Sometimes Jesus’ words shock me because they are so offensive to my own culture. Jesus has a lot to say to us today. His words still indict and call us to a new, counter-cultural way of living.
These statements are a powerful reminder that Jesus, fully God and fully man, could have easily conquered the world. (He had the power.) Instead, the Good News is primarily an insurrection of the heart. He knows that capturing a mans body without first capturing his heart is a fruitless effort. Until we fully surrender our lives to Him we will not be changed and we will not see the change we long for. (Romans 12:1)
Here are 10 counter-cultural rebellious phrases from Jesus’ ministry, as captured in the Gospel narratives:
- On breaking the Sabbath to heal a woman: You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 1Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? (Luke 13:15-16)
- Dealing with religious elitists. Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)
- About self-righteous religious people. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17)
- An indictment on stingy, rich givers. Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on. (Mark 12:42-44)
- Redefining the nuclear family. Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:34-35)
- On self-righteous preachers. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. (Matthew 23:3-4)
- On conflict in your life. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
- On the Temple, the center of religious life for the Jews. “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)
- About people who think they deserve heaven. Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. (Matthew 21:31-32)
- On religious people questioning the power of government. You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:18-21)
Sometimes we need to be reminded that telling the truth is the most loving thing you can do. And Jesus isn’t calling us to reform the establishment… he’s calling us to counter it with a new way. Yes, he’s calling us to join in him a rebellion of the heart.
Be bold, friends.
Note: If you’re looking to go deeper on this journey, check out this excellent study from Intervarsity: Counter-Cultural Jesus and the Establishment Church.