There is a movement afoot to prioritize the words of Jesus over the rest of the Scriptures. That is not what we are talking about here in our Red Letter Review. We’re not talking about the words of Jesus to the exclusion of everything else. The Bible claims that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness …” (2 Timothy 3:16). (In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter refers to Paul’s letters as “Scripture,” so we know that even the early church considered these epistles Scripture, and all of Scripture is necessary.)
Having said that, however, I also must say that I don’t think you can focus too much on the words of Jesus. Jesus is the focal point of all of Scripture and His words are unique and unlike the words of anyone else in all of history. It’s why the people always said that no one spoke like He spoke. He spoke with authority and not like the other teachers who spoke in cliches and borrowed phrases. They sounded like each other. Jesus sounded like no one else.
The reason we need to focus on the words of Jesus is because we know so little about them. How many preachers do you know who preach from the Sermon on the Mount often? I bet not many. We avoid Matthew 5-7 like the plague. That’s because we don’t understand it. Jesus’ words are not only counter-cultural, they are counter-intuitive. They are opposite, or at least sideways, to the way we think and the way we typically learn things. When it comes to the red letters, we are all biblically dyslexic. We read them, and then we just keep on reading, hoping that it’s going to make more sense further down the road, but then we find ourselves further down the road and further away from the real meaning than we were when we got off.
How often, when Matthew 5-7 is taught, do you hear the phrase, “now what He’s really saying is …”? You can usually discredit what comes after that as watering down the truth. No, don’t say “What He’s really saying is …”, say “What He says means what it says. And we have to do that, if we truly want to follow Him.”
It’s like following the bouncing ball. Follow the red letters.
Jesus said “do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:39-44)!
So what is He really saying here?