The Teaching of Jesus
Harris Franklin Hall. Edited by JE Bradburn
Jesus as Teacher.
Jesus began His work as a teacher. That does not mean that He was a philosopher or a theologian with a system to give people, or that His interest was primarily in ideas. His interest was in men and in life. His great task was to bring in the New Day, the Kingdom of God. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/threestages1.htm (scroll down for the twelve passages of the Kingdom). But to that end He had to teach; He had to bring to men a new vision of God and God’s purpose and man’s life.
The narrative of the temptation is significant here. Jesus knows Himself as the Messiah, but He will not begin with claims to power, with wonderful deeds that will bring the people to His feet and prove His office, or with alliances with the great that will bring to Him the kingdoms of the world.
01 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
02 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungred.
03 And when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”
04 But He answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
05 Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple,
06 And saith unto Him, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.”
07 Jesus said unto him, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
08 Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
09 And saith unto Him, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
11 Then the devil leaveth Him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.
He will follow the clear way of duty and trust the issue to God; and the clear way is to teach men and serve men. So He goes about in all Galilee, “teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.” His teaching must be studied in the light of its purpose and consequent method. Jesus was not a lecturer in a classroom giving a course on the doctrines of religion. He believed that a new day was at hand, and that a new world was waiting for men, and that men were to live a new life with God and their fellows. It was His task to proclaim this “good news” and to summon men to prepare for it. His call was, “Repent, believe the good news” And this purpose explains His method. In the end He talked with men about all the great questions of life, about God and His coming Kingdom, about man and sin, about being lost and being saved, about how to live here on Earth, and about things to come.
However; it was all occasional as special questions arose; and it was always incidental to His great purpose to summon men to get ready for the new day and begin the new life. And that is why He left to one side questions about state and industry, and society in general about which we are so greatly concerned about today.
Where did Jesus get His message and what was His relation to the sacred writings of His people, and to the religious readers? The O.T was the Bible of Jesus and the faith of His people was His faith. (See Dispensational Plan of the Bible link) http://www.godsplan.org.uk/dispensationalplan.htm and so He had been nurtured as a boy, so He began as a man, proclaiming the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. The words of this Bible are with Him in His temptation, as they are at His crucifixion. In the hour when He turned at last from Galilee to Jerusalem and to the certainty of suffering and death http://www.godsplan.org.uk/stars.htm - http://www.godsplan.org.uk/formerage.htm - http://www.godsplan.org.uk/thesufferingsandglory.htm, He seems to have been pondering the great passage of Isaiah 53 with its picture of One who suffers and bears the sins of men. Yet, this is not the source of His teaching.
Certainly, His source was not that of the Jewish teachers with their constant appeal to tradition, to the authority of the great Rabbis, men listened and said “What is the wisdom that is given unto this man?” “He teaches with authority and not as the Scribes,” they declared. The teaching of Jesus did not rest upon precedent or even appeal to the Scriptures; He spoke from within and with the note of inner and immediate certainty. The source was His own experience of God, and His life with God. Some scholars have questioned whether Jesus ever spoke the great words of ;
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”
26 ‘Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.’
27 ‘All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.’
28 .Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’
29 ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’
30 ‘For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’”
To the writer these words light up Jesus’ method and make plain the whole spirit of His life. He had a life that was one with God; in this life God had given Him the knowledge of Himself http://www.godsplan.org.uk/knowledge.htm , and because He had that He could say in all humility and dependence upon His Father, “Come unto Me; learn of Me, I will give you rest.” It was not a supernatural endowment of omniscience; it was a knowledge that came out of His life with the Father.
But it gave Him that independence, that insight, that quiet and sure confidence, that sense of authority, which He showed at all times.
Striking is this independence and insight of Jesus in relation to the Old Testament. He selects for His use with unerring insight the Psalms, the prophets, Deuteronomy. He passes by messianic passages like Psalm 2, and Isaiah 11:4, and turns to Isaiah 53 http://www.godsplan.org.uk/thesufferingsandglory.htm, The O.T. knows nothing of a distinction between ceremonial and moral law, and the Jew thought of both as Divine and Eternal. Jesus strikes at the root of this whole ceremonial emphasis when He declares that only the Spirit counts and mere things can never make a man unclean.
14 And when He had called all the people unto Him, He said unto them, “Hearken unto Me every one of you, and understand:’
15 ‘There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, [verbally] those are they that defile the man.
16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.
18 And He saith unto them, ‘Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without [outside] entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And He said, ‘That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.’
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.’” Compare Leviticus chapters 11—15.
