Of Termites & Vipers: Minister Farrakhan and The Hard Sayings of Jesus

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?” –John 6:60

The critics of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan never accuse him of telling lies.  It is safe to say then that despite their opposition of him they know that he speaks the truth.  However, they characterize his divine message as “hate speech” or “anti-” this or that.  These characterizations that again, have nothing to do with the veracity or truth of what he teaches are borne out of the fact that his divine message hurts the feelings of his critics.  They feel offended when he holds them accountable for long histories of harm, exploitation and oppression of the Black community.  That the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan offends and hurts the feelings of his critics is intriguing and at the same time a powerful confirmation of the divine nature of his message.  For what Minister Farrakhan is accused of, is the same that Jesus was accused of in the New Testament.

Consider the following commentary of Christian scholar F.F. Bruce in his book “The Hard Sayings of Jesus”:

Many of those who listened to Jesus during his public ministry found some of his sayings “hard” and said so. Many of those who read his sayings today, or hear them read in church, also find them hard, but do not always think it fitting to say so.

It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination—an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus whom we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. He upset all established notions of religious propriety. He spoke of God in terms of intimacy which sounded like blasphemy. He seemed to enjoy the most questionable company. He set out with open eyes on a road which, in the view of “sensible” people, was bound to lead to disaster.

But in those who were not put off by him he created a passionate love and allegiance which death could not destroy. They knew that in him they had found the way of acceptance, peace of conscience, life that was life indeed. More than that: in him they came to know God himself in a new way; here was the life of God being lived out in a real human life and communicating itself through him to them.

One reason for the complaint that Jesus’ sayings were hard was that he made his hearers think. For some people, thinking is a difficult and uncomfortable exercise, especially when it involves the critical reappraisal of firmly held prejudices and convictions, or the challenging of the current consensus of opinion. Any utterance, therefore, which invites them to engage in this kind of thinking is a hard saying. Many of Jesus’ sayings were hard in this sense.

A Sample of Some of the Hard Sayings of Jesus include the following verses found in the New Testament

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” –Matthew 10:34

  • “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” –Matthew 23:16-17
  • And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”  –Luke 11:39
  • “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” –Matthew 25:30
  • “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” –Mark 9:42
  • But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.” –John 8:55
  • You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” –Matthew 23:33
  • “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” –Matthew 23:27
  • You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” –John 8:44
  • You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.” ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” –Matthew 15:7
  • “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.” –Luke 19:28
  • Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” –Matthew 7:6
  • “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” –Luke 12:51
  • And will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” –Matthew 24:51
  • “Woe to those who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” –Luke 6:25
  • “…but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” –Luke 13:3,5
  • “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” –Matthew 25:41

It becomes clear from reviewing the “hard sayings” of Jesus that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is in good company as he, in the modern context, offers up inspired truths that ameliorate the hearts of the faithful and sting/rebuke the offenses of the sinful.  Such is actually quite characteristic of the Hebrew notion of what it means to be a prophet.  In the Old Testament Hebrew language the word nabi is translated into English as “prophet”.  It means to“to bubble forth, as from a fountain,” hence “to utter”.  According to the Easton’s Bible Dictionary it means:

The “prophet” proclaimed the message given to him, as the “seer” beheld the vision of God. (See Numbers 12:6 Numbers 12:8.) Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God’s name and by his authority (Exodus 7:1). He is the mouth by which God speaks to men ( Jeremiah 1:9 ; Isaiah 51:16 ), and hence what the prophet says is not of man but of God ( 2 Peter 1:20 2 Peter 1:21 ; Compare Hebrews 3:7 ; Acts 4:25 ; 28:25 ). Prophets were the immediate organs of God for the communication of his mind and will to men (Deuteronomy 18:18 Deuteronomy 18:19).  The great task assigned to the prophets whom God raised up among the people was “to correct moral and religious abuses, to proclaim the great moral and religious truths which are connected with the character of God, and which lie at the foundation of his government.”  Any one being a spokesman for God to man might thus be called a prophet.

Minister Farrakhan under the inspiration and unction of the Holy Spirit of Allah (God) speaks for Allah (God) those truths that sometimes offends the ears of his listeners.  This is, we see, a prophetic quality to his ministry.  It is also a marker of how close he is in similitude to the Jesus of the New Testament.  And this means that instead of crying out in emotionalism to condemn the Minister’s words, his critics should consider it as strong medicine; an elixir of truth that is harsh upon the ears but necessary to heal the whole body.