The story of Jesus’s life and his teachings-Part 2

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The story of Jesus’s life and his teachings-Part 2

Principles of Jesus's teachings
If it is asked about the teachings of Jesus and the reason why he has attracted many people during his prophethood it has to be said that he had one feature. The feature was that he could simply speak. Accordingly regarding the basic religious issues, he used a simple, plain and clear language which was easily understood by the public people. It has to be said that this language had been derived from symbols of nature and human life. In his statement, Jesus used examples and proofs so as to make it acceptable by people’s hearts. Yes, Jesus was a simple man and he spoke for the simple people too. Through simple parables, he uttered most of the complex and meaningful issues. It means that he combined his statements with short and popular parables in order for people to better understand the religious issues, however it was not enough too. The only reason that people were attracted to him was not the way he spoke but in fact, he was successful because he talked about people’s Inner thoughts. In addition, his personality and way of life was a good example.
Jesus's teachings are of two types: A- religious principles B- moral teachings
A- Religious principles
In all Jesus’s teachings that he taught to his disciples, there was an unforgettable point. The point was that the truth of religion was the most important thing to him. From the day he was baptized by John the Baptist to the last day of his life, the existence of Divine Truth and the connection between his heart and the Divine Presence of God was always undying in his heart and in all steps of his life, he had this issue in his mind. He never intended to organize any reason to prove the validity of Divine Existence (existence of God). In that time and age, when believing in the Divine Existence was common among the people, he was not required to prove the reasons for existing God. But people expected to know, what kind of a God was the Almighty God and how God was, regarding His nature, attributes and the quality of His deeds. Deep in his heart, Jesus always spoke with faith and confidence. Accordingly, he stated that the Almighty God is a mighty essence with attributes that governs all creatures. He is an active spirit who has always been the origin of movements in the history. He is a pure essence with the utmost justice and goodness that the origin of all humans’ destiny is in so-called His powerful hands. At the same time, He is clement and merciful and based on His Divine Providence He forgives the humans. Jesus has called God, “the Father” (or Heavenly Father) and His teachings indicates that although the Almighty God have created the humans according to His free and great wisdom, the human is like that very “Lost son” who has been mentioned in this parable. It means that He has provided him with all the means for a prosperous life but that son spends all of them like a hedonist. Yet, that father again loves him and forgives his sins and saves him from the punishments and disasters which are the results of committing sin. As well, when he returns to his father, He accepts him with open arms. The essence of the Almighty God is wholly the pure goodness and grace and the human must trust in God before he doubts about Him and therefore with a confident heart, he must always illuminate his heart by the spiritual light of prayer and invocation, especially a kind of prayer and invocation which is performed in secret. Accordingly, in the middle of the desert or on a mountain peak, one must seek closeness to God. Jesus’s view about the nature is in accordance with his faith and idea about the Almighty God. Like other Jewish scholars, he believed that for the Almighty God, the nature is like a stage in which people’s salvation take place. From Jesus’s point of view, the nature is not the ultimate reality but it is something by which the actions of God do appear and in general it can be said that Unlike the Greek philosophers who tried to view the nature through their gods, Jesus like other Prophets of the Israelites made an attempt to reach God through the nature. In the teachings of Jesus, it is clearly observable that he always viewed the nature with a confident heart and full trust in God. Accordingly he himself has also stated: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns.... And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Gospel of Matthew 25. 6-29). Obviously, if you find the right way and step toward the way of truth and justice of God, you will be given whatever you need. Jesus’s point of view about the human body and its metabolic reactions was also based on the strong faith and full trust in God which exactly was an indication of Jewish prophets’ way of thinking. He apparently believed that as there is a link between the human body and the soul and wisdom, they are also united in practice and they work together. He never claimed that he was a hermit but in contrast he took part in banquets and celebrations by his own free will. He also never said that the essence of the body was corrupted or the soul had unfairly been confined by the body. Yes, the human body may be a dangerous tool in so-called the hands of the human will or it may be divided between good and evil because the human will is divided between these two. In the last case, Jesus believes that one should strive seriously to make complete unity between the body and soul, therefore he says that: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”. However, on the other hand, for proving this issue, Bulus who was one of his Jewish Apostles clearly stated that the human body can become a temple of the Holy Spirit. In short, Jesus has never prohibited his followers from social and personal enjoyments and he has never said that body is the innate enemy of goodness which it had to be rejected and