Teaching of Jesus

What did Jesus teach ?

At its heart, Jesus' teaching was very simple: Love God above everything else, and love your neighbour (your fellow human beings) as yourself.

Simple, but not easy. And there is of course (a lot) more to it. You might find it helpful to look at the prayer Jesus taught us

The following is an attempt to expand a little bit on what Jesus taught to get you started.

Jesus' teachings are relayed to us in the four Gospels of the New Testament. These are accounts of his life and teaching written down at least thirty years after the event by the adherents of different groups of his followers.They vary to a degree, reflecting the emphases of those particular groups and the audiences they were writing for.

Thousands of books, probably billions of words, have been written about it, from both a scholarly and a pastoral point of view.

There are good reasons for seeing two particular areas of teaching as being at the heart of Jesus' message, which actually correspond to that simple statement above.

 

God, power, and love of our neighbour

In Jesus' time, as indeed through most of world history, nearly everybody was at the bottom of the pile in terms of power. Life was a constant struggle to make a basic living while a hierarchy of usually tyrannical rulers exploited those below them through taxation, making themselves rich and keeping everyone else impoverished and powerless.

Jesus' message was that, in God's eyes, all human beings - God's children - are loved unconditionally and loved equally. We should therefore treat everyone accordingly. This was massive: God was on the side of the poor and weak, and a complete reversal of normal power structures and the perceived order of things.

Although this teaching could be seen - and was seen by some - as politically explosive, it seems, that Jesus' message, in keeping with the tradition of the prophets, was more about how we should all think of each other: as fellow children of God. We should love and forgive each other, we should welcome and care for strangers (including foreigners and refugees), we should feed the hungry, visit those in prison, house the homeless and so on. In doing this we would be loving God, for he is there to be found in our fellow human beings.

God's Kingdom

Jesus proclaimed that God's kingdom was coming and was close at hand. He added that the correct response to this was to repent and believe.

We should understand God's Kingdom to mean a world-order in which God's ways are in effect, God's will holds sway, the hungry are fed, the poor lifted up and the powerful brought low.

It seems clear from the Gospels that Jesus - and his followers - expected this to happen imminently. This has presented a conundrum for Christian teaching ever since the early expectations of an early, apocalyptic return of Jesus failed to be realised. Those apocalyptic visions in the Book of Revelation have to be re-interpreted, it would seem.

St John's Gospel seems to point the way, seeming to show that Jesus was teaching that the Kingdom of God was here now, breaking into day-to-day life for those who have eyes to see it. It is almost as though Jesus were trying to teach a different spirituality - one which sees the world differently from the way prevailing culture saw it, one in which the prevailing power structures and moral or religious norms were radically upturned.

For us living now, who have learnt not to expect Jesus' return in the same temporal way as the first Christians did, the challenge is to deepen our spirituality to be more like Jesus, to long, pray and by caring for our fellow human beings, to act for the coming of God's rule here and now.

 

 

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