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Jesus: His Teaching

Mark 1:22 NASB


And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 

I believe it might be easier to drink the entire Pacific Ocean through a straw than it will be to try to review the Teachings of Jesus in one 20-minute sitting. But that's our assignment today. Together, we will attempt to discover the essence of the teachings of the greatest teacher that ever lived. As your guide, I want to make a brief comment about His methods, then lead you to examine some of His core teachings that may not be getting adequate attention from many Christians.

Jesus, like other teachers of His day, was a pedagogical teacher. The world was His classroom and He used every opportunity He had to teach. He'd see a fig tree and teach His disciples something about the Kingdom of God. He'd have a conflict with a religious leader and would, in the midst of the conflict, teach the witnesses something about the Christian life. His teachings weren't structured or systematic, they were situational. He'd use any situation as an opportunity to teach. When he taught, he'd often move from the familiar to the unfamiliar-He had an uncanny ability to stretch people's understanding of reality and spiritual things.

He was not a propositional teacher, using evidence and logic to convince His listeners, instead, He preferred to tell a story, and let the people make up their own minds about what to believe. But He was more than a story teller, He'd often give great "sound bites" that His disciples could easily remember as slogans or motos.

His methods aside, what makes Jesus such a great teacher, was His message-it had a revolutionary tone to it. He was not just another Rabbi, He was the Son of God whose message could not fit in old "wine skins." He could not be contained by the structures and teachings of the day, His message wasn't just additional information to be added to the current understanding, it was revolutionary. He was authoritative. 

For one thing, He didn't teach that people could please God by keeping the law; He taught the need for a radical conversion. When He chatted with Nicodemus about spiritual things one evening, He confronted him with the need to be born again, and not rely upon his first birth-his Jewish birth-for his salvation. John 3:3 KJV says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Salvation did not come by one's heritage, but neither did it come by legalistic works. Jesus clearly denounced the duplicity of the religious people of his day who sought salvation by works. Matthew 23:23 says, (NASB) "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 

Now there's another thing about this text that I need to mention. It is popular today to say that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. You've heard the teaching-murder is no worse than lust. But in Matthew 23:23, Jesus clearly disputes this teaching. And He does so in Mark 12:29-31, (NASB) Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; [30] and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' [31] "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

One commandment, was greater than another, and these two were greater than all the others. But, that doesn't mean that Jesus taught that there are any unimportant sins. On the contrary. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus went to the heart of overt sin-He showed that it began with an attitude that needed to be changed.

Jesus did not ask His disciples to only be outwardly clean-He demanded they be inwardly clean too. His radical, revolutionary teaching called for a total surrender to His Lordship and complete submission to His will. In other words, "God does not claim something from us; He claims us." (Fisher, 142)

Jesus did not allow minimalist faith or loop-hole faith, as illustrated in his teaching in Mark 7:9-13 (NASB)that says, "He was also saying to them, 'You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. [10] For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him BE PUT TO DEATH'; [11] but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' [12] you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; [13] thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.'"

In His day, people were sidestepping their responsibility to their parents by dedicating money to God and calling it "Corban." They still had control of the money and could use it, but they would tell their parents they couldn't help them out because all their money was "spoken for." It was like having a Swiss bank account I suppose. Jesus denounced the tendency of these legalists who kept the letter of the law, while violating the heart of the law.

Jesus wanted much more than technical obedience-He wanted complete obedience. Salvation permeates the believer and affects every aspect of her life. In Matthew 6:19-21 (KJV), Jesus said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: [20] But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: [21] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

He wanted the loyalty of believers to be utterly exclusive. He also said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24 NIV) Either a person's loyalty is to the material world, or it is to the spiritual world-in Jesus' view, it was either or, not both and. 

Jesus demanded complete obedience and loyalty from His followers, and He also demanded perfection. In Matthew 5:48 (NASB), He said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

"Perfect, to the Semitic mind, is that which is completely sound or whole. As applied to men, it means to be true. Jesus' demand meant that the disciple must be whole and undivided in his devotion to God." (Fisher, 143)

Jesus was honest with His followers and told them that if they made this shift, it would cost them. Several passages show his honest approach to telling his hearers what their faith will cost them. In Mark 13:13 (NIV) He said, "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." And in Matthew 5:10-12 (KJV), he said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. [12] Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

But the loyalty Christ called for was worth the sacrifice, because his followers would change the world by their actions. He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV)

Where do we start with such a large assignment? Jesus taught that we could accomplish a great mission by doing little things. In Matthew 25:34-39 (NIV) He said, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, [36] I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' [37] "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? [38] When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? [39] When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"

Where do you start? Next door. Down the street. Across the hall. When do you start? Today. 

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