The first four books of the New Testament called the Gospels or “good news” tell us the most significant stories of the Bible and historical facts- the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus Christ. The four Gospels namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are written from different and unique perspectives. Nevertheless, the teachings and life of Jesus depicted in each Gospel supports and complements each other. It gives us an overall and complete picture of Christ’s life and his characteristics as a teacher. Jesus ministered on earth for about three years. And in those years, multitudes went to listen, follow, and learn from him whenever and wherever he ministered. These teachings cover the most important subjects in life. It influenced and changed millions of lives; still remaining powerful today despite the 2,000-year gap after Christ’s death and resurrection.
If the teachings of Jesus survived for more than two thousand years and its influence stays the same, it means the wisdom of these teachings remains to be the greatest in history. With Christ’s numerous topics from sermons to parables, it is difficult to choose what His primary teachings are. Besides, all the teachings of Jesus matter, for they impact lives in the past, present, and will continue to do so in the future. His lessons in his ministry are all profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The core teachings of Jesus summarized here focuses on the instructions of Jesus while He was on earth.
Love God: The Greatest Commandment
Mark 12: 28-30
When a scribe asked Jesus which commandment is the most important of all, Jesus answered that it is to love God. Yet, the next phrases of Jesus might overwhelm anyone the first time one hears about it. Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all your hearts, with all your souls, with all your minds, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30 – 31). This verse is interesting because the phrases are specific, emphasizing the very need to love God with our entire being. And that is what the greatest commandment; to love God with our whole being. God seeks people to love Him with all that they are.
Not only does God loves us more than enough, but He gives us everything we need every day, even giving His one and only begotten Son for the salvation of mank ind. In knowing and experiencing the love God has for us, can’t we love Him by giving our entire being to Him too? Indeed, we can only love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
With All Your Heart
The soul, mind, heart, and strength represent different parts of our being. Loving God with all our heart refers to our love for God with our will and rational capacity. The heart is the core of man’s being. Thus, we are to love God from within. Loving God with all our heart means that we desire and decide to love him with all that is within us.
The Bible tells us that from the heart flows the spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). It is where life starts. Everything that we do flows from it. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:35). Furthermore, it says that the good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil. Notice that whatever we do on the outside is a manifestation of what we store on the inside. Therefore, our love for God should start from our core, deep within us so that this love inside can overflow outside through our words and actions.
With All Your Mind
Loving God with all our minds is all about our intellectual love for Him. We do not talk about just an intellectual consciousness of who God is nor of the knowledge of our love for Him. When our mind desires God, when we constantly have Him in our thoughts, and we continuously try doing what we hope would please Him, this is what it means to love God with our entire mind. When we love God, we seek to know Him more and to know His Word. Philippians 4:8 advises us to think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
With All Your Soul
The soul signifies life. It may represent our capacity to love emotionally. The Bible usually uses the soul in denoting feelings and emotions. For example in Psalm 42:11, it says “Why are you cast down oh my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” The Lord designed us to be emotional beings so that we not only have an understanding of His love for us but also to feel it, experience it that we may also have the same emotional capacity to love God.
With All Your Strength
To love God with all our strength means that we are to love Him with our physical capacity. The Lord gave us the physical attributes, talents, and strength so we can use it in giving honor to His name. Our physical body allows us to serve Him. Our love for God should be filled with fervor and energy because it springs from willingness and passion. Whatever love our heart, soul, and mind have, it manifests itself physically. Therefore, we are to love God with all of our being.
Love Your Neighbor
The second greatest commandment which is undeniably the most important teaching of Jesus towards others is to love your neighbor as yourself. An expert of the law, a Pharisee, who asked Jesus about the greatest commandment agreed when Jesus spoke about loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Moreover, the pharisee added that loving God and loving your neighbor is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. What was Jesus’ reply to this? The Lord said that this Pharisee was not far from the kingdom of God.
Loving our neighbor is somehow manageable. One can do it without much hard work. However, loving our neighbor as to how we love ourselves will require us more effort, patience, and understanding. If we love our neighbors with the same love we have for ourselves, there is no room for selfish acts. Furthermore, there is no way we can regard ourselves as someone higher than anyone else.
As a test, another expert of the law asked Jesus about how a man can inherit eternal life, and again, the discussion led to the two greatest commandments love God and love your neighbor. The Pharisee asked Jesus in a tenacious attempt of trying to prove himself with this question “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered this Pharisee with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The Parable of The Good Samaritan
Of the many teachings of Jesus, this becomes one of the most popular parables in the Bible. It tells the story of a Samaritan who helped a man who was stripped off by robbers, beaten, and left half-dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man but did nothing. But when a Samaritan saw the man, he had compassion on him and helped him.
