“The disciples said to Jesus, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’” – Matthew 15:12
The Pharisees attended the sermons of Jesus and, on this occasion, came accusing the disciples of breaking God’s law by not washing before eating. Jesus answered their accusations by accusing them of sin. “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Jesus boldly confronted the Pharisees for their attempts to show spiritual and moral superiority over the people by adding rules to God’s Word in their tradition and even their willingness to sin against God to keep their added rules (Matthew 15:4-7).
The disciples seem to have felt they needed to inform the Lord the weightiness of His boldness in preaching and just who He was preaching to. The hostility of the confrontation led the disciples to ask if Jesus knew how offended the Pharisees were by Jesus’ sermon. Jesus answered that the Pharisees were blind guides leading others into a pit.
Jesus truly was a bold preacher, yet He preached as perfectly righteous. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus boldly preached, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus’ righteousness exceeded the Pharisees. Jesus is the righteousness of God.
The Pharisees trusted in their manners, the outside of the cup, but not heart change, the inside of the cup. Hence, when offended by such bold preaching from the righteousness of God, the Pharisees became angry and bitter rather than repent.
As a preacher of God’s Word, I must be bold. Yet, my boldness does not come from my own righteousness. To be honest, I am offended by my own preaching. Knowing God is perfect and I, His creation for His glory, am a ruined creature leads to an inevitable offense at hearing His Word.
There is preaching that may seem inspiring or even “telling it as it is,” but they fall into Paul’s warning, “Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. They only do this to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ” (Galatians6:12).
I cannot make a good impression outwardly. Even as I preach a sermon I studied and prayed over, I am offended when confronted by the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ in His Word is a bold preacher to me. This boldness in proclaiming the bad news that I am a sinner fixes my gaze on the offensive cross of Christ where by faith in Christ the righteousness of God is mine.
When offended by such a bold word, I am tempted to run like the Pharisees into anger, bitterness, allowing my suspicion of other people to question their hearts and motives to justify myself. I have learned to ask God for humility. I hate being offended. It is an unsavory feeling. This makes the grace of God in His good news so delightful. Christ does not preach offensively to me, even through my own preaching, simply to make me feel bad. My offense is a welcomed pain because it drives me from myself and to my Savior.
Beloved, know when the sermon offends you, I hear the same sermon and am also offended. This is why I preach Law and Gospel instead of Law and habits. You and I need more than a change of manners, we need heart change. Good news, Christ the crucified and risen Savior changes the hearts of His people.
Heavenly Father, be merciful to us sinners, which Your Word proclaims us to be. You have graciously not left us in despair as sinners, but have granted pardon for sin in Christ Jesus our Lord. Make my heart delight in Your Law, even when Your Law offends us, to welcome You drawing us to Your grace to us in Christ. By Your Holy Spirit in us, form our obedience to You from the new heart and new creation You have made us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.