Jesus’ every word was full of wisdom and truth. Some of His sayings have entered the lexicon of common parlance due to the rich meaning they carry and the impact they have had on believers and non-believers alike. While any compilation of Jesus’ most famous sayings is a bit subjective, the following is our list of ten of Jesus’ most famous sayings:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
This admonition from Jesus is familiar to people the world over, and it is generally known as “The Golden Rule.” Jesus’ prescription for living with others is foundational to maintaining good relationships, and the basic morality of the statement is appealing to a wide variety of people. What sets this statement apart from similar statements from other teachers throughout history is the positive framing of Jesus’ command and the call to be proactive in our goodness toward other people.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
When Jesus predicted His own death, His disciples were understandably upset. Jesus comforted them by telling them that He was going to heaven to prepare a place for all believers (John 14:2). He then said, “You know the way to the place I am going” (verse 4). In confusion, Thomas questioned this statement, and Jesus responded by telling the disciples that He is the way to heaven—the only way. Jesus’ statement that He is the way, the truth, and the life is one of the most important tenets of Christianity. It identifies the Savior, and it sets limits on how salvation is obtained, which is through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
This statement, from the Sermon on the Mount, would have seemed strange to the Jewish people. In Leviticus 19:18, God commanded the Israelites, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” From this, the Jews erroneously inferred that the command to love others applied only to their own people—those who lived among them and were literally their neighbors. In Jesus’ time, God’s people, particularly the Pharisees, had become quite legalistic in the way they carried out God’s Law, and so Jesus expanded their notion of loving one’s neighbor to include “outsiders” and those who wronged them. Jesus’ words still apply to Christians today.
“I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)
This famous quote was in response to a demand made by a crowd of Jews that surrounded Jesus at the temple: “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus rebuked them, because He had already made it plain, by the works that He did, that He was indeed the Messiah (verse 25). He then spoke of His sheep and their secure relationship to their Shepherd, and He made His startling claim that He is one with the Father. His hearers understood exactly what Jesus meant: that He was God in the flesh (verse 33). In response to Jesus’ radical claim, His opponents picked up stones to stone Him for blasphemy (verse 31). Although Jesus escaped at this time, His enemies would later use the statement against Him as a reason for His crucifixion (John 19:7).
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)
With these famous words, Jesus was warning believers against anxiety. There is no need to fear about our basic needs being met. Not only did Jesus remind us of His great love and care for His own (Matthew 6:26–30), but He also laid out our priorities: our first order of business is to seek His will and His kingdom, and then “all these things will be given to you as well” (verse 33).
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37–40)
In this statement, Jesus reiterates two commands from the Old Testament (found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). These two commandments, both rooted in love, encapsulate the whole of the Old Testament, according to Jesus. Each of God’s specific rules for living can be traced back to either love for God or love for people (cf. Galatians 5:14).
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39)
Throughout His ministry, Jesus often directed people to do things that were nonintuitive. The commandment to “turn the other cheek” is one example. Because of our human nature, revenge and anger seem the most natural reactions when someone wrongs us. But Jesus asks us to deny our natural tendencies in order to display a godly attitude. Rather than repay evil with more evil, we are to react with humility and repay evil with blessing (cf. 1 Peter 3:9).
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30)
Jesus again turned assumption and instinct on their heads when He uttered these words to His disciples. He spoke of humility being valued in the kingdom of heaven more than riches or self-importance. He reiterated this concept in Matthew 20 with the parable of the vineyard (verses 1–16).
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25, ESV).
The Lord made a clear distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world, while at the same time emphasizing our responsibility in both realms. We must pay the proper respect to authority and obey the laws of the land in which we live, and we are to do our duty to God, as well. Jesus made this famous statement in response to those who were trying to trick Him into saying something that would embroil Him in controversy. His reply is pure genius—and pure truth.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, ESV).
Some scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus, taken, as they said, in the very act of adultery (John 8:2–4). They inquired of Jesus what should be done to her. The question was a trap; they who had brought the woman had failed to bring the man, and they cared nothing for what was right or wrong regarding her. They only wanted an occasion to accuse Jesus of something. The Lord, instead of replying immediately, stooped down and wrote on the ground. They persisted in badgering Him, though, and He finally stood up and spoke His famous words about throwing the first stone. One by one, the woman’s accusers left, overcome with guilt. Jesus forgave the woman and sent her away with the instruction to leave her life of adultery.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. We haven’t mentioned John 3:16, for example, or Acts 20:35 or the Beatitudes or the Lord’s Prayer or many of the other famous sayings that Jesus uttered. Every time He opened His mouth, people were amazed at His teaching, and even His enemies acknowledged that “no one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). Jesus’ words are life-changing: “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Famous or not in this world, Jesus’ words are forever: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).