This parable tells us of our accountability with one another no matter who we are. Remember, it was the Samaritan who helped the man, not the priest or the Levite who both serves in the Holy Temple. The Jews loathe the Samaritans during this era. They considered them as outcasts for they defile the Jewish religion by living with pagans. The Jews and Samaritans disliked and opposed each other greatly. Yet, the Good Samaritan in the story helped the Jewish man who most likely hated him for his origin. Who is our neighbor then? Everyone, even those whom we hate, even those we don’t know, and even those who hate us.
Today, people refer to a Good Samaritan as someone who does random acts of kindness towards others usually in a form of charity, generosity or simply helping out. The Good Samaritan in the parable doesn’t know the man, but he knows the man needs help. Like the Samaritan, we should help and love each other; our neighbors.
The Teachings of Jesus Tells Us: Forgive Seventy-Seven Times
In the subject of forgiveness, Jesus teaches to forgive seventy-seven times. In other versions of the Bible, it is seventy times seven. Well, it may give us a different value as a number but the essence of it remains untouched. On one occasion while Jesus was teaching, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples was probably thinking seven times was more than enough times he should be required to forgive someone. With this idea, he asked Jesus ‘Lord, should I forgive as many as seven times?’ Peter must have thought that seven times of forgiveness will please the Lord. But the number Peter gave was so invaluable compared to the answer Jesus gave. After all, seventy-seven was just a number for a metaphor of forgiving endlessly. The Lord desires that we forgive without limit, as long as we live.
The number seven in the Bible often represents completion. The Lord created the earth for six days and rested on the seventh day. It tops the list of the most used and most significant numbers in the Scripture. Hence, Jesus wants that we forgive completely. Forgiving completely means that we won’t hold any grudges anymore. It means that we are going to forget the pain caused by other people and set our hearts free from hatred and resentment. For Peter and the other disciples to understand what Jesus was trying to say when He said they should forgive seventy-seven times, He tells the parable of a servant who refused to forgive.
The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant
This parable tells the story of a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents. The servant couldn’t pay his debt so his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had. But the servant begged his master to give him more time to repay his debt. Out of mercy his master released and forgave his debt. Thus, all his debt was no more, he’s free. But, when this servant saw his fellow servant who owes him a hundred denarii, he choked him and forced him to pay his debt. When his fellow servant pleaded with him, he refused to forgive his debt. Instead, he put him in prison. When this servant’s master found out, he became angry for he had forgiven this servant who didn’t show mercy to another for the same reason. So, the master put him in prison too, until he could pay all his debts.
Now, it’s important to understand how big the difference is between a hundred denarii and ten thousand talents. According to scholars, a hundred denarii is almost equal to a four-months wage. However, the ten thousand talents debt of the unforgiving servant will take him more than his lifetime to be able to pay it. To earn one talent, you will have to work for around 15-20 years. That is just one talent! How long would it take for the servant to pay ten thousand talents? Even the entire time of his life will not be enough. This is the reason why it will take his wife, children, and everything that he has as payment. Because God has forgiven all our sins, we shouldn’t withhold forgiveness from others. When we are unforgiving, we’re only harming our futures.
The Key to Forgiveness
What can we learn from this parable? Unless we truly receive the complete forgiveness of Jesus, we cannot also extend the same forgiveness to others.
How can we not forgive if we who have sinned greatly have received forgiveness freely? If our debts have been canceled, there’s no reason left not to forgive others as well. The warning of Jesus in this parable should wake us up. If we do not forgive others, how can the Lord forgive us? The forgiveness of Jesus is free and the world needs it. If you still hold grudges or resentment against your brother, seek God’s forgiveness and power to enable us to forgive.
The teachings of Jesus also teaches us about the principle of measurement. In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus instructs us with a simple statement. The statement is this: “Judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned.” Though these may seem like simple directions to follow, the latter part of the teachings of Jesus regarding judgment will reveal to us how this is not a simple instruction.
It is easy to overlook the sin of judgment especially if you’re inside the church. Sometimes, this sin clothes itself with false concern towards others. We judge hastily thinking that we’re doing the right thing. If we feel like we are doing good deeds and see others doing evil, pride enters our hearts and we start to question them and condemn them. We may then have thoughts like, “Thank God, I am not as sinful as them” or “The Lord should curse them, they are evil.” These are dangerous traps. Simple ideas like ‘we are better than others’ or if you always see the mistakes and flaws of others but can’t see yours — this is just us as much danger.
In the teachings of Jesus about judging others, we are reminded to take out the speck that is in our eye before we try to remove the specks out of our brother’s eyes. This is perilous because Jesus said a blind man cannot lead another blind man. They will both fall into a pit. Imagine a place full of people who try to judge others without looking at themselves? Can they see the truth? No. And they will all fail.
