16. Other Jesus sayings


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Here we examine various other well-known Jesus sayings for their possible pertinence to The Way of Peace.

“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

This saying comes up at Matthew 10:29-31 and Luke 12:7.

I seek to examine each of these sayings in context, and the context of this one presents problems.

A lot of material appears in both Matthew and Luke, but not Mark.  Scholars believe this means the authors of Matthew and Luke had access to a certain document or set of documents that the author of Mark did not.  They call this collection of documents “Q,” from Quelle, the German word for “fountain” or “source.”

At Matthew 10:26-33 and Luke 12:2-9, the authors have copied the same substantial passage from “Q.”  It falls into four parts:

  • That which is hidden will be revealed:  Matthew 10:26b-27, Luke 12:2-3
  • Fear God, not people: Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5
  • God’s radical presence: Matthew 10:29-31, Luke 12:6-7
  • Confessing or rejecting Christ: Matthew 10:32-33, Luke 12:8-9.

“Q” seems to have assembled some of these together based on the recurring phrase, “Do not fear,” which appears in Matthew 10:28 and Matthew 10:31, and Luke 12:4 and Luke 12:7, respectively.

The problem:  I want the saying about God’s radical presence to be authentic, but not the one before or after.  Does Jesus really want us to fear God?  Can it be that authentic and inauthentic sayings occur in such proximity in the source document?  In the end, it’s simplest, if not easiest, for me to conclude it can, and here they do.

Even the hairs of your head are all counted.

Our God is infinite and intimate.

Our God’s presence and awareness extend from the vast farthest galaxies, to the inner workings of each atom.  Between those two extremes, God knows every hair on every person’s head, and every feather on every bird that flies — or falls.  As to each one that falls, this occurs consistent with God’s will — that is, the orderly operation of natural law, by which the universe exists.

God has not left the bird that falls.  God cannot.

Nor can God ever, under any circumstance, leave or cease to care for you.  God is always with you and for you, no matter what happens.

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This phrase occurs at Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42, Matthew 13:50, Matthew 24:51, Matthew 25:30, and Luke 13:28.

It is notable that almost all these sayings occur in Matthew; moreover, every one that occurred in conjunction with a Kingdom saying was judged inauthentic. (Link.)

Related:  Life in the outer darkness.

“Your faith has made you well.”

I believe Jesus sometimes used hyperbole or said things for shock value, never meaning to be taken literally.  “Blessed are you poor” was certainly a shock.  He may have used hyperbole in speaking of plucking out one’s eye, and in the passages about moving mountains (Matthew 21:21-22, Mark 11:22-24) and plucking up trees (Luke 17:5-6).

Now, “faith” and “believe” are the same word in Greek.  One is simply the noun form, and the other the verb.

“Your faith has made you well” comes up three times in the story of the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:32, Luke 8:48), and twice in the stories of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52, Luke 18:42).  There are two more occurrences that I don’t think count.  The problem with these words:  many people think and teach that if one’s prayers aren’t answered the way one wants, or if one’s healing isn’t instantaneous, one is somehow lacking in “faith” — whatever that means.

Most healing isn’t instantaneous.  Jesus accomplished instantaneous healings because he was, after all, Jesus.  For normal people today, healing by the laying on of hands is more likely to require that the patient receive that sacrament again and again over the course of several weeks or months — along with care from licensed medical professionals.

I suspect that “faith,” as Jesus used the term — Jesus, not Paul or James or necessarily anyone else — basically meant “integrity,” walking one’s talk, coherence among one’s desires, thoughts and actions.  The chapter “Heart and Soul” goes into this in some detail.  The bleeding woman, for example, wanted to be healed, thought that touching Jesus’ cloak could do it, and acted consistent with that desire and belief.   It’s not hard for me to believe that this is what Jesus meant when he said these words to the no-longer-bleeding woman and the no-longer-blind Bartimaeus.

“Why did you fear?” and “Why did you doubt?”

These words come up in the stories of the stilling of the storm, or storms, Matthew 8:23-27, Matthew 14:22-33, and Mark 4:35-41.  It is not clear to me how many storms were stilled:  Matthew 14 may be a different version of the same story as Matthew 8.  These words do not occur in Luke’s version of the story, Luke 8:22-25.

The key for me, here as in the Sermon on the Mount, is that from the point of view of the world as Jesus saw it, anyone can choose his or her feelings completely freely at any point in time.  The Twelve did not have to fear: they had a choice.  Peter did not have to doubt (that is, waver): he had a choice.  Presence is the principal tool by which free will can become completely free.

Ears to hear

This saying occurs at Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Mark 4:9, Mark 4:23, Mark 7:16, Luke 8:8, and Luke 14:35.  Albeit I regard some of those occurrences as inauthentic, there can be little doubt that Jesus said it.  Often.