destroyed. Jesus, however paid attention to another goal. Accordingly, his teaching was first to make people behave according to the Divine Will (will of God) and what God has asked him is that man should make himself ready for the advent of the Kingdom of Heavens. In such a way, everybody will live together and will pay attention to God. Therefore, like children of a father they will behave with each other as brothers. No one shall be deprived of the gifted ability and on the contrary he shall be let to reach this base. In other words, there is no human who is innately deprived of the blessing of Divine Forgiveness or the blessing of the brotherhood in a human society. From the teachings of Jesus, it is evident that there are infinite potential talents in the human personality and it is what nowadays is interpreted as the “Respect for Personality”. Jesus observed this principle not only about the children but also the sinners. Accordingly he always visited them and said that there is no exception in the principle of kindness rather it includes all men, nations, people and races in the world. This issue is recognizable from the general rules and basic principles of the religion of Jesus, although these principles certainly do change from time to time. Jesus and the people of his time had the same idea about waiting for the advent of the Kingdom of Messiah. It has to be said that at that time, the feelings of the Jewish people had been focused around this issue and Jesus also himself from his youth liked them and had been influencing by the same feeling of hope and publicly waiting for Messiah. Accordingly, since he rose up for leading his people, he believed that people’s feelings is worthy of this mission and therefore, he proclaimed a new era. For instance he said to his Apostles: “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all….It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” The same concept has also been mentioned in the Gospel of Marks with different wording which was appropriate for that period of time. Accordingly Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. So watch keep alert and pray. You do not know when that time will come.” But in spite of all that, in analysis of the situation of his time, Jesus has revealed the originality of his thought and creative mind.
Detailed study of Jesus’s statements and what he said about the Apocalypse and people’s return on day of resurrection through an understandable language for the people of his own time, clearly indicates that although regarding the Advent of Messiah (Christ) he shared the same belief and hope with the people of his time, to his taste he had made some changes and extended the kingdom of Messiah which was limited from the Jewish point of view. So he stated that the Kingdom of Father included the whole people of the world. Additionally he proclaimed that those who have been chosen by God will come from the four corners of the world. In this regard, he has directly stated: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘O Lord! Open the door for us.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
In the Gospel of Matthew the same issue has been mentioned clearer as the following:” I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” As a result, the Kingdom of God has no limits and is not limited to a few righteous Jews, rather it is like a circle of brotherhood that the circumference of which covers all people of the world and the condition for entering the kingdom of God will not be observing the Laws of Moses but its domain of attributes and traits is very wider than it may seem. The words of Mathew and Luke are not contrary to the reality. Accordingly, it has been said that: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God, Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” In addition, it should be noted that Jesus reduced the sorrow of his people, who were waiting in the hope the Advent of the Kingdom and taught to them that the Kingdom of God has indeed revealed in their present time. This concept is clearly inferred from the Biblical verses. Accordingly it has been said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a huge tree.” Hence, Jesus reduced the hope of the Jewish People who have been waiting for the Advent of Messiah and said: “wherever we look, we observe that the true faith is merely dependent upon inseparable unity with the Almighty God.” Accordingly these studies lead us to understanding Jesus’s way of thinking and his real relationship with the Almighty God. Had he considered himself as the Son of Man and the Son of God? What he meant by the Son of Man and the Son of God? Had Jesus considered himself the Messiah who had been vowed to the people as soon as he was baptized? Or did he later and gradually believe in this issue? Did Jesus’s Apostles and disciples believe that he was Messiah (Christ) during his lifetime or after his death did they believe so without his own mentioning? These are all the basic issues which may never be fully resolved. However, regarding Jesus’s inner relationship with his God, some obvious points can be inferred. First, it has to be mentioned that Jesus believed that the Almighty God had the highest dignity, higher than it had to be merely worshipped in the mornings and at nights. While prayer and invocation, he was so close to God that this extent of closeness had never been observed from any human. He always taught his own thoughts and beliefs to his disciples whenever he commanded them to say their prayers. In spite of all that, he had some secrets in his hearts which could not be taught or learnt and therefore he always surprised them. What was the meaning of “Son of Man” or “Messiah” from Jesus’s point of view? We don’t know, but there is no doubt that he believed that he was the Divine Messenger and he was sure that God had chosen him as His Prophet. Like the Prophet Amos, Jesus believed that God had chosen and sent him for guiding the people.
