Most people think Jesus is always loving, kind, and gracious. Well, that is true, most of the time. You see, once you start learning more about Jesus and reading the Bible, you may come across some pretty confusing or downright weird phrases that He says.
I hope, that when we get to Heaven, we’ll be able to ask him, “What did you mean by that??” but in the meantime, here are 10 questionable things Jesus said or did that still cause us to scratch our heads in confusion two thousand years later.
1. Jesus Said to Cut Off Your Hand
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” — Matthew 18:8-9
In this passage, Jesus isn’t commanding all of his followers to remove pieces of their bodies.
Rather, he’s saying that if something (anything) is causing you to sin, it’s better to remove that thing from your life, rather than risk your relationship with Christ and your eternal salvation.
2. Jesus Said You Must Hate Your Father and Mother
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”– Luke 14:26-27
Similarly, Jesus doesn’t actually expect us to hate our families. This would directly contradict his instructions elsewhere that we should love everyone. Rather, like Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus is telling us that we should love God so much that everything else pales in comparison.
3. Jesus Called a Canaanite Woman a Dog
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly…’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.’ The woman came and knelt before him. ‘Lord, help me!’ she said. He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.'” — Matthew 15:22-26
This passage is certainly difficult to read at first. Not only does Jesus ignore a hurting woman, but he calls her a dog!
Thankfully, some context can help.
The original term we translate as “dogs” referred to “little dogs,” like pets, and was a common derogatory term Jews would use to refer to Gentiles (non-Jews).
In using this term, Jesus isn’t being unnecessarily cruel or rude. We shouldn’t assume an angry, disappointed, and rude tone. Rather, he’s testing her faith, knowing that she’ll come through.
Immediately after this, impressed by her faith, Jesus answers the woman’s request, healing her daughter instantly.
4. Jesus Said He Comes to Bring War Not Peace
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” — Matthew 10:34
In this passage, Jesus isn’t encouraging us to take up our swords and start a physical war. Rather, he’s highlighting the inevitable consequences of his controversial message and mission.
Jesus’s teachings challenged social norms, religious traditions, and worldly values. As a result, Jesus knew that his message would create division and conflict, even among individual families.
In seeking to accurately understand Jesus’s words, we must interpret his words in light of his overall message of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
While his teachings may bring division among people due to differing responses to his message, his ultimate goal was to reconcile humanity with God and with one another.
5. Jesus Said to Them Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” –John 6:53-58
This common communion passage is another highly controversial message Jesus shared. For Catholics, this passage clearly states that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Jesus himself.
The original audience certainly thought Jesus meant his words literally. The following verses show that many in the crowd were offended, while others walked away and stopped following Jesus altogether as a result of this very teaching.
Most Protestants, however, believe that Jesus meant his words symbolically here.
6. Jesus Told His Disciples He Talks in Parables So Outsiders Hear but Don’t Understand
“Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven!” — Mark 4:9-12
Think the Bible should be clear and easy to understand?
In this passage, Jesus tells his followers that he purposely makes his message confusing! Why would he do this?
Surprisingly, this is a very loving thing for Jesus to do.
Jesus promises that those who seek him will find him. If you want to be a Christian, know more about God, or have a relationship with him, he will enable you to do so.
But God hides or obscures his message from those who don’t truly believe (and who don’t want to believe) because you can’t be held accountable for something you have no way of knowing.
By making his message difficult, Jesus rewards those who seek him while minimizing the guilt of those who don’t.
7. Jesus Said Whoever Wants to Become Great Must Be A Servant
“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” — Matthew 20:25-28
While this message isn’t shocking for those who know Christianity well, it can be a very hard message to truly accept or believe for anyone wrapped up in the world’s messages of “Work harder!” “Don’t let others take advantage of you!” and “Get ahead at all costs!”
In Jesus’s kingdom, the first will be last and the last will be first. (Matthew 20:16)
8. Jesus Said We Are Blessed When People Insult and Persecute Us
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
Similarly, in this passage, Jesus comforts his followers by letting them know that persecution isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, religious persecution can be a sign that we’re boldly standing up for what’s right and that our faith is strong enough to do so.
This does not mean we should be jerks and offend people needlessly, and then complain about how “persecuted” we are.
Rather, Jesus is assuring his followers that the troubles we face aren’t always a sign that we’re on the wrong path.
9. Jesus Tells Them Do Not Resist an Evil Person
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
In this passage, Jesus is not commanding his followers to allow or enable others to abuse them, as some have wrongly misinterpreted it to mean.
Rather, Jesus is teaching his followers to respond to mistreatment with a radical form of love and forgiveness, rather than seeking revenge or escalating conflicts.
Even if other people do the wrong thing, we can still choose to do the right thing, refusing to retaliate and removing ourselves and our loved ones from harmful situations.
10. Jesus Tells Us to Love Our Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”– Matthew 5:43-45
While this teaching may be well known to both Christians and non-Christians alike, its implications are counter-cultural and surprising.
As Christians, we should love everyone — even our enemies. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do, but it does mean that we should treat everyone with kindness and respect, even if they don’t deserve it.
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