The teaching of Jesus is like a precious jewel. Jesus tells us that he speaks only what God the Father gives him to speak. Those words are full of grace, truth, power and blessing. His words speak to the heart of the human condition and give hope to the troubled spirit. Jesus’ words reveal God to us and show that God is full of goodness, mercy, patience, forgiveness and healing.
Each word from Jesus is like a gem that we can hold up to the light and examine. As we do so we find new richness and beauty in what he says. Just like a jewel, Jesus’ words are precious and valuable. They are more precious than gold and riches (Psalm 119:128). They are more beautiful than rubies and sapphires (Proverbs 8:11). The words of Jesus are sweet and delicious to our very soul (Psalm 19:10).
However, gems have hard edges. Diamonds, for example, are famously strong and can be used to cut other strong materials. A jewel may be beautiful and precious, but it can also be hard and uncomfortable.
Jesus’ words also have an hard edge to them. Not cruel or unkind, but challenging and unyielding. Jesus’ words can cut through our pride and preconceptions in a way that nothing else can. The book of Hebrews describes God’s word as “sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit … it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The power and precision of Jesus’ words can make them difficulty and uncomfortable at times.
This was just as much the experience of Jesus’ audience as he first spoke his words, as it is for us today. In John’s gospel we read of the reaction of some of the crowd to Jesus’ teaching:
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:50)
People heard Jesus’ words and found his teaching to be hard. They came across the cutting edge of the precious jewel and were challenged by it. It’s worth noting that this was not just the experience of a few isolated individuals. We are told that many disciples found Jesus’ teaching hard. They were disciples, those who followed Jesus. They had seen the beauty of Jesus’ words but also the hard and challenging edge to them.
As a result, many of those disciples turned away and no longer followed Jesus. The challenge of Jesus was too much for them. The jewel was precious but the hard edge too difficult.
Jesus turned then to the twelve closest to him, and asked them outright: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus knew their minds and anticipated that they too found the challenge of his teaching difficult to handle.
Simon Peter responds, summing up the attitude of the other disciples: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus’ words issue a challenge, certainly. But the beauty and value of Jesus’ teaching far outweighs the discomfort of applying them to our lives.
What about us? Are we put off from following Jesus because of the hard edge of his challenge to our lives? Do we find the hard edge of Jesus’ teaching just too uncomfortable to endure? Or do we realise that the words of Jesus are more precious and perfect than anything we could find elsewhere? Let’s not lose the jewel of Jesus’ words because of the hard edge of his challenge.