What was Jesus Teaching?
The Gospels record several key themes of Jesus’ teaching, but running through everything he taught was his emphasis on the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus taught that he was the Son of God and that he had come to save the world and restore people to a right relationship with God so that they might enter the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:16).
He taught that God loves sinners – that is, all of us – and that his ministry was to call sinners, not the ‘righteous’ people, to repentance (Luke 5:32). In saying this, Jesