News and Views

Who Is This Jesus? Part 3 - The Teacher

There has never been much opposition to recognizing Jesus as a great teacher. Even such differing critics of Christianity as Islam and western secularism acknowledge this. In Islam, Jesus is recognized as one of the prophets. Secular culture has adopted what may be called the, “feel good” components of Jesus’ teaching.

Nevertheless, as Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus spent a huge amount of His ministry time in teaching, and to really believe in Him, means to know and follow His teaching.

As I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to realize that a huge part of Jesus’ teaching was about relationships: our relationship to God, our relationships with each other, and, primarily, how our relationship with God and our relationships with each other are inseparable. The foundation is in His answer when He was asked which was the greatest commandment. He responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) In Matthew 22:40, He is quoted as adding, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

In his first letter, John wrote, “This is love for God: to obey His commands.” (1 John 5:3 NIV) He learned this from Jesus’ teaching. So our first priority is to love God. We show our love for God by obeying His commands. His command is to love others. So we show our love for God by loving others. Jesus taught that this love is not only right actions, is not a sentimental warm feeling, but is an act of will to choose the thoughts, attitudes, and feelings that lead to practical right actions. What we often call the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters five through seven, concentrates much of Jesus’ teaching from identifying attitudes such as humility, meekness, righteousness, mercy, purity, and peacefulness as attitudes that are pleasing to God, to our role as examples, to raise the bar from right actions to the right thoughts and attitudes behind the right actions, to replacing worry with trust in God. Among the key verses in this section are: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (5:17) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (5:27-28) In explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (6:14- 15) “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6:33) “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (7:1 ) Much later, Jesus also said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40 NIV)

This loving God through loving man is to be lived out consistently with justice, purity, faithfulness, equality, and unity, and does not excuse us from simultaneously seeking to know God. When Jesus took a strip off the Pharisees in Matthew 23, He did so because their pious actions were disregarding what was good for the people. When He cleared the moneychangers and sale of sacrificial animals out of the Temple, He was clearing corruption and dishonesty, and distraction, out of the Court of the Gentiles so that non-Jews would once again be able to come and worship the One True God in a peaceful atmosphere. Jesus showed us that, in love, there is a place for anger and action to stop that which dishonours God and/or harms people. He also told us not to call anyone “Rabbi,” “Teacher,” or “father,” because we have “one Master,” “one Teacher, the Christ,” and “one Father” in heaven, and we are all equal, are “all brothers,” with the greatest serving all. (from Matt. 23:8-12) In His final prayer for His disciples, Jesus prayed for unity among His followers then, and always, and their unity with Himself and the Father, “that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23 NIV)

The challenge in living out God’s command to love each other is to recognize how broad and inclusive His love is; this love that includes obedience, purity, justice, equality, thought and attitude; this love that demands the same care and concern for the others total physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare as we have for our own welfare.

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