8. Jesus’ Teaching
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Luke 4:31-32 - Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.
This event in Capernaum was not a one off occurrence. Frequently the writers of the gospel remark how people viewed Jesus’ teaching as authoritative. But what was it that made his teaching authoritative?
1. How he taught with authority:
Jesus’ manner of teaching shared much in common with other teachers of 1st century Palestine. His teachings frequently included Old Testament texts; exaggerated hyperbole, telling of parables, rhythmic poetry aiding memorisation and the predicting of future events, were common teaching practice at the time in both religious and secular circles. Most of the teaching we have in the Gospels did not arise out of formal settings but rather through personal encounters, engaging with the religious leaders and the inherent need to teach his disciples. However, it is not so much his manner of teaching that created the air of authority about him, but rather what he taught that did (Matthew 7:28-29). Saying as He often did, “But I say to you…”, was in direct opposition to the method the Rabbinical teachers employed. This also caused astonishment and amazing from those who heard him. Additionally, Jesus often sat down to teach, and this signifies formal instruction, as was the custom at the time.
2. What did he teach?
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus appeals to the Old Testament scriptures in every facet of his teaching. Founded on Old Testament texts, his moral and legal teachings (Matthew 5:148), the historical stories (Matthew 24:27-29) and in his debates with the religious leaders, Jesus frequently used Old Testament Scripture (Mark 7:6-13).
Quite possibly, the supreme example of his teaching can be found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). Whilst mainly speaking to his disciples, he allowed the crowds to listen. In this discourse, all of Jesus’ teachings are exhibited. Key themes from the Sermon on the Mount include: a Christian Disciple’s character, influence, righteousness, religion, devotional life, ambition and relationships.
The Kingdom of God
Jesus preached that entrance to the kingdom of God was through repentance (Matthew 3:2) and this repentance led to a spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8). He calls all Christian Disciples to seek it first (Matthew 6:33) and to pray for it (Matthew 6:10). But what is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God as taught by Jesus, was not a political uprising against the Romans, as thought by James and John (Mark 10:35-45) and nor is it the church. The kingdom of God was and is both a personal inner spiritual relationship with God as ruler over the life of the Christian Disciple, but also the Christian Disciple exhibiting this relationship with God in a visible new society (Matthew 25:34; Luke 13:29). Parable such as the corn and weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) and the mustard seed (Mark 4:3-32) typify Jesus teaching on this.
Whilst Jesus never directly claimed to be God, he did things only God could do. He claimed authority to forgive sins (Matthew 9:1-7). He also claimed that He, and He alone, was the only way to the Father when he said in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” His claim to be the Messiah, or Son of Man, is an appeal to Old Testament texts and their subsequent fulfilment and completion in him (Mark 8:29-33). Primarily His teaching that the Messiah must suffer and be glorified was also an appeal to Old Testament scripture (Luke 9:31; Luke 12:50; John 10:11-15).
3. The prime method He used was with parables
Throughout the Gospels, we see that Jesus spoke a lot in parable form. A parable is an allegory or picture story. He did this in order to get his message across completely. The parables as recorded in the Gospels mainly fall into four categories:
Society and its God – an example of this would be the parable of the sheep (Luke 15:1-7) whereby God is seen as a God of grace.
Society and the individual – an example of this would be the parable involving the rich fool who thought his wealth would make God love him more (Luke 12:13-21).
Society and the community – an example here would be the parable of the Good Samaritan whereby everyone is to show love, even for their enemies (Luke 10:25-37).
Society and the future – an example here would be the parable of the great feast whereby the future climax of the kingdom is seen (Matthew 25:31-33).
4. Who did He teach?
The Gospel writers attributed Jesus as a teacher (Mark 5:35; John 7:15) despite his lacking the formal requirements usually attained by rabbis. The Gospel writers also refer to him as a prophet (Luke 7:16; John 6:14), and he was recognized as such by people (Mark 6:15; Mark 8:28). There were three main groups of people that Jesus interacted with and taught. There were large crowds, his twelve disciples and the religious leaders.
The Crowds - Sermon on the Mount
When Jesus taught large gathering of people, it was always based on evidential facts and it was always as Luke described “good news” (Luke 4:18), because God gave it to Jesus. Crowds recognized that Jesus had a confident manner of speaking (Mark 1:22). It must be noted that in the presence of crowds, Jesus didn’t actively reveal who he was (Mark 1:44; Mark 3:11-12; Mark 9:9).
Many of Jesus’ recorded teachings were to his disciples, but in the midst of crowds, such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1; Matthew 7:28). However on more precise requirements of discipleship, or about himself or the future of God’s Kingdom, Jesus usually only taught his disciples concerning his true identity, even though they failed to grasp it (Mark 8:27-33).
The religious leaders
Because of Jesus’ popularity and the activities He was involved with, the religious leaders soon took notice of him. Jesus respected the Law of Moses and Moses authority (Mark 1:22). He gave his own unique interpretation and as such attracted the opposition of the religious leaders who had taught a different interpretation. An example of this is in Jesus interpretation of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-38); the healings he performed (John 5:1-18); fasting and ritual cleanliness (Mark 7:1-5) and for consorting with sinners (Luke 7:34). Jesus criticised the religious leaders for amongst other things: their lack of compassion and the weighty burdens they placed upon others (Matthew 23; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:37-54).
For more to think about please do ask your self the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. Read Matthew 5:13. How can I as a Christian Disciple be salt and light to my community?
Q2. Read Mark 4:10-20. How does Jesus speak to me as a Christian Disciple and how does the Holy Spirit help me to interpret what Scripture says?
Q3. Read Matthew 7:24-27. In what ways am I as a Christian Disciple sometimes like the wise builder and at other times like the foolish builder?
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