonings?

Because otherwise, when she gets married and her husband discovers that she is not a virgin, she will be killed:

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’s virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate…. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. Deuteronomy 22:13 [much like what is found in Leviticus]

Making the rapist marry the poor girl is a humanitarian rule–she gets to stay alive, and her father gets compensated for the value of the property that he lost. Win-win all around, showing how merciful is Our Heavenly Father.

Unless you or they can give me Scriptures, they can not make their point.


Chevelle October 26, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Hi Jack! Thank you again! I wasn’t sure where in the scriptures they were getting it from. Some of my classmates were saying how they preferred Buddhism over Christianity and were pointing to those things in the Bible that were in Leviticus which were actually Deuteronomy, to make the Bible (and God) seem like a horrible thing! Thank you for clarifying those scriptures for me and making me realize that those laws were written for Israel and no longer in effect. I am reading the Gospels now, starting with John and haven’t reached Leviticus.
Can also say that I am glad that I found your site and that you are interactive with your commentors. As a student in college, I am limited in the people that I am able reach to help me through my journey. I feel like talking to you has already helped me to grow. Thank you again for your patience and kindness.


Jack Wellman October 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I am so overjoyed you came here Chevelle. We have an article that shows that Buddhism has no Savior and they have no way to remove sin or anyway to get to heaven. Even Buddhists acknowledge that. An article called Who is Jesus? shows the difference between Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and the rest and that of all the religions of the world, only Jesus alone is still alive today. Read this link so you can be ready to answer those. When I went to a college, a “Christian” one mind you, there were so many skeptics but hold on to the Truth for it is the only truth available in the world.


Chevelle October 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

Thank you for the link. I am at a “Christian” university as well and it seems as if there are many maybe even more nonbelievers than believers at this school. And the ones who do believe, or so they say, like to say the Bible was written to long ago to apply to our modern society or use the age old “the Bible is not clear, so we don’t know” logic to ignore what it says and go along with how they feel (more like what their friends and professors) says is right. I will always hold on to the Bible, it IS the only Truth available in the world and I will never let that go. Thank you again for being an inspiration. I am reading alot more your posts and the Bible.


Graham June 25, 2013 at 1:20 am

A very clear explanation. I would be interested in your thoughts on a couplke of sayings that I am struggling with. When Jesus says you must hate your mother and father if you are to follow him – could this be – you must sacrifice everything? I have a family and this comes across as a bit harsh. (luke 14:26) and when he appears to go along with the old testament saying of children who curse their parents should be put to death (lev 20:9) Jesus’ comment Matthew 15:4 – that lines me up for stoning – when I was younger – gladly reformed. I realise that these were hard times in the desert and almost 3 thousand years ago for the original command but if Jesus is God, and he agrees with the old testament then surely he is saying this still stands? Thankyou.


Jack Wellman June 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thank you Graham for your comment and question. Jesus means that we should not necessarily hate our family but in comparison to our love for Him. He is speaking in hyperbole or extreme exaggeration to make a point.

In Matthew 15:4 Jesus was speaking to us, Christians? No, but to the religious leaders who were being hypocrites. They were not even taking care of their parents in their old age and this is not honoring them and Jesus was saying that were keeping their own traditions and so if they were so tied to the law then they should be stoned for they were not honoring their own parents (15:3-9). Jesus always made them realize that if they wanted to keep these old laws, like in the Old Covenant, now done away with, (except for the 10 Commandments which were written in stone and not part of the Mosaic Law) then they should go all the way…and by the way, they were breaking the 5th Commandment anyway.

No, stoning is not still in effect, Jesus proved that when they brought the woman who was caught in adultery and those who were going to stone her left since they couldn’t cast the first stone being lawbreakers themselves. Make sense? Hope so.


Graham June 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Thanks Jack for your quick reply.

Sometimes we must get clouded with reading and never stopping to reflect and let the spirit guide us. I guess the devil wants to snare us this way so we get down hearted. My prayers go to you for lifting my spirits today. Thank you.


Jack Wellman June 25, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Thank you Graham. Great point. I agree. If I’m not careful, and there’s a mist from the pulpit you can be sure there’ll be a fog in the pews. LOL


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