Like his original hearers many people today find Jesus' sayings hard. Some sayings are hard because they are difficult to understand, others because the demands they make on us are only too clear. F. F. Bruce examines seventy of the hard sayings of Jesus to clear away the cultural and historical difficulties which keep us from grappling with the real challenge of Jesus' message. Evident in each chapter is Bruce's keen evangelical scholarship and pastoral insight.
The reading of, "The Hard Sayings of Jesus" by F.F. Bruce was instrumental in helping me gain a better understanding to some of the more challenging passages found throughout the Gospels, particularly certain teachings of Christ. Jesus often used spiritual allegory, parables, and symbolic illustrations to help teach certain truths to His disciples. However, Jesus also employed the use of literal teachings absent of any illustrations or allegory, proclaiming truths for all of us to live by that are pertinent to us today. How does the student of the Bible distinguish between spiritual allegory and literal interpretation? I believe Bruce clearly differentiated the two throughout his book and clearly articulated what is to be taken as symbolic versus literal.
From a personal level, this book helped me understand some of the teachings of Christ that I myself struggled with. For example, in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), Jesus explains that certain things will occur within "this generation". Was He speaking to the generation of the disciples, or was He speaking of a future generation? I believe Bruce cleared up this matter very clearly. I also struggled with the passage concerning Jesus' instructions for His disciples to purchase two swords (see Luke 22:36). Why would Jesus who taught peace and non-violence contradict himself and do such a thing? Again, Bruce cleared up this matter very well in that the swords are not literal, but a figurative understanding of what the disciples will soon experience.
Lastly, understanding some of these more difficult passages will better equip me, as a missionary, to communicate the true meaning of Jesus' teachings to a people group who do not yet know Him. As a part of my ministry serving amongst the Roma people of Albania, I will be conducting Bible studies to non-believers as a tool for evangelism. Furthermore, I will be conducting Bible studies to new believers and will help disciple them into mature and faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Imparting the truth behind some of these more difficult teachings of Christ to both the non-believers and believers alike will certainly help them truly understand who Jesus is.