History records that, as the Parable of the Sower predicts, different people responded to Jesus’ message differently.  Not everybody “got it.”  And, in short, Jesus was OK with that.

He had serenity.

This stands in contrast with, say, John 3:18.

Them that’s got, gets

This saying, in different forms, occurs at Matthew 13:12, Matthew 25:29, Mark 4:25, Luke 8:18 and Luke 19:26.  Matthew 13:12:

For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Jesus tells us how the cosmos works: not what should be, but what is; not what should happen, but what does happen.

Albeit the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Pounds are inauthentic, (1) there is no doubt that Jesus said this, and (2) my posts on this subject set forth what I would say here.

See The Parable of the Talents and About the Parable of the Talents.

“You of little faith”

This saying occurs at Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8 and 17:20, and Luke 12:28.  It is notable that it occurs five times in Matthew, only once in Luke, and not at all in Mark.  This suggests it was a favorite of Matthew’s.

I suspect what Jesus meant by “faith” here is consistent with what I said as to “Your faith has made you well.”

Significantly, I suspect Jesus’ tone and manner in saying this was teasing, almost joking, rather than scolding.

The leaven of the Pharisees

This comes up at Matthew 16:6, Mark 8:15, and Luke 12:1.  See “The yeast .”

Faith as a mustard seed

This is mentioned at Matthew 16:20 and Luke 17:6 ff.  See “Your faith has made you well.”

Offenses must come

This saying occurs at Matthew 18:7 and Luke 17:1, in the context of Matthew 18:6-10 and Luke 17:1-3, respectively.  There is a related passage at Mark 9:42-48.  I think best to display all three; from the King James Version:

Matthew 18

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
7Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
8Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
9And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
10Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Luke 17

Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Mark 9

42And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
43And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
44Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
45And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
47And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

The material corresponding to Matthew 18:8-9 and Mark 9:43-48 does not appear in Luke.

This text troubles me in that there is one phrase here I want to be authentic, among many that I don’t.

Scandal.  I previously defined “sin” as “anything you choose to take offense at.”  The Greek word translated variously as “stumbling block, “offense,” or “temptation to sin” is skandalon, “scandal.”  It literally means a stumbling block.  When Jesus is rejected at Nazareth, and Matthew 13:57 says, “They took offense at him,” the literal translation is, “They stumbled at him.”

The little ones.  Matthew places his passage immediately following the one about children discussed in “Greatness;” which see.  The “little ones” are properly those who are “less” in society: those we look down on, those of no account, the poor, the “sinners,” the riff-raff.  Jesus warns us to beware of offending them.

Comeuppance.  I don’t know what this Jesus means about the offender having “a great millstone around his neck,” etc.; as I have never seen any such thing happen in real life.  Never have I seen an offender get his or her comeuppance; not personally, not in this life.  He may be referring to the negative karma an offender incurs in causing injury to the poor; many difficulties many people face in this life come from things they got away with in the past.  Related:  About organized religion.

Inevitability.  This Jesus says, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come,” or “must come.”  The Way of Peace is all about becoming able to face, with peace of mind, life’s inevitable difficulties — including the offensive conduct of other sentient, that is, free-willed creatures, including people.  In contrast to others’ messianic vision of an eternal world free of tears and trouble, this Jesus says they’re sure to come, and does not forecast any time when it will ever be any different.

Bound on earth

This saying comes up at Matthew 16:9 and 18:18.  See the chapter, “About organized religion.”

Sell your goods, give to the poor

This saying is found at Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 18:22.  See “The rich man” and “The treasure and the pearl.”

“Many are called, but few are chosen.

This saying occurs at Matthew 20:16 and Matthew 22:14.  I have no understanding of this, unless it is an effort by Matthew to exalt some members of the community — perhaps specifically the Twelve — over others.  It is inconsistent with anything else Jesus ever said.

A prophet without honor

Matthew 13:57 (King James Version):

A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

The same saying comes up at Mark 6:4 and Luke 4:24.  All three are in the story of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth.  Luke provides a fuller story, wherein Jesus challenges his hearers’ ethnocentrism; but Matthew and Mark leave us clueless as to how Jesus offended them.

Ambrose Worrall, Olga Worrall, Robert Leichtman, Sigrid Dreyfuss, Gharith Pendragon — all names you’ve probably not heard of, all bona fide clairvoyants.  I have reason to believe there are several hundred more in metropolitan Baltimore alone, and you’ve probably never heard any of their names, either.

Such people tend to live in intentional obscurity, for reason that they live in a radical embrace of What Is, and when they speak from that perspective, they meet hostility from those who are emotionally dependent on ideology and dogma — emotionally dependent, that is, on radical rejection, denial or disapproval of What Is.

Any such person who becomes well-known is likely to meet the same end as did Jesus, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

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