That’s why he chose twelve people (twelve Apostles) to be always with him and also that’s why he taught, preached and healed with utmost confidence and strength and accordingly he made a law which was superior to Moses’ law. When in a convention in the city of Nazareth, he read a chapter of the Scriptures of the prophet Isaiah (as Luke says) as the following: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant… and began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing….” In short, it has to be said that there had always been an important principle in the life of Jesus by which he had entirely been occupied. Accordingly, in his view the central fact of his life, the ultimate meaning of religion and all his words originate from “God” and therefore, he believed that he was totally surrender to His Divine Presence and Providence. Hence, he had been unified with God in his essence and attribute and while he was among the people, he cried out loud with utmost certainty and faith and without any doubt, as if he was wearing a garment which was equipped with Divine Power. Accordingly he said: O men! Nothing is more important for you than listening to my words because God speaks through me.
B- Moral teachings
Like other prophets, Jesus’s religious thoughts gave rise to his practical teachings. He spoke with utmost confidence about the moral principles. Since he could easily and quickly change the topic while talking about the moral principles without even showing any doubt, in his teachings there was still recommendations for having perseverance and strong willpower in order not to be doubtful about the Advent of the Kingdom of God and to be firm in the belief. He believed that the Advent of the Kingdom of God and its related events was certain. Thus he expected his disciples to believe so with sincerity and honesty and to show that they are undoubtedly sincere and act according to their inner thoughts and beliefs. Luke has mentioned in his Gospel that the issues of religion and Kingdom of God have been certain for Jesus because one day he said to a man: “Follow me” The man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father. “ Jesus said to him, “Let dead people bury their own dead. You go and tell others about God’s kingdom. “Still another man said, “I will follow you, Lord. But first let me go back and say good-by to my family. “Jesus replied, “Suppose you start to plow and then look back. If you do, you are not fit for service in God’s kingdom.” In addition, Jesus asked his disciples and followers to fully surrender to God with sincerity. He regarded his moral obligations above all social and ritual issues. Because of this very issue, he strongly criticized the Pharisees and said, this sect is clearly committing sin and improper deeds including Egotism, selfishness, fame, hypocrisy and duplicity. Most importantly, their great fault was that they had forgotten the basic issues of the moral principles and had replaced the formal and superficial rituals with improper deeds. He told them: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law, justice, mercy, and faith….You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy, full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish and then the outside will become clean, too. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.”(Gospel of Matthew 23:23-28). In fact, one of Jesus’s evident characteristics among his moral principles was leading his disciples from superficial issues to the inner issues and replacing the hypocrisy with the internal moral principles which was based on spiritual inclinations. Because paying attention to superficial traditions which was acceptable according to Jewish religion if against the moral principles, was a great flaw. Salvation is only when a man is pure and sincere by his heart. Spirit and conscience are the basis of good deeds, and salvation in human life originates from the people’s heart. Jesus’s opinion regarding the implementation of this moral principle is very clear. Accordingly, he believed that it was important from two aspects. First, in terms of the purity of his heart and conscience and second in terms the purity of other people’s heart and conscience. Hence he said, woe to someone who destroys the morality of other people. All the three Gospels have mutually mentioned that Jesus said: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! It is necessary that stumbling blocks come, but woe to the person through whom they come.” (Gospel of Matthew: 7: 18-6). In his view, destroying the morality of other people is of the greatest sins and crimes. With his special interest to human heart and conscience, Jesus revised the ancient Hebrews’ provisions and repeated them in a different way. In the Gospel of Mathew, a series of Jesus’s teachings have been mentioned that in all of which, this spiritual prophet has referred to lawful and unlawful Commandments of Moses’ Sharia (Torah). Here, we are going to mention two examples. Accordingly Jesus somewhere