Jesus was sometimes disgusted with people, from the Scribes and Pharisees to his own disciples. He could get mighty miffed over hypocrisy, self-righteousness, greed, and inexcusable faithlessness. But what sort of people and attitudes impressed Jesus? Here are some examples (listed in no particular order):
1. Mary, Martha’s sister.
When Jesus was welcomed into the home of Martha and Mary, Martha was busy with preparations while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen. Impressed with Mary, he said, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42).
Jesus’ disciples asked. “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus knew; “Whoever humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4).
3. A Centurion in Capernaum.
Revealing great compassion, a centurion approached Jesus and said, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain.” When Jesus agreed to heal the servant, the centurion added, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed…” Jesus responded; “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” (Matthew 8:10).
4. The People of Nineveh.
Some Pharisees wanted a sign from Jesus. He was not impressed. He compared them unfavorably with the men of Nineveh (long ago) who repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matthew 12:41). Jesus knew the Ninevites were idolatrous heathens whose wickedness made God mad, but when the reluctant Jonah preached to them, they believed, declared a fast and put on sackcloth! Jonah was not so impressed, but God was. He saw them turn from their evil ways and had compassion on them (Jonah 3:10). Knowing this story, Jesus was also impressed.
5. A Lone Leper.
Ten lepers cried out to Jesus for mercy. All were cleansed, but only one came back, glorifying God and falling on his face, to thank the Lord (Luke 17:11-19). He was a Samaritan. Jesus was impressed with his faith.
6. A Canaanite Woman.
Jesus’ disciples advised him to send a Canaanite woman with a demon-possessed daughter away. Even Jesus took the wind out of her sails, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she persisted, “Lord, help me!” Jesus’ replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Ouch! Was Jesus putting her off or setting her up? All we know is that her reply and her “great faith,” impressed Jesus. She said, “Yes, Lord… but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27).
7. A Penitent Publican.
Jesus told a parable about two men and two prayers. A smug Pharisee was impressed with himself and his prayer dripped with self-righteous pride. A Publican (tax-collector), however, couldn’t even lift up his eyes as he prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus said that the Publican “…went down to his house justified.” (Luke 18:14).
8. A Blind Beggar Near Jericho.
On his way to Jericho, a blind man begged Jesus not for money but for mercy. Others rebuked him sternly but he shouted all the more for mercy. Jesus was impressed with his determination and gave him his sight saying, “Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 18:42).
In Jericho, a man named Zaccheus took to a Sycamore tree. Short on stature and long on curiosity, he wanted to see Jesus. As the “chief tax collector,” perhaps he was a social climber too. The town’s people saw him as a sinner. But Zaccheus had come to a turning point in his life. Jesus invited himself to the rich man’s house and Zaccheus made a bold new commitment—to give half of his possessions to the poor. He recognized wrongs that needed to be righted. He switched his loyalty from mammon to God. Jesus didn’t see a legalistic attempt to cover his backside with repayments, but a transformed heart; unselfish and honest. Jesus was impressed: “Today, salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:10).
10. A Criminal on a Cross.
While hanging on the cross, Jesus sustained a lot of sneering insults and abuse—even from one of the convicts on a cross next to him. But on the other side, a contrite criminal rebuked the abusive one. He said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:41). He asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. That criminal ended up with Jesus in Paradise.
There may come a time to express opposition to hypocrisy, greed, arrogance, lies and selfishness. But be careful. If you run past your own sins to condemn others, Jesus may not be impressed. Neither will your friends who need the gospel. What impressed Jesus most, as the examples above reveal, was persistent faith and penitent humility. How impressed is our Lord with you?
The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.