Again and again He revises or rejects (Matthew 5:21 22 27 28 33 39. Mark 10: 2—12). If He showed this independence over against the Scriptures which He so revered, we need not wonder that this humble teacher from Nazareth should maintain His position when it brought conflict with the acknowledged and authoritive religious leaders and teachers of His people, the Scribes, Pharisees, Essenes, whose life was given to the study and interpretation of the Law. Here, again, we are led back to the inner life of Jesus as the source of this certainty.
The study of Jesus’ teaching because of all this can never be separated from the study of Jesus’ own Spirit and life. Never was there One in Whom so truly life and teaching were one. His teaching is fragmentary and yet there is a wonderful unity because of this inner source. We must not, therefore, study it as a matter of separate ideas on many subjects, but constantly, and only in relation to what He was, and what He was seeking to do. Our supreme task, if we are to understand the teaching, is to understand Jesus Himself.
Jesus’ Conception of Himself and His Work.
We need then, to begin with the question, how did Jesus think of Himself and His work? The two significant words here are “Sonship” and “Messiahship,” and “Sonship” comes first. Striking is the reticence, (reservation) of Jesus in His speech concerning Himself, and here the first three Gospels are in sharp contrast with the fourth. Yet the deep sense of Sonship, and of unique Sonship, is plain. We see it in the glimpse of boyhood life.
41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
49 And He said unto them, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”
50 And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.
51 And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
It appears in the words that sounded in His soul the time of Baptism, “Thou art My beloved Son.” His whole prayer in the garden, with its loyalty and trust, is summed up in the words “ABBA, FATHER,” and He cries out “Father” from the agony of His crucifixion. The supreme expression of this relation is found.in:
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’
26 ‘Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.’
27 ‘All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.’
28 ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’
29 ‘Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’
30 ‘For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’”
Its lyric form matches the exaltation of Spirit that is here manifest. Sonship here is not a definition in terms in substance and essence, as it became later in the creeds; it is a living relation, personal and ethical, in utter unity of Spirit. He and the Father are one. He looks up in reverence to Him, the LORD of heaven and earth. Yet humbly He rejoices in this union with His Father, and what God has given to Him. And that is why He can summon men to learn of Him. Clearly, Jesus shows here that His sense of mission and authority rests back upon this inner experience, this oneness of His life as a Son with His Father.
8 For enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers: http://www.godsplan.org.uk/formerage.htm
9 (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
Out of this comes Jesus’ sense of His calling. The early church expressed Jesus’ meaning for its faith in various terms such as “Messiah” (Christ), “Saviour”, and “Lord.” These words are most wholly absent from the speech of Jesus, but their substance is not wanting. Jesus thought of His work inevitably of good will and the showing of that Spirit in the life with men. Father, son, brother, these are the three points that mark the perfect circle of religion which Jesus drew. This conception of religion is purely spiritual and utterly simple; but no conception has ever come to men that were so profound in its depth, so wide in its reach, so lofty in its ideal, so searching in its demand. Upon this simple way a child may enter, and yet after all these years its goal lifts itself far above its human achievement. We may study this conception of religion more closely in three aspects, namely;
1. Religion as the life with God,
2. Religion as the life with men,
3. Religion as the life from God.
The Life with God.
At the heart of religion there is always the thought of God, the idea of some Higher Power from whom we may get help, and to Whom we owe something in return. Temple and ritual, altars and sacrifice, endless rules and offerings—all these represent man’s effort toward a right relation with God that will secure the Divine aid. For Jesus, however, God is not first of all a Power to be propitiated (appease) or persuaded; He is the Spirit of righteousness and good will, the Father with whom men are to live as children. Sonship, then, will describe this life with God according to Jesus, and its nature is wholly determined by the nature of the Father.
The first mark of this life is a whole-hearted trust. In this Father there is absolute power and utter goodness. For him who really sees as Jesus did there is no room for anxiety or fear. So we have His constant call to men: “Fear not”…Be not anxious…Behold the birds…Your Father knoweth.” and here, again, His own unshaken confidence in the midst of danger and defeat speaks more loudly than words. Such a trust demands, however, not only a lofty vision of God, but an utter surrender of self. The way of Sonship is a very simple one; Jesus could say, “My burden is light.” yet His demand went beyond all the rules and sacrifices others required. These asked for tithes of income and sacred days and hours of worship; He asked for the inmost life of a man, and for all his life. It is true we have no right to treat the individual sayings of Jesus to particular men as though they were general rules laid down by Him. Such passages as;
17 And when He was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 And Jesus said unto him, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”
19 ‘Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.’
