How Jesus Confronted and Corrected Others

A fellow minister in our Presbytery recently preached a sermon series called, “Things Jesus Should Not Have (I Wish He Hadn’t) Said!” The crux of the series was that Jesus said many hard sayings that–if we are honest–we would have to admit we find uncomfortable. The fact of the matter is that so much of what Jesus said makes people uncomfortable. In a day when the “cult of niceness” has permeated the church, and politeness and tolerance has taken a front seat to truth and the fear of God, we need to be reminded that the Savior of the world often corrected the errors of his enemies in a less than winsome manner. Many times He also corrected His disciples in shocking and uncomfortable ways. As we study the life of Jesus in the Gospels we see very clearly the way in which the Savior of the world corrected people when they said or did things that needed correction. Consider the following:

How Jesus Corrected and Confronted His Opponents and Hypocrites

1. Jesus Corrected and Confronted Publicly: Jesus corrected the false teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees by teaching His disciples to be on constant guard against it. He corrected their misinterpretations by appealing to His own authority. He repeatedly said,  “You have heard it was said…but I say to you…” Jesus would often speak with His disciples, and the crowds around Him, about the dangers of false teachers’ doctrine. It is not, as many suppose, godly not to talk about the problems with false teachers and teaching.

2. Jesus Corrected and Confronted Directly: Jesus directly confronted false teachers in the church with the repetitious, “Woe to you…hypocrites.” When they came to trick Him, Jesus frequently silenced the Chief Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees but putting them in their place with Scripture. On one occasion He came right out and said, “You’re wrong, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God.” Jesus was not afraid to tell people–in the most confrontational way–“You’re wrong.”

3. Jesus Resorted to Metaphorical “Animal” Name Calling: Jesus often exposed the true nature of the wickedness of false teachers by using animal names to metaphorically describe them. He called the Pharisees the “offspring of serpents,” Herod “a fox,” false teachers “wolves,” and unregenerate Gentiles “dogs.”

4. Jesus Corrected and Confronted by Means of Comparison: Jesus rebuked the unbelief of the covenant people by singling out the faith of a Gentile centurion who said to Jesus, “Only speak and word and my servant will be healed” (Matt. 8:5-13). Christ compared the greatness of their unbelief with the greatness of this man’s faith. He then went on to explain the eternal punishment  those who did not believe would undergo.

5. Jesus Corrected and Confronted Wrong Motives and Excuses: A self-seeking man boastfully promised to follow Jesus anywhere because he thought it would mean political or financial gain for him. Jesus corrected his wrong motives by telling him that he would be following a homeless Messiah (Matt. 8:18-22).  He then corrected another man who used his aging father as an excuse about why he could not follow Jesus at that time, by telling him that he was as spiritual dead as His father would soon be physically. An outstanding treatment of this passage can be found in Sinclair Ferguson’s sermon “The Cost of Discipleship.”

6. Jesus Resorted to a Physical Act of Righteous Anger: Jesus corrected the greed and corruption of the money changers in the Temple by making a whip and physically driving them out. He also threw their tables over. I’m sure that many in the church today would say that Jesus was “emotionally unstable” and “erratic.”

How Jesus Corrected His Beloved Disciples

When we see how Jesus corrected His own disciples (who gave Him plenty of opportunities to do so!) we find that there is a great deal more tenderness and patience. Jesus characterized Himself as being “gentle and lowly in heart.” While this was the characteristic mark of the Savior, it was often accompanied by strong, unexpected and confrontational rebuke of their actions. Consider the following:

1. Jesus Rebuked in Order to Correct Role Relations: Jesus corrected his mother at the wedding in Cana of Galilee by telling her “Woman, what of you and Me?” when she told Him “They have no wine.” He was rebuking he for thinking that she had authority over Him. The meaning of Jesus’ response was essentially, “This concern of yours is My work, not for you and I to take care of together. I am not under your authority in this matter.” (See George Hutcheson’s Exposition on John, p. 32 ff. for a good treatment of this text.)  Jesus also confronted James and John when they tried to use Him to get to the top. Jesus responded to their request by saying, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Basically, Jesus was telling them that He would pave the way to heaven for all His disciples by drinking the bitter cup of the wrath of God at the cross.

2. Jesus Rebuked Unbelief in His Disciples: Jesus corrected His disciples on a boat in a storm by showing off His power and rebuking their unbelief. He told them, “O you of little faith.” He then stilled the wind and the waves with a rebuke (Matt. 8:23-27) . He also rebuked the unbelief of the two on the road to Damascus, as well as the disciples in the house, after His resurrection.

3. Jesus Rebuked By Means of Comparison: Jesus corrected Martha’s anxious heart by pointing to her sitter sitting at His feet and listening to His word. He basically said, “You should be more like your sister.” This might strike some as being a psychologically harmful way to correct people, nevertheless, the Son of God did it! (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus also pointed to a woman putting a few pennies in the offering box to teach His disciples the value of having a generous heart, as over against the rich who putt in a little out of their abundance.