The Teachings of Jesus Shows How To Love Your Enemies
Loving our neighbor is already difficult. How much harder could loving our enemies be? The teachings of Jesus surprise us with wisdom that is at first glance too hard to accomplish. We hate our enemies. They disgust us. We resent them. They irritate us. We fight them. In worse cases, hatred happens with a physical scuffle. Undeniably, it causes us emotional distress which affects other aspects of our life. There is just no way we can easily love our enemies. It is easy to love a stranger than to love someone whose past shares a glitch in our relationship. However, the teachings of Jesus instruct us that we love our enemies. The Lord explains the importance of loving our enemies in the Gospels.
In the Book of Luke, Jesus taught about how there is nothing remarkable about loving those who loved us already. Jesus must be saying to his disciples “C’mon! all men do that. What’s new to that?” Loving those easy to love is no remarkable act. The students of the teachings of Jesus cannot find distinction just by doing that. Jesus asked them, “If you love those who love you what benefit is that to you?” Furthermore, if we will only do good to those who do good to us, what benefit is that to us? Even sinners do this.
What God then is trying to say? You show love to people who don’t deserve it. Do good to people who cannot return it. Be kind and merciful and loving even to those you hate and even to those who sin against you. Jesus wants us to emulate His very own character— merciful, loving, and kind. In the last section of these teachings of Jesus, the Lord commands us to be merciful as he is merciful.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
The teachings of Jesus always lead us to attain things that are eternal and not just for temporary pleasure. Temporal things will teach us to do what we like and what we believe in without consulting Scripture. Of course, life is a lot easier without following any rules. But the Bible tells us that is not life. In all the teachings of Jesus, this one about laying up treasures in heaven is not as popular compared to the previous teachings of Jesus mentioned earlier. Yet, this teaching is of vital importance. It shows us how we should live on earth. In the same way, it shows the sovereignty of God in our lives. Knowing that God is sovereign should lead us further into following the teachings of Jesus.
There are just two things which the teachings of Jesus tell us regarding where we should store our treasures. First, it is not here on earth. It shouldn’t be here. Second, the only place where we should lay up our treasures is in heaven. Nothing is permanent in this world. Money and gold will perish. Uncertainties are present all the time. We don’t know what could happen. Nonetheless, it is not a bad thing to save money, this is necessary for survival in this world, but the treasure God is speaking about is not money.
Jesus said for where your treasure is there your heart will be also. The Lord is not talking about a simple investment. He is speaking about our hearts. Where is our heart directed? What is inside of it? Are we spending our lives trying to earn and earn money and life becomes just about that? If you have come to this kind of living, we better look at this parable.
The Parable of The Rich Fool
This is the story of a rich man who becomes so confident in his wealth and harvest that he spends his days thinking of all the ways to get more out of his grains and barns. This rich man had everything planned for his future. Since he has everything that he needs he said to himself, “Soul, you have enough goods, relax, eat, drink, and be merry.” He must have been so proud of what he accomplished that he can imagine himself doing what he wants, having fun for he has more than all he needs. He can buy whatever, eat whatever, he can do anything. It was no fun that night though. The Lord took his life and everything that he prepared was all in vain now.
This is how useless our toils are if we fail to recognize the purpose of life. Treasures here on earth are futile. Money can’t give us eternal life in heaven where gold and silver are just adornments. The teachings of Jesus warn us about how impossible it is to serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). If we store treasures here on earth that means we let the money rule us and we aren’t putting God first. There are other ways we lay up treasures here on earth such as in the form of fame, idols, or possessions. These are things that are temporary. The way we invest in heaven is by pursuing Christ, the teachings of Jesus, God’s Word, and His will. If we let Him govern all our temporary treasures, we don’t have to worry for He will be with us.
Follow The Teachings of Jesus
The core teachings of Jesus should inspire us to live under the grace of God and not by our own might. He cannot allow us to do the things He has not given us first. The focal subject of the teachings of Jesus centers on love. It is no wonder for it is utterly the essence of God’s character. There is no easy way to obey the teachings of Jesus but we as Christians should follow the example of Jesus. Following Christ and His teachings is not a one-man journey. He gave us people to help us, to remind us, and even to correct us. Jesus also promised that he would show us the way to avoid temptation that will come unto us. Aside from these are the other promises of Jesus that He will supply us with courage, wisdom, and strength.
These core teachings of Jesus are just a few of the striking statements, parables, and instructions of Jesus during his three-year ministry here on earth. True Christians adhere to the teachings of Jesus. Although this may not be an easy walk as Jesus stated, the gate that leads to life is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14) may we continue to press on toward the goal of our salvation.