20 And he answered and said unto Him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Luke 9: 57—62
57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto Him, “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”
58 And Jesus said unto him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
59 And he said unto another, “Follow Me”. But he said, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said unto him, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.”
62 And Jesus said unto him, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
have to do with the special case of those whom Jesus summoned to join His intimate fellowship or who themselves sought this. Yet in these words and elsewhere Jesus makes plain His position. Religion is not a section of life; it is all of life and it demands all. It is the treasure in the field for which one sells all else. God does not represent one among many claims; He brings the supreme and sufficient good, He represents the absolute demand. So we hear the uncompromising words:
No man can serve two masters…Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…Enter in by the narrow gate.” With this devotion go there go humility and reverence.
That does not mean self-abasement or self-depreciation, as has so often been supposed. Jesus did not teach men to cringe and cower and call themselves worms of the dust. He summoned them, rather, to think of themselves as the sons of the Father, and He had a wonderful way of infusing hope and confidence in the lowliest and most evil. The clue to the explanation of all this lies in the fact that He bade men look at God and not at themselves. It was God’s mercy that summoned them to Sonship and made this possible. And so men became wonderfully humble because they knew it was all from God, and deeply reverent in the thought of such a God of holiness and power, and joyously confident in the sense of His mercy.
Jeremiah 31: 31—34
31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
32 although I was an husband unto them. The Hebrew bā ‘al is a Homonym with two meanings: (a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings).
1. To be Lord, or master, hence to be a husband;
2. To disdain, or reject. If it be the latter here, the last clause will read, “And I rejected (or abhorred) them, declareth Jehovah”.
So the Syriac and other ancient interpreters. Moreover it is quoted in Hebrews 8:9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
34 chat'a, to sin; to miss the mark (as in Judg. 20:16). Also of the feet, to stumble and fall (Prov. 19:2). Hence, morally, a coming short, blameworthiness -- not necessarily wilful. An act of thought, word, or deed, not a condition. Usually (but by no means always) rendered sin, and other words also so rendered.
Here too we must note how it is that the utter obedience and pure reverence which Jesus demands involve a religion of freedom and not of servitude. It is not bare submission that He asks for over an inscrutable Power to which we bend because we cannot do otherwise. Nor is the devotion which He desires that of a subject to His Monarch, with command. unquestioning and blind. It is rather a devotion of a son to his Father. It is the surrender who has found at last the meaning of his life and its highest good, and who finds life in that very surrender. The freedom of a son about which Paul writes is clearly apparent with Jesus. For Jesus, the Father is not blind fate or the monarch with command; He is the Life to which we open our life, the Spirit that becomes our new self. In the last analysis we are His children because we are the image of Him. Utter devotion and perfect freedom are here one in the religion of the Spirit, and the life with God reaches its highest point—that of moral likeness.
Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
If religion is fellowship with God, then we may say that prayer is this fellowship coming to conscious expression. The words of Jesus concerning prayer must be supplemented and illustrated by His own practice. It is the idea of God which again determines everything. “If only you knew God better,’ Jesus said to men, “then you would pray more, fear less, and pray better.’” Is He not much better than the Fathers of earth? Why not go to Him, then, in your need? And if He be such a Father, then why think it needful to clamour so loudly and for so long? That goes with a pagan idea of God. (Clamour = a loud persistent outcry, as from a large number of people).It is God that counts, not our prayers.
Since prayer is the conscious expression of our fellowship with God, the nature of that fellowship will determine the nature of prayer. The heart of prayer, with Jesus, is therefore that pure trust, deep reverence, and utter devotion, which should mark our life with God. Because of this trust in God we will bring to Him all our needs. Hence Jesus encourages us to ask.
Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:”
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say unto you, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
But because of this trust and because of our reverence we will not prescribe to God, but will leave all things with God. The focal point of prayer for Jesus is God and not man. Prayer is not a device for the easy securing of our ends. The hallowing of God’s name (To respect or honour greatly; revere), the coming of His rule, and the doing of His will—these stand first in the “Lord’s Prayer.” Prayer with Jesus is neither clamorous petition nor passive submission, it has a pronounced moral aspect. It is man bringing all his life into the presence of God and then thinking first of the holiness of God, His will, and His rule. In such praying man comes to discover his life aright and to gain strength from it. All this is illustrated by the praying of Jesus. Luke marks the great crisis in Jesus’ life by special reference to His praying (Luke 3:21. 5:16. 6:12. 9:18, 28. 22:41).
Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
Luke 6:12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Luke 9:18, 28
18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/thetransfiguration.htm
Luke 22:41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Add to these the temptation narrative, http://www.godsplan.org.uk/temptations.htm and note that prayer was the means by which Jesus sought to know the way that He was to take and to gain strength from it.
The Life With Men.
Religion, for Jesus, was a way of living with men as well as with God, and the one grew out of the other. With God men were to live as children, in trust, in devotion, in oneness of spirit. The mark of life was the Spirit of the Father in Him.
Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
But this Spirit of the Father must be shown, and could only be shown by His children in relation to their brothers. So the dual command of love to God and man, to which Jesus had reduced all commands, becomes one rule, one Spirit, by which man is to live.
To be a brother to men in the Spirit of the common Father is a very simple rule of life, but its scope is wide, and its standard high. It includes all men, good and evil, black and white, near and far. At once the status of woman, of the child, of the slave, of the man of “inferior” race becomes altered. Jesus recognises the differences between evil men, and good, between Jew and Samaritan, Yet that is most significant which these have in common. Each is a man, with a value outweighing a whole world of things.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Not one is but the object of God’s love and care. Heaven rejoices when one wandering child comes back. Anger, scorn, contempt, the hard unforgiving spirit—these are sins that call forth His strongest condemnation. The demand of Jesus relative to man’s life with men is plain. First of all, it is reverence for humanity in the person of every human being. Second, there must be the spirit of forgiveness expected by us.
Matthew 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The there must be good will, love not as a vague sentimentality but as the positive and active will desiring the good of others. And finally, there is the demand of service and sacrifice. Here is the test of greatness in the Kingdom of God, and jesus offers Himself as example.
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto Him, saying, “Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.”
36 And He said unto them, “What would ye that I should do for you?”
37 They said unto Him, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on Thy right hand, and the other on Thy left hand, in Thy glory.”
38 But Jesus said unto them, “Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 And they said unto Him, “We can.” And Jesus said unto them, “Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:”
40 ‘But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not Mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’”
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
42 But Jesus called them to Him, and saith unto them, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.”
43 ‘But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:’
44 ‘And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.’
45 ‘For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” http://www.godsplan.org.uk/christtheredeemer.htm
Some questions call for answers here. Did not Jesus look for the speedy coming of a new and wholly different order, the Kingdom of God, and was not His teaching therefore an ethic ad interim (temporarily), a teaching for this short interval only?
Leaving aside for the moment the doctrine of the Kingdom, it is plain that the principles of Jesus suggested above (Mark 10:35—45) have no relation to changing conditions; they belong to all time because they rest back upon God Himself. Moreover, Jesus was not a giver of rules which must always change with circumstance; His concern was with the inner Spirit http://www.godsplan.org.uk/earthlytabernacle.htm. Specific demands and applications, of course, would be affected by the immediate situation: the men Whom He summoned for permanent fellowship must leave their nets; the rich young ruler is faced with a special challenge that is not applied by Jesus to others. What about non-resistance with Jesus.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:’
39 But I say unto you, “That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
40 ‘And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.’
41 ‘And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.’
42 ‘Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.’”
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.’
44 But I say unto you,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;’
45 ‘That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’
46 ‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?’
47 ‘And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?’
48 ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’”.
Again we must remember that Jesus is not a giver of rules but the prophet of a new Spirit. He is dealing with a great principle here, though, as usual, put in concrete and visual form. And here, as elsewhere, He is not negative or passive. He knows the evil of reliance on brute force and of the spirit of retaliation and revenge, or of the mere hard give-and-take. And He proclaims not only the duty of forgiving good will, that, like the love of God, shall not draw back even from the evil; but He shows His faith in the power of this good will as a conquering force to overcome evil. That is God’s answer to the sin of man; that shall be man’s answer to evil in his fellows. In the end, the crucifixion, with its “Father, forgive them,” Is but another declaration of this same great faith. Here is something, not passive, but active, aggressive, conquering.
Is not Jesus’ teaching deficient on the side of social ethics? The answer is, Yes, and No. Jesus has little to say about of man on its institutional side, about state, and industry, about family and divorce, about war and slavery. He has more to say about property, or wealth, but at no time is there any systematic discussion, and at every point the approach is from the side of the individual and the spiritual. (See Moffatt, Theology of Gospels, pages 49—62). He was living in an order wholly different from the one we now live in, an autocratic order in which His disciples had to accept what was found as given. He Himself expected a new order to come, but not through human revolution or reform. The immediate need was repentance (and still is) a new Spirit; with that God would add all else. It was His special task to call men to repentance, to make clear what this Spirit is.