4. Jesus Used Tragic Circumstances to Call People to Repentance: Some people told Jesus that Herod had mingled the blood of some Galileans with animal sacrifices. Instead of telling them how tragic this was–and how sorry He was to hear about it–He reminded them about the tower that had tragically and unexpectedly fallen on 18 people. He then made the most unlikely application, saying, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:1-5).

5. Jesus Corrected Bickering Men with a Child: Jesus confronted His disciples when they argued about who was greatest among them by taking a child and setting him in their midst. Correcting grown men with the mere presentation of a child was a seriously humbling rebuke.

6. Jesus Corrected Envy By Saying, “Worry About Yourself”: Jesus corrected Peter’s jealousy of John by telling him, “What if he remains until I come. You follow for Me.” (i.e. “Don’t worry your pretty little mind about what I’m doing with anyone else. Just worry about your own relationship with Me.”)


Nicholas T. Batzig is the organizing pastor/church planter of New Covenant Presbyterian Church, a PCA church in Richmond Hill, Georgia.

25 Responses

  1. I don’t doubt that in Nicey nice world, sorry evangelical circles, the man from Nazareth would be severely castigated. After all who could cope with a bloke so committed to truth. Certainly not people who have a ‘comments closed’ approach to controversy.

  2. Truth Unites... and Divides

    Good thing there aren’t people who say something like:

    “Only Jesus could do that. And you’re not Jesus!”

  3. James S

    I love how Jesus was so blunt all the time.

    Like in Luke 11:13 when He said “If you, THOUGH YOU ARE EVIL know how to give good gifts to your children, How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

    I have heard people quote that line and purposely leave out the part about being evil. Folks just can’t deal with the real Jesus. They insist on making a Jesus of their own mind.

    1. You are right James, I have been going through some of the children bible stories I but for my son and was amazed how much was taken out because they may have been difficult. I plan to re-writ many of these stories For instance the stone form David’s slingshot did not the giant down, then David picked up Goliath’s own sword and chopped off his head. Goliath did not fall asleep.
      Funny it Okay to teach this is gimme fairy tale bu no the truth of scripture.

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    1. I agree, when I came to faith (from Catholicism) I started reading John. Who is this man? Why have I not read this?…He’s not gentle meek & mild with anyone! (except children).
      This lie is perpetrated across ‘Christian’ denominations. You can’t put Jesus in a box.

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  8. Whatever format of confrontation Jesus used, the end game was always the same…bringing people to a saving knowledge of Himself. He was never concerned about winning an argument; rather, winning a soul. His confrontations were always born out of compassion. If today’s Christians could grasp that concept, there would be a lot more dialogues than debates.

  9. jimbob

    The Pharisees got so bad they blasphemed the Holy Spirit and got Jesus crucified.

    Litening to clergy false doctrine will get most in the “church” to accept the antichrist.
    Already 99% are deceived by clergy who void law/scripture by their doctine

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  12. Mark

    “4. Jesus Corrected and Confronted by Means of Comparison: …..Christ compared the greatness of their unbelief with the greatness of this man’s faith. He then went on to explain the eternal punishment those who did not believe would undergo.”

    “He then went on to explain the eternal punishment those who did not believe would undergo”
    I cant see that happening in the text?

  13. melanie

    Yes Christ was very straight talking and took cr*p from no one. This is not very popular these days though, as people prefer to portray him as softly spoken and mild mannered.

  14. Paul

    Drilled into me growing up in a pastor’s home was “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.” This obviously didn’t come from Jesus. How do we know our judgment of situations is on point and not just arising out of our needs?

  15. JB Hunger

    “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything.” Believed to be taught to children mostly, immature in wisdom or discernment, of course, it could be a response to avoid embarrassment or teach conformity to social acceptance; hopefully, with further explanation of until achieving Gods desire for ones sense of humility this will serve His will.

  16. Cindy Allen

    Great Article. And one that is sorely needed now, now when the worldly world is feeding on pop culture. Thank you.

  17. Reggie burns

    Helpful article. I Have been faced with a situation involving an assignment for my daughter’s high school psychology class. The teacher who everyone in her defense claims to be Christian had the students write a paper on how they would murder someone and then dispose of the body. I found this out through other parents who called me to help because they have confidence in me as a man of God. I had another preacher call me and he felt I should apologize for publicly rebuking this assignment and the teacher. I would be very interested in any elders advice on this subject. I have only been called to the ministry for 2 years after running from it for 6 years. During that time I served as the only Decon at our church. I didn’t choose this battle on my own God placed it in front of me. I am nobody and I could have never took this own without the faith he as gave me and the foundation he has placed in my heart Thu his word. I guess this is just the day we live in.

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