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Friday, July 30, 2010

New Testament Tales - Jesus' Teaching

Jesus’ Teaching
1. What are the beatitudes?
2. How did Jesus make the law even stricter?
3. How did Jesus make the law gentler?
4. When did Jesus disagree with the customary law?
5. What methods of teaching did Jesus use?
6. How did Jesus include women in his teaching?
7. How did Jesus include foreigners in his teaching?
8. How did Jesus include helpers in his ministry?
9. How did Jesus make it clear he wasn’t just a good man?
10. How often did Jesus prophesy his death?

The Beatitudes are often viewed as Jesus’ ministry manifesto. The rules of his culture demanded that one could only be “right” with God if one obeyed all the laws; obedience to law was ensured by couching each rule in others that protected people from accidental disobedience. Jesus, by contrast, suggested we can tell we’re right with God by what we are (by our attitudes), rather than what we do. Of course, that makes it harder to judge whether our neighbor is right with God, but as Jesus says, “Judge not.”

One problem with protecting laws by more laws is that loopholes are introduced. Under Jesus’ rules, you disobey a law even if you want to disobey it, and the loopholes are plugged. (A prime example was the way a man could dedicate his possessions to the temple, thus avoiding the need to provide for his parents.) Of course, under Jesus’ rules, we are all most definitely sinners. Luckily Jesus demonstrates his ability to heal sins by also healing physical ills (the paralyzed man let down from the roof), he welcomes sinners as a doctor come to their aid, and he promises answers to prayer.

Jesus used many methods to teach the people: argument (as when he answers questions), illustration (parables), action (healings, which demonstrated power, authority, compassion and fulfillment of prophesy), and trust (letting others teach and heal in his place). While we’re not told about women being sent out amongst the seventy, we cannot be certain that they weren’t. What we can be sure of is that some of Jesus’ parables were clear depictions of women’s lives, making them welcome as listeners and followers, and that he welcomed women when they joined in conversation (Mary, the woman at the well, and the Syrophoenician woman) just as surely as when they served dinner (Martha). Jesus’ stories, praise for faith, and healings also included foreigners (the centurion’s servant, the good Samaritan), setting the stage for their inclusion in the Christian faith.

While Jesus didn’t outwardly proclaim his identity as Messiah in his early ministry, there were many ways that he made it clear. When John asked if he was truly the expected one, Jesus quoted Isaiah’s prophesy, which his actions were fulfilling every day. When he performed miracles, he laid claim to God’s special favor. And in certain particular miracles, he made his claim clear to those religious leaders who were looking for the Messiah. There were three specific miracles that would traditionally only be performed by the Messiah—healing a Jewish leper, healing someone who was mute because of an evil spirit, and healing a person born blind. In John’s gospels we see more times when Jesus’ words proclaimed his identity (“I and the Father are one” etc.), and all the gospels record the private revelation to Peter when Jesus asks “Who do the people say that I am?”

Jesus does not live up to man’s expectations for a Messiah, but rather to God’s, and we should probably remember we’re as vulnerable as the Jews of Jesus’ time to misinterpreting God’s words. Jesus prophesies his death three times to the disciples, with varying degrees of success, first after Peter’s announcement (Matt 16:21) when Peter disagrees, then after the transfiguration (Luke 9:44) when the disciples discuss who’s the greatest, and again (Mark10:33) when James and John asks for special favor.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Very good, keep up the good work of sharing the gospel of our lord and Saviour, hugs and blessing.