A lot of times we associate directness and bluntness with a lack of tact, or outright unkindness. With the picture many of today’s people have of Jesus, most can hardly imagine Jesus ever being direct or blunt in his speech.
But sometimes the best way anyone can love a person is to get straight to the point. Sometimes the kindest thing we can say to a person is something very, very direct. Blunt, even.
That’s because not everyone is listening from the same vantage point. If a person is listening in order to judge, rather than to grasp, or learn, or empathize, then what’s being said is going through a very thick filter. And that filter can be almost impenetrable.
Unless we can get the person to listen from another position there’s very little possibility of punching through that filter. It’s only when a person moves from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk that words — even Jesus’ words — can penetrate to the heart.
Jesus is in the business of penetrating through to the heart. That’s why he doesn’t give up on the chief priests and the elders. Still, he’s definitely having trouble cracking through their filter, and he can’t seem to get them to change positions.
But Jesus’ heart for sinners is huge. So though it’s near the end of his life, he still wants to break through the concrete bunkers their hearts have become. He goes “direct” with them. He addresses the chief priests and the elders with very blunt, challenging words:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'” (Matthew 21:31b-32, NIV).
It’s clear what Jesus was seeking. Repentance — minds and hearts willing to make a turnaround. Sadly, the chief priests and elders were too busy judging to consider a change of mind and heart.
If you’re struggling to hear or believe what Jesus says, try changing positions. Move from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk and see what happens.
Jesus, crack through the concrete bunker of my pride, and help me switch listening positions. Move my mind and heart so that I am willing to turn around, and listen to you from the pupil’s desk. You have so much to teach me. Don’t let me miss a thing! And Lord, if you have to be direct with me to get my attention, then go right ahead. I know that it’s all just love!
Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 1, is Job 22:1 – 24:25, Matthew 21:18-32 and Proverbs 3:21-35.
Header image based on "Second Judicial Circuit" by July, CC by 2.0