Why does Jesus offend?

In Proverbs, it is written, a word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Proverbs 25:11 ESV). Yet isn’t it true, words spoken can be at one time relished by some and reviled by others?

The followers of John the Baptist came to Jesus asking if he was the One they were anticipating – the Messiah, the chosen One, the Redeemer of Israel. In response, Jesus tells them to relate to John what they have seen and heard. He gives them a list,

  • blind receive sight
  • lame walk
  • lepers are cleansed
  • deaf hear
  • dead are raised to life
  • poor have good news preached to them. (Luke 7:18-22 ESV)

Then Jesus says in verse 23, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I find these words so surprising. How can these acts of love, compassion, empathy, sacrifice, be seen as offensive to anyone? Why did he say this?

Jesus, an itinerant teacher, healed people brought to him all day long, and even on many occasions, into the night. He taught about the kingdom of God. The good news he preached gave people hope. He said the Spirit of the Lord anointed him to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the oppressed (Luke 4:18 ESV). Jesus was a humble man, he gave all the glory for his actions to God, stating only said what God told him (John 12:49 ESV). What could be offensive?

In the next section of Luke 7, I find the answer. Jesus is invited to dinner at the Pharisee, Simon’s house ( a man noted for his spiritual integrity). During the evening, a woman of disrepute comes in and falls to her knees at Jesus’ feet. She pours oil on them, but her tears also fall, so she wipes them off with her hair. Jesus, apparently, takes all this in stride. Simon, on the other hand, is appalled by her behavior as well as Jesus’ for allowing her to touch him – for she was a ‘sinner’ (law-breaker).

Rather than reproaching the woman, Jesus tells a story to Simon about two men who are forgiven debts by a merciful moneylender – one owed a great deal and the other a smaller amount. He asks, which of the two men love the moneylender more? Simon correctly answers, the one who owed the greater debt. Jesus returns to the present situation, contrasting the actions of Simon and the uninvited guest.

Upon entering the house, Simon had not given Jesus water to wash his feet, but the woman washed them with her tears. Simon had not greeted Jesus with a kiss, yet the woman kissed his feet from the moment she fell at them. Simon had not anointed Jesus’ head with oil, but the woman annointed his feet. Then Jesus said,

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

We are not told how Simon reacted. Did he accept Jesus’ assessment, acknowledging his own righteousness?  Or was he convicted, recognizing his lack of love?

Most likely, Simon was offended by his guest. Who was this man who compared a sinner to a saint and reprimanded the saint?

The Bible says, whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles at just one point, is guilty of breaking it all (James 2:10 ESV). Unless Simon was completely without sin – which is impossible in light of the expectations of God’s Law – he was as guilty as the woman.

But Jesus spoke of degrees. Is it possible Simon loved little because he saw little in himself to condemn? Was he, in fact, blind to the reality of his own sinful condition, whereas the woman was aware of her unworthiness and pled for mercy by her actions?

Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the Light of the World (John 1 ESV). His light exposes our hearts, thoughts, and motives and we see the truth – we are all condemned by God’s standards. There is no exception. We do not like to look at ourselves in this Light, moreover we surely don’t want others to see our selfishness, stubbornness, self-righteousness, prejudice, etc.

So what is our response? Is it a humble acceptance of our need for a Redeemer, someone who can wash us clean, forgive us and change our hearts? Or are we offended and angry, rejecting the holiness of God’s standard wanting instead to live by our own?

Jesus came to proclaim good news, we deserve condemnation, but he came to save us by taking the judgement upon himself. He was accused, though innocent. He was tortured and killed in the most painful and humiliating manner, without resistance. As he died, his last words were gracious – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 3:34 ESV).

Are you offended? I pray you will step into the Light of the truth and accept the loving forgiveness of our Father. I did.

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Bethany Den Boer

Christian Children's Author and Speaker

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