Jesus is not know for being particularly easy with his teaching. It can be just plain difficult.
Sometimes the teachings are easy enough to understand but hard in their application. We know what Jesus said about enemies. He didn’t mince words or obfuscate. Love them. Full Stop. But, when you have an enemy, you don’t WANT to love them. If you HAVE to love them, then you CAN’T hate them, and in the darkest parts we want to hate some people. But Jesus came to shine a light into even those parts and to change them. So, love (wish and seek the best for) your enemies and pray (bring their needs, cares, and burdens before God) for those who persecute you. That is hard.
Other times Jesus doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. A lot of the people in John 6 stopped following him because he said, “You have to eat my body and drink my blood.” And today we can say, “Oh yeah, he was talking about communion.” But THEY didn’t know that. There is a rabbi talking about eating a person and drinking his blood, and they are just thinking about the number of Torah laws and cultural traditions they would have to break. But mostly, they would be thinking “WHAT?! WHY?! What is he on about?” Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. But they didn’t seem to get it, because his mission wasn’t complete yet.
And sometimes, the teaching is BOTH hard to understand and seems difficult in the day-to-day living.
Luke 8 is full of them. Why does Jesus, who is so insistent on US spreading the Kingdom message to all corners of the world, teach with hiddenness? Why does he say, “Go into all the world” and tell everyone to keep it quiet? Why does he teach in parables, so that the crowds would be confused? I could give an astute scholarly answer, that references the nature of prophecy and the different purposes for the mission of Jesus and mission of the church, but in the end it is a head scratcher. It feels weird. It feels hard. It weighs on me.
Nothing weighs heavier on me from this chapter than Luke 8:18. As a reminder: “18 So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” That’s a hard one! Why should the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Is that what Jesus is saying?
Though the questions are important, there are times for answers. And of course that is not what he is saying.
Jesus has just finished saying that a light will not bet covered up but put on a lampstand, and how everything will be disclosed and made known. He has been speaking about the knowledge of the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Word of God, the Knowledge of God, the Logos of God, up to this point. So the question we need to answer is “whoever has what?” Whoever has a desire and thirst to learn the things of God. Whoever has a desire to serve Jesus. Whoever has a desire to follow him where he leads. Whoever, once the lamp is lighted, wants to see it in its fulness. THAT person will be given more. They will actually acquire the knowledge they are looking for. They will be equipped to serve. They will be empowered to follow. They will see the light, and it will fill them up, all the way from the inside out.
But whoever does not have those desires…
Well, what little power, strength, might, authority, ability, talent…
It’ll be taken away.
It’s a hard teaching. But it makes sense. Jesus comes to offer life. If we don’t want life, we don’t get it. It’s not forced upon us.
You may be wondering, “But right now I don’t want it. I am reading because it’s a habit I can’t break. I am reading while crying because I want it to be true but can’t pull out that belief in me.” Welcome to the Christian Faith, where desires like that have existed beside the “most devout” since the dawn of the church! Ancient Christian authors wrote statements like (and forgive the modern paraphrase) “I don’t want God, but I want to want God.” Even a man declared to Jesus “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Maybe you have believing unbelief, or unbelieving belief. Maybe you want to want God. Or want to want to want him.
Jesus can work with that glimmer.
Because in the end he will work with us on all the hard passages, on the ones that weigh on us, on the things that are hard to understand and hard to live out.
The promise from scripture is that, if you let him work, “He will finish the good work he began in us.”
Jesus will give you understanding and peace when you don’t.
Jesus will give you the skills and ability for service.
Jesus will give you power to follow.
Do you want him to? Do you want to want him to?