said: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.” He also said somewhere else that: "You have heard that it was said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery': but I say unto you, that every one that looks on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart…” But at the end of his statement, when he teaches kindness to the people, Jesus has emphasized more on moral and spiritual attributes. This lesson by Jesus is a great and very important beginning that enormous effort is required in order for it to be understood by people. Because, although according to his general rule the extent of kindness to a friend and enemy must be the same, it is always a relative issue in such a way that Christians with genuine beliefs have different ideas in this regard. So they are not in general agreement on this issue. The general rule, though in this regard has been mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. Accordingly Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Gospel of Matthew 5:44-48)
He also said that: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the Torah and the prophets.” (Gospel of Matthew 7:12) in addition he said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ‘This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”
The studies which have recently been carried out on the extent of understanding of Jesus’s disciples about “God’s kindness and love” and “loving people” indicate that the kindness of God towards human beings is limitless. Accordingly the extent of the kindness of God towards good or bad and lucky or unlucky people is the same. Therefore, without considering any merit or necessity, the more the ingratitude of the blessings is, the less the Divine attention will be. Although, God does not like the evil deeds and He is the source of the good deeds, still He loves also the people with no good attributes like parents who love their ugly child. This concept has been well described by Jesus in the parable of “the Lost Son”. It was so clear that Jesus’s disciples had mission to equally love human beings without considering their merits and to fight against the evil. So they are expected to give endless love to all people and they believe that there is no limit for forgiving the sins of human beings. Using this fundamental rule and making it compatible with the details of the human deeds is dependent upon the personal judgments. The reason is that any time demands its own situation that is not predictable. So in any case, every human being may face new events that he does not know what to do. When for example there is a disagreement between two people, which of them should be supported? In other words, which path is right and which one is wrong? What method should be followed against the evil people to be compatible with the principle of “loving all people”? It cannot be said that the sermons and teachings of Jesus as we have received them, have not devised a solution for the minor issues but he has merely enacted this fundamental law based on human consciences. So it is totally dependent upon the conscience of each individual who faces that issue. However, we observe that in a situation Jesus’s commandment is so clear but the implementation of which is very difficult. This difficult commandment is that, the evil deeds shall never be responded by the evil deeds. In the Gospel of Matthew it has been mentioned that: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Apparently, the correct interpretation of these words is that a man should not waste his time retaliating and revenging others because it is means to respond the evil deeds by the evil deeds. Thus, everyone should tolerate others’ evil deeds without revenging them until this hard situation does not take for a long time. Yes, on the contrary and on the positive side, one should deal with others’ mistakes with patience. The wrongdoer must be dealt in such a way that he clearly recognizes that his evil deed has been responded by good deed. Accordingly, it is so clear that through turning to them the other cheek for the slap and donating the shirt and coat, the righteous man who was oppressed would treat the cruel wrongdoer kindly. Jesus, also in another commandment, has prohibited people from reproaching others’ behaviors because it has mostly been proved that the one who reproaches others often needs to be guided or corrected by others, therefore, people shall be treated kindly in order for the principle of loving people to be observed.
As it has been mentioned in the Bible, Jesus said: “. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned …. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Do not judge so you will not be judged. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” In other words, the brief commandments of Jesus is that kindness whatever it is, has a great power against the evil which causes a positive result.

Sources

Comprehensive History of Religions, John Binas, translated by Ali Asghar Hekmat, Pages 582-607

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