Do you recall a time when someone close to you, who had a reputation for patience and kindness, did the "no more Mr. Nice Guy" thing? They blew their cool. They laid down the law. Maybe they even lost their religion! You stood there stunned. A whole other strata of the person broke through the surface. What did you think about that person afterwards?
There are times when Jesus surprises us with the manner of His speech. The jewel of Jesus gets torqued in a situation and we see some different facets. His brilliance becomes a fierce and penetrating beam. He makes us reassess our understanding of Him. He challenges our concepts of righteousness and love.
In today's text, Jesus does some name-calling. 'Hypocrites, blind guides, dullards and dogs' show up on the lips of the Savior. What are we to make of this? Well, first we have to re-set in our minds that Jesus is the Holy One. There is no malice, no sin in these expressions. So often when we resort to name-calling, it is for vengeance and punishment's sake. Jesus is not trying to injure anyone here. Though sensibilities may be offended and feelings hurt, Jesus still rather intends to shake people from their current condition to rise to a better one. His intentions are to build up, not to tear down.
There is simple truth behind the first three descriptives: the Pharisees ARE hypocrites because they champion holy living and yet harbor unholy motives. Their spiritual lives constitute "lip-service." Jesus is confronting them so that they WILL literally "lose their religion." The Pharisees need to lose their religious traditions and facade and actually give their hearts to the Lord. Because their hearts are so far from God, they can not possibly lead others to Him. They are remote from the true light, and so stumble in their darkness and lead others down into the shadows. The blind leading the blind.
The disciples are called "dull" because of their need for an explanation of the parable about what goes in the mouth and what comes out of the mouth. Perhaps they are still too literal minded, thinking that Jesus is referring to eating and vomiting. Jesus calls them 'dull' as a way of saying "Think harder!" "Think in spiritual terms; about the inner man and not the outer." Sometimes we need a whack on the side of the head to snap us out of our old patterns or laziness of thinking.
Finally, Jesus' poetic reference to Gentiles as "dogs" calls for some of that hard thinking. In some Jewish minds, there were only two types of people - Jews, who were God's children, and Gentiles, who were 'dogs.' Jesus does not fall into this mindset as evidenced by His statement to go and make disciple "of all the nations" - of the 'goyim,' the Gentiles. But Jesus, as a Rabbi, a Master Teacher, used His knowledge of this dichotomy to draw out the faith of the Canaanite woman. He calls her by the typical derisive slang of the day to see how she will respond. "Shall I throw the children's bread to the dogs?" She replies, "Whether I'm a child or a dog, you are still my master." Jesus marvels, "Now THIS is tremendous faith!"
Did Jesus' name-calling stun you a bit?
What name does He call YOU by?.
Pray: Lord Jesus, help me to be a devoted student of Yours. I want to go deeper in understanding and wisdom of Your words and Your way. You are challenging, shocking, intriguing and I want to know all about You!