Jesus was the freest, most truthful soul who ever lived. He was free because He ALWAYS told the truth. It didn’t matter where He was or who He was with, Jesus could be brutally honest. This was seen most clearly in His relationship with the religious leaders of His day—the Pharisees.
Jesus communed with basically anyone who asked. He was known as a friend to sinners who was referred to as a drunk and a glutton by the Pharisees because He ate dinner with gluttons & drunks. In reality, Jesus was the picture of temperance and self-control, but because His soul was free, He would eat with anyone who asked. He simply did not care what other people thought or said about Him.
Therefore, when the Pharisees themselves asked Jesus to dine with them He obliged (see Luke 11:37-54). And because Jesus simply did not care what others thought about Him, He got into trouble right away—Remember, He’s a dinner guest.
“…the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. 39Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
Can you imagine that? The first thing Jesus does as He is reclining at the table with this Pharisee & his friends is to insult them. Typically, when we are invited to dinner at someone’s house, we are careful to comment about the beauty of their home or how delicious the food tastes. Even if we don’t like what is being served, we will still make an attempt to choke it down with a smile.
Not Jesus. Because His soul was free , because He really didn’t care “what you think,” and because He was always honest, Jesus took this dinner invitation as an opportunity to attack the beliefs of the religious folks. He continued:
42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
This passage totally blows my mind. Anyone who had any pre-conceived notions of Jesus being gentle, meek, and mild needs to lay those to rest. Jesus, no less than six times in this passage, pronounces “woe” (impending Divine judgment) upon the Pharisees & the lawyers of His day.
Not exactly a tutorial on how to win friends & influence people.
But Jesus was not primarily concerned with peoples’ feelings; He was primarily concerned with the truth, with proclaiming the truth irrespective of the cost to Him personally. He spoke the truth to EVERYONE—to the woman at the well, to the woman caught in the act of adultery, to the rich young ruler, to the Samaritan woman whose daughter was dying (“it is not right to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs”).
Yet, He also spoke to people based upon where they were at in their lives. To the woman caught in the act of adultery He was honest but gentle—“I don’t condemn you, now go & sin no more.” To the rich, young ruler He was honest but kind—“looking at him, Jesus loved him and said go, sell all you have & give to the poor & then come & follow me.”
To sinners, Jesus could be abundantly gracious & merciful, but to the self-righteous (Pharisees) He could be absolutely brutal. And the reason is that Jesus was constantly trying to get the Pharisees to realize that they didn’t have any righteousness of their own. Their righteousness could only come from Christ Himself—He would be their righteousness. But they refused the gift of Christ’s perfection, and they sought to establish their own righteousness—which was not sufficient to make them righteous before a holy, perfect God. This is why Jesus pronounced “woe” upon them. They would not be able to stand in the judgment of God.
Only those who realize that they have NO righteousness of their own and who need a Savior—it is only those people who will be saved and be spared from the wrath of God on the day of judgment.
God hears the cry of people like Karen Green. Karen was a drug addict & prostitute, who became so desperate in her broken life that while she was doing her drugs got down on her knees and asked Jesus to save her—then she got back up & did her drugs again. She literally prayed in her condition—“God, whatever you do, I don’t want to go back out in these streets the same way I came in. Please help me.”
And God did hear Karen. In fact, God promises to hear anyone who is honest about themselves because He is a God of truth: The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18). Today, Karen has a ministry to help prostitutes get off the street.
And this Jesus—this God who is primarily concerned with truth—promises to hear anyone who will call out to Him in the truth of their own brokenness.
…Even a Pharisee if he or she will realize their need…
Remember the apostle Paul? (Philippians 3)