Teachings of Jesus

There is a politically correct view that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

It's almost a modern moral imperative to treat everyone equally and give equal honor to everyone's opinion. Not to do so would seem arrogant. And who should think themselves "better" than anyone else?

Tolerance on the part of each and every one means an attitude devoid of arrogance in relations between the generations, the sexes, individuals and communities, and between the human race and nature.

United Nations declared 1995 as the Year for Tolerance

But, the opinions of some individuals have always been given more weight, respect or honor. They may be more educated in a particular area or more experienced.

Even before the time of Christ, the early Jewish communities cited the wisdom of Jewish rabbis who lived earlier. They quoted one rabbi or another to make their points. The Talmuds are filled with quotes of respected rabbis. These respected rabbis were all well educated in the rabinical traditions.

But, Jesus came on the scene without having attended a rabinical seminary or the need to cite other people as the authority for his statements. He would often say, "You've heard it said ..., but I say to you ...".

Jesus spoke as if he were a higher authority than the respected, well educated rabbis who commonly taught the Jewish people.

You have knowledge that it was said, Have love for your neighbor, and hate for him who is against you: But I say to you, Have love for those who are against you, and make prayer for those who are cruel to you;

Matthew 5:43-44

The people were used to rabbis speaking without inherent authority, calling upon the authority of the sacred texts and other well educated rabbis. That Jesus would claim authority inherent within himself was unexpected.

And the rabbis thought Jesus was uneducated. Nor was he born of a priestly line and his natural father was unknown. These facts went against the traditions of the Jewish establishment. Jesus did not have the seal of approval to be a teacher. And, it surprised people that Jesus would speak as an authority figure.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus taught basic moral principles rather than adherence to strict interpretations of the Jewish law. Jesus' teachings did not dwell on the dictates of the 613 commandments of the Jewish law. Rather, Jesus laid out simple principles that were the foundation for a peaceful society.

And he said to him, Have love for the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the first and greatest rule.

And a second like it is this, Have love for your neighbor as for yourself.

On these two rules all the law and the prophets are based.

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus was interested in motivating people to care about their neighbor. He often ridiculed the ostentatious show-offs like many of the rabbis, scribes, and Pharisees. Many of them performed their religious duties in public so everyone could see how religious they were. They were more interested in the adulation of the people than in the good results of their service.

But, Jesus wanted people to act on what was in their hearts. And he wanted people to relate to God in an honest way, without showmanship.

And when you make your prayers, be not like the false-hearted men, who take pleasure in getting up and saying their prayers in the Synagogues and at the street turnings so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.

But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward.

Matthew 6:5-6

Jesus taught his disciples a way of life that was more important than merely keeping the traditions involved the individual commandments of the Jewish law. The Pharisees had corrupted the intent of the law and focused on the regulation of daily life rather than honoring their fellow man and worshiping God.

For example, under the law work was prohibited on the Sabbath to allow time for the worship of God. The Pharisees created intricate details describing exactly the kind of work that was prohibited. For example, if you reached your hand through a window and picked up a fig and brought it inside you violated the law. But, if you reached your hand out the window and someone placed a fig on your palm you could bring it into the house without violating the law.

Even today, religious Jews unscrew the light bulb in their refrigerator before the start of the Friday evening Sabbath so when they open their refrigerator on the Sabbath they do not do the "work" of turning on a light--the equivalent of kindling a fire in more ancient days.

Perhaps the most widely know teaching of Jesus is the "sermon on the mount" in which Jesus described the characteristics of those who are happy or blessed. He said,

Matthew 5:3-9

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

Jesus taught that being humble, concerned about your neighbor, merciful to others, peaceable and genuine were worthy character traits. These were too often not valued by society or by religious leaders of the day.

We, also, should recommend these traits to others and incorporate them into our own habits and conscience.

Jesus was not one to support regulations that detracted from the purpose of the law (mercy and justice). Rather, he provided a new commandment to act as a basic guide to the conduct of his followers.

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 13:34-35

Jesus was a teacher who claimed inherent moral authority within himself. He claimed to be a teacher and Lord (John 13:20). His disciples recognized him as the promised Messiah.

And his teachings of basic moral principles are a sound basis for conduct in today's world.

But, lots of people claim to have moral authority. We too often say that everyone has an opinion. What made Jesus' opinion more authoritative than that of anyone else?

Many contemporary Jews recognized the authority of Jesus because of the miracles he did. One of the Pharisees named Nicodemus approached Jesus at night to learn about him.

John 3:2

This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Peter, in his message on Pentecost, introduced Jesus by indicating that Jesus performed many miracles.

Acts 2:22

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know"

It was the power of God working through Jesus that gave Jesus moral authority in the eyes of his contemporaries. They cited the miracles to attest to his authority.

Both his teachings and the teachings of his disciples showed that you can approach and have a relationship with God without the religious traditions and trappings of today's major religions.

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