Nevertheless, the teaching of Jesus is social in the deeper sense. He is considering how men are to live together in the new order. It is a social life He constantly envisages. The principles which He enunciates (pronounces) have the most direct and sweeping significance for all the associated life of men, including the institutions in which that life is bodied forth. His teaching has all the more permanent significance just because He did not lay rules for application. What was needed was simply that men should come to have His Spirit, and to see its implications. His teaching on divorce is not an effort to give rules for civil or ecclesiastical procedure, but to set forth a a Spiritual ideal.
If He gives more time to the matter of wealth, it is because the besetting peril that lies here, the peril of putting things above men. Sometimes covetousness appears as hardness and oppression towards one’s fellows, sometimes as the folly that sells its own soul, the error is the same.
16 And He spake a parable unto them, saying, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:”
17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?”
18 And he said, “This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.”
19 “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry”.
20 But God said unto him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
21 “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God”.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
But one has only to think of autocracy in government, of bond slavery and wage slavery, of nationalism and race prejudice and war, of modern economic rivalry and its practices of exploitation, to realise the revolutionary significance of the principles of Jesus on the social side. Reverence for all humanity, the acceptance of one Father, the obligation of brotherhood, the spirit of goodwill, co-operation, and service—these may be described as impossible ideals but not as socially un-meaning.
The Life with God.
It has often seemed to men that the passage from Jesus to Paul was like moving into a wholly different world of religious ideas, that with Jesus religion was the simple life with God which anyone could undertake, while Paul brought to tu an elaborate doctrine of salvation, with its theories of sin, atonement, and the rest. There is some difference here, and yet Jesus too has His definite teaching about what sin is, and how men are to be saved. The simple speech of Jesus must not hide from us this fact. Religion is life, a wonderful life with God, the life which the Son lives in devotion and trust, in strength, and peace, in the spirit of love. But this life is for Jesus the gift of God; it is not only a life with God, but a life from God. That is Salvation. There is something that bars the way of this life from God, and that is sin. Jesus has nothing to say about sin in the abstract; the word is used by Him very little as compared to Paul. But how keen was His sense of sin as a Spirit and power in men!
We see His conception of sin as we note what He demanded, and what he condemned. Sin was a matter of the inner Spirit, of the attitude towards God and men. In relation to god it was the lack of trust and obedience, the attitude of men who said, “Lord”, “Lord,” but did not do the will of God, Of the son who said, “I go, sir,” but went not. In relation to men it was the lack of love and forgiveness, it was the spirit of selfishness, hardness, and scorn Of the sins which root in the passions of the flesh he had not much to say, but He never condoned sin of any kind. It was the terrible thing that divided men from God; it was that which made men a stumbling-block and a curse to their fellows.
So it comes that his very love for men moves Him at times to terrific words of judgement and condemnation.
38 And He said unto them in His doctrine, “Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,”
39 “And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:”
40 “Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers:” these shall receive greater damnation.
04 ‘For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers’.
05 ‘But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,’
06 ‘And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,’
07 ‘And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.’
08 ‘But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.’
09 ‘And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.’
10 ‘Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.’
11 ‘But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.’
12 ‘And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.’
13 ‘But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.’
Tefillin also called phylacteries are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.
Borders. = the fringes. Originally a mark of separation between Israel and surrounding nations.
Salvation with Jesus was a very simple and personal matter. The lost man was a man out of place, out of right relations, like the coin in the dark corner, the sheep off in the hills, the son among strangers. He was in wrong relations with his world, with men, and with God. But the relation with God was fundamental; make that right and the rest would be right. To that end a man had to first see differently, and feel differently; he had to come to himself to repent.
Luke 15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”
Repentance was much more than a feeling; it was a total change of mind and will. And there must be faith, the faith which trusted God and turned with heart and will toward Him. When Jesus found these He said simply, “Today is salvation come to this house.”
Luke 19:9 And Jesus said unto him, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham”
All this was simply the response of man to God. The supreme matter was the “good news” with which Jesus called men to repentance and faith. The great fact was God with His loving purpose for men and His saving help. The good news was first of all that of the coming kingdom of God. But there was something more here, something personal, and present. That was God’s willingness to receive men who wished to get ready for this kingdom, to forgive them and take them into fellowship with Himself, so that they too might be children with the Spirit of their Father. The simplicity of this must not hide from us the elements of profound meaning and moral power.
This is the way God makes men over, not by some magic rite of sacramental nature, not by some mysterious and irresistible action of grace, but by this new personal fellowship, this life into which He lifts men.