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SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (24): Jesus – His Teaching

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. – Mark 1:15

These were the first words of Jesus that Mark recorded. These set the tone for His teaching, whether in direct sermons, as in the Sermon on the Mount, or in parables. He taught more about the kingdom of God than any other before or after Him – and He taught more about the kingdom than He taught about any other subject.

Yet, His teaching about the Kingdom of God was not very much like that of modern teachers of the kingdom. Today, much of kingdom-teaching has to do with when and how Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth, Jesus said little about the when or the how; He preferred to talk about what the Kingdom of God is and how it looks.

As Matthew recorded the early part of Jesus’ personal ministry, he wrote:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. – Matthew 4:23

As a result of this, news about Him spread all over the country, people brought Him all who were suffering with any affliction, and large crowds followed Him. When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain where His disciples came to Him – and he delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount.

The Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount

This sermon begins with what we call the Beatitudes or Blessings. Each of these names a group of people and gives a blessing to each of them. Each of these groups were people who were suffering in life: those beaten down by life so that they were bankrupt in spirit, those mourning & depressed, those seeking righteousness (justice) without finding it, the meek and merciful who were abused by those around them because they perceived them as weak, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. All in one way or another were suffering because of the evil wrought on them or which they saw wrought on others, which broke their hearts.

Each of these received a kingdom-blessing. Jesus said of the first and the last of these, “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Sandwiched between these are six other kingdom-blessings: comfort, inheritance of the earth, longings satisfied, mercy, seeing God, and a place among the sons of God. None of these kingdom-blessings will be complete anywhere except in God’s Kingdom under His reign and dominion.

[Note: this view of the Beatitudes follows that of Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy.]

The rest of this Sermon talks about His followers as they live in this world, not in the coming age where so much of the kingdom-talk of modern teachers focuses. He says that kingdom-people live in ways that as others observe them and their “good works” they will give praise to God.

He did not claim to be teaching something other than “the law and the prophets” taught – but was urging men to live as Moses and the prophets had taught them to live. He showed how the mis-interpretations of the rabbis perverted the teachings of the Old Covenant Scriptures dealing with murder, adultery, divorce, making oaths, revenge, and even love.

He taught that everything must come from the heart and be done as to God, not to be seen by men, whether giving alms, praying, or fasting. In doing this, He said, you will be storing up treasures in Heaven, not on earth. In fact, if we live to store treasure on earth, He said, we cannot be serving God.

In spite of this Heaven-focused life on earth, He said, we do not need to worry about what to eat or wear because our Father will provide these for us when we seen Him and His kingdom first.

As far as living with others on earth, we are not to judge them or try to force-feed them so they will become disciples of Jesus. Rather, we are to live as humble, trusting servants of God who ask, seek, and knock at His door, expecting Him to give good things to us and those around us. He taught that we should treat others as we would want to be treated – even when it costs us something to do that.

This, He said, is a narrow path and difficult gate in contrast to the broad way most people follow.

He warned against false prophets who produce bad fruit. These may say, “Lord, Lord” but do not really know the Lord, nor are they known by Him. He closed this sermon by comparing those who hear him to two builders; those who hear and do are wise builders who build on a rock, while those who hear without doing as he says are foolish builders on the sand.

His Parables

My NIV study Bible lists 40 different parables of Jesus; 17 of these say directly things like “the kingdom of God is like” or, as in the case of the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), “to you it is given to know the secrets of the kingdom” and “when anyone hears the message about the kingdom….”

Most of the rest (those where Jesus does not mention the kingdom directly) are in Luke who generally introduces his parable accounts with a different formula. These, however, are mostly in contexts that are closely related to understanding the kingdom. It is safe to say that the majority of all Jesus’ parables are about the kingdom in one way or another.

What lessons do these parables teach? Here are some of the concepts we learn from the parables:

  • How to listen to God’s Word (Wise & Foolish Builders and the Parable of the Sower)
  • God’s kingdom is like new wine in a new wineskin or more than a patch on an old garment
  • God’s angels will separate the good from the bad in the kingdom (Parable of Tares & Net)
  • A Rabbi instructed in the kingdom is like a householder who has treasures both old & new
  • Joy in heaven over sinners who repent (Lost sheep, lost coin, & lost son)
  • God is merciful, so we should be as well (Unmerciful servant)
  • The first will be last and the last first (Laborers in the Vineyard)
  • Deeds are more important than mere words (Two sons sent to work in a vineyard)
  • God wants fruit from His people (Tenants)
  • God wants His banquet to be full of guests (Wedding Banquet)
  • Faithful servants serve, not knowing when the Lord will return (Faithful Servant)
  • Need to be prepared at all times for the Lord to come (Ten Virgins)
  • Right use of talents & assets (Parable of the Talents & the Unjust Steward)
  • Service to others is service to Christ (Sheep & Goats in Judgment)
  • Maturity in Fruit-bearing takes time to grow (Growing Seed)
  • Confessed sinners enter the kingdom ahead of self-righteous people (Money Lender who forgives debtors, both small and great)
  • Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Good Samaritan)
  • Importunity in asking gets results (Friend in need & The Persistent Widow)
  • Foolishness of planning while leaving God out of your plan (The Rich Fool)
  • Bear fruit or perish (The Unfruitful Tree)
  • Humility (Low seat at Feast, Servant who says I’ve only done my duty, & Pharisee & Tax Collector Praying in the Temple)
  • Put God’s Kingdom First (Parable of Excuses & The Rich Man and Lazarus)
  • Count the cost (Building a Tower without finishing and King going to a war he cannot win)

Are any of these not “kingdom lessons”?

In all of His teaching, Jesus was showing how we are to live as in the kingdom of God. His teaching is summed up in the greatest and second greatest commandments: To love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

He put this another way when He said:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34

When it comes down to it, Jesus simply teaches us to live as He lived. He has little to say about the forms of rituals and worship; He has much to say about how to live as children of God. He also promises us the Spirit as a helper in our walk with Him. That is what Jesus’ teaching is all about.

He taught as much by what He did as by what He said. One of His complaints about the Pharisees was they do not practice what they preach (Matthew 23:3). He Himself was the only teacher whose life agreed perfectly at all times with what He taught. This is one of the things that made Him the Master Teacher of all time. Yet, as we will see later, He is much more than merely a teacher. He is also Lord and Savior.

NEXT: Jesus – Conflict with the Jews

PREVIOUS: Jesus – His Miracles


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