“Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."”
It is so important to not be offended at the words of Jesus. This may seem obvious, but we find many instances in the scriptures of people who, despite appearing sincere, were yet unwilling to obey Him when He said something difficult. But those who endured difficult teaching were truly blessed. And we can learn a lot from these examples for our own lives today.
“Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?"”
John 6:28-30 NASB
These asked, what shall we do to be pleasing to God? Seems like an honest request. But when Jesus responds with "believe in (Me)," they make it clear that they're only willing to comply with His answer if it suits their taste. They need some proof before they're willing to bear with His teaching.
This actually happens again in the same conversation:
“Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."
Again, this seems like a pretty great request. "Lord, always give us the bread of heaven." They even called Him "Lord!" But see how they respond when He says something distasteful to their sensibilities ("I am the bread of life"):
Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?"”
John 6:34-35, 41-42 NASB
Their response reminded me of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22, who also turned away from the Lord after seemingly genuinely asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
And this is the point these examples have brought home to my heart: It's not those who ask the question who are the true seekers, but rather those who are willing to bear with the answer, whatever it may be. Consider the Samaritan woman at the well, who did not defend herself when Jesus pointed out her sin:
“...Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”
Or even more dramatically, the Syrophoenician woman, who didn't take offense at something Jesus said, which many might have allowed to discourage them from seeking Him:
“...She came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.”
Matthew 15:25-28 NASB
She not only pressed on when He seemingly ignored her (v23), but then she also willingly accepted what others might have considered an insult. This reveals her true heart: utter submission to the One she knows is the true Savior. This attitude is proven in her complete refusal to allow anything Jesus might say to change her willingness to obey.
Both the Samaritan woman and the Syrophoenician woman received, not simply because they asked, but because they were willing to accept whatever the answer was, however painful the answer was. Their response was not conditional upon the command being desirable.
This really is a hallmark of faith. There are many disciples -- those who had walked with Jesus and enjoyed much of His teaching -- who we likely never heard of because they were unwilling to bear with Him when He said something difficult:
“And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”
John 6:65-66 NASB
And the perhaps the ultimate example is the difference in how Peter and Judas responded to Jesus's difficult words. Peter kept following even when Jesus called him "Satan" (Matthew 16:23), whereas Judas got so upset when Jesus offended his sensibilities that he set out on the path to betray him (Matthew 26:8-16, Mark 14:4-10).
I want to have a faith that refuses to be offended at the words of Jesus. It is good to examine ourselves and ask, "Have I unknowingly placed any conditions upon obedience to what the Lord speaks to me? Am I unwilling to obey if the Lord says something I don't like?" Because He has a tendency to bring attention to the things most precious to me (see Matthew 8:21-22, Luke 14:26, Luke 18:22-23).
Out of His abundant lovingkindness, He points out what we lack so that we might not be lacking in anything that God wants to see in our lives. God wants us to be a perfect reflection of Jesus, His Son, and it is His love which calls our shortcomings to the light (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Do I find my prayers are hindered? This may be the reason. So long as I will not give what He asks for -- whether it's a heart of gratitude, giving up a wrong attitude, or letting go of my own will -- He will not give what I ask for. So I want to be especially serious about the commands which sting, as they're the ones I'm likely to avoid in my flesh. May my response to any difficult teaching be like Peter's after many of the disciples abandoned Jesus:
“Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God."”
John 6:68-69 NASB
Because Jesus is truly the Holy One of God, I do not have the right to pick and choose what I want to accept of what He says. Every word of His is eternal life, and my life is found in completely submitting to Him, refusing to be offended by any condition He places upon my life with Him.
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3
The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is emphatically, "No!" I cannot possibly expect to walk with the Lord unless I am willing to agree with Him in all matters. I must make up my mind first and foremost that, "Whatever you say, I will do. Where ever you lead, I will go. Where you die, I die." (Paraphrase, Ruth 1:16-17)
"There is no use talking about being filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, unless we are willing to give up all to obtain all." - A.W. Tozer