Jesus’ Harsh Words: The Grace of Rebuke

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In Luke 11, Jesus offers a series of rebukes to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These leaders not only had the Word of God but held authority for the Word of God in the lives of others. This should stop us in our tracks as pastors, ministry leaders, elders, or anyone who has some role of authority in the lives of others.

There are certain things about us—things we do and things inside of us—that are distasteful to Jesus. We must hear this side of Jesus’ teaching. We must reconsider whether we only take in Jesus’ loving, gentle words or whether we hear the comprehensive breadth of Jesus’ words. We must open our ears and hear even the words of rebuke as if they were spoken to us.

If our first response to Jesus’ rebuke is to think of how they apply to someone else, then we are likely avoiding the word that Christ is speaking directly to us. We must receive the hard words of Christ with radical humility and openness to correction for our thorough transformation. The spotlight is upon us and we should not be quick to divert it toward another.

The piercing sword of rebuke is a grace and it is vital that we remember that fact. The first step toward healing is an accurate diagnosis. Jesus’ rebuke is the difficult diagnosis that leads to the Soul-physician’s surgical grace in removing sickness from us in order to make our souls whole.

Jesus rebukes the Pharisees first of all because there is a different and better type of cleanness than what they are concerned about. They are concerned about external and superficial cleanliness but not the internal and deeper cleanliness. They are concealing deeper uncleanness of soul under the cover of superficial cleanness. They are like whitewashed graves that are clean and beautiful on the outside but hold death and decay inside.

The cure is found through Jesus the Life-giver who points the way through generosity to the poor (Luke 11:41), attention to justice, and practicing the love of God (11:42). Is this a salvation by works? No, it is the fruit of repentance as we turn toward God from self-seeking religion and hypocrisy. As we repent, Jesus leads us beyond ourselves into something stronger and more alive. It is the healing pathway out of soul-sickness.

Jesus secondly rebukes the experts in the Law because they have kept life from others. They weigh people down with religious burdens, locking the door to life by their mishandling of God’s Law. God’s Word intends to bring life but they wield it in such a way that life is snuffed out through incorrect usage.

The anger of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law reflects the reality that Jesus has touched upon a nerve with His rebuke. Do we feel angry or uncomfortable with the words of Jesus? Do we attempt to turn the attention of the difficult diagnosis toward someone else? Is it too painful to hear?

Linger in it. Do not flinch. Open your heart and mind to the rebuke of Jesus. Inside the rebuke is the grace of a loving and healing God.

Seeing Ourselves and Others through God’s Eyes

Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. He pursued unlikely people at the margins to welcome them into God’s kingdom. 

There is a story in Luke 7 that brings this to life so powerful. It happens after Jesus’ great sermon on the plateau, His healing of a centurion’s servant and raising a widow’s son from death. Even these stories remind us of the powerful grace found in Jesus. And then comes a moment that is unexpected.

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. (Luke 7:36)

Jesus is with some religious leaders, particularly a Pharisee, whose name we discover later is Simon. It is likely that Jesus and the other religious men are reclining at the table in the places of honor. However, it is also likely that this was an open event, which was not uncommon. Where others, who were not guests of honor, could enter the home and draw near to listen at the edges of the room. This was a visual representation of everyone’s social status: guests of honor at the center; everyone else at the edges of the room.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38)

Something unexpected happens. A woman known to the area as sinful appears. We don’t know exactly what this means, but tradition holds that she was a prostitute. She takes an exquisite alabaster jar of the most expensive perfume and lavishes it upon Jesus. She kisses His feet, weeps on His feet, and wipes His feet with her hair. Have you ever been to an uncomfortable dinner? Let me tell you, when this woman shows up in Simon the Pharisee’s home and pours out her thanksgiving to Jesus in this way, it may have felt like one of the most awkward moments you could ever imagine.

Jesus follows this awkward extravagance with a parable about forgiveness that reveals a stark contrast between the love of Simon the host and the love of this “sinful” woman. Simon offered Jesus no water for washing His feet, but this woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Simon failed to offer Jesus the common kiss of welcome, but this woman has endlessly kissed His feet. Simon offered Jesus no oil on His head for cleansing, but this “sinful” woman has poured out the most expensive perfume upon Him.

Whereas the religious leaders expected Jesus to be repulsed by the sinfulness of this woman, instead He is put off by the lack of gratitude from their religious hearts. Instead, He is drawn to the heart of this woman broken by her sin and overcome by the gracious welcome of a Savior who receives us and forgives.

Great forgiveness leads us into an extravagant response, while little sense of forgiveness makes it easy to miss the great gift. The value system of the kingdom is different than the value system of the world. This woman was anything but the most valuable person of her town, but to God revealed in Jesus Messiah she is significant and worth treasuring with the greatest gift of God’s gracious forgiveness.

Jesus on Sin and Forgiveness

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we launched into a new preaching series entitled “Jesus Said What?!” I began the series by looking at what it means to confront sin and also share forgiveness by exploring an important text Matthew 18:15-35.

This message is from the eighth part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, and “‘Tis the Reason.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15)

Sin, Confrontation, and Community Life (Matthew 18:15-17)

Sin and pointing it out

A pathway for pointing sin out

The goal of pointing sin out

Some considerations

Binding, Loosing, Prayer, and the Presence (Matthew 18:18-20)

Binding and loosing 

The power of prayer 

The presence of Christ in our midst

Sin, Forgiveness, and Relational Life (Matthew 18:21-35)

The limitless call of forgiveness 

A parable about boundless forgiveness

The connection between forgiving others and our experience of forgiveness

Walking Toward the Table

Seeing our need for forgiveness

Forgiving others who we’ve not forgiven

Experiencing the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus


Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 18:20 or 18:21-22
  • Consider reading other passages that address topics of sin and forgiveness: Matthew 6:12-15; 7:1-5; 9:1-8; Luke 6:36; 17:3-4; Colossians 3:13; James 2:13; Psalm 103:7-12
  • Take time this week in solitude to let the Lord search your heart about whether there is any sin you need to confess or any unforgiveness you need to release to Him. Respond to God by journaling or praying about that. 
  • Consider reading about Matthew 18: 

What Love Is This?: a prayer reflection on Psalm 145

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The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)

In the stillness, I come to a place of quiet before You, my God. May the wonders of Your presence meet me this morning, Lord. My eyes are on You.

Thank You that You are gracious, giving good gifts to the undeserving. I know that I come to You like a beggar to a king at all times, and I marvel at Your grace to me. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Who am I to receive such a gift? I am no one, other than one made in Your image and valuable to You.

Thank You that You are compassionate, showering love upon those who have not deserved it and forgiving those who have wronged You. Like a confused child, who selfishly lashes out in disobedience yet is disciplined and consoled by a good parent, so You have showered my life with Your compassion and correction. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Such mercy! Such compassion!

Thank You for being slow to anger and rich in love. This is such perfection of restraint and lavishing of full charity. As a holy God, there are certainly things that bring forth Your anger. I praise Your firmness in justice and righteousness that calls forth righteous anger in the face of wrong. But thank You as well for being slow to anger so that a transformative turn might occur in human hearts. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Thank You for Your patience with me, mixed with compassion and grace, which has brought me to an encounter with the richness of Your love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Who am I to receive and experience such love? Who am I that I should experience Your patience—the slowness to anger—that leads to the fullness of love in Jesus Christ? All of this is grace from start to finish, transforming my days with the radiance of Your love and compassion.

The Messiah and the Sabbath

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our series entitled “The Messiah’s Mission,” by looking at Matthew 12:1-21. Here, Jesus offers tangible examples of His invitation to find rest for our souls that we explored last week.

I spent quite a bit of time expounding on Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 42. Specifically I talked about the significance of this very important verse:

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Matthew 12:20)

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8)

What Is the Sabbath?

  • The biblical background (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
  • The rabbinical background

Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-8)

  • The accusation
  • The comparisons
  • Greater than the Temple
  • The call to mercy

Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus, Doing Good (12:9-14)

  • The entrapment
  • The comparison
  • The healing

Jesus, the Promised One (12:15-21)

  • The summary of His activity
  • The quotation from Isaiah

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper into Matthew’s understanding of Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 12:8 or 12:17-21.
  • Paint, draw, or ink one of the stories or the Isaiah text quoted by Matthew in 12:1-21. As you do that, prayerfully ask the Lord to grow your relationship with Him.
  • Read and study Hebrews 4:1-13, which expands on the Christian understanding of the sabbath in light of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath.
  • Explore the 39 Melachot, the rabbinical categories of “work” prohibited on the sabbath here
  • Consider reading this interview with pastor and author Mark Buchanan: “I Know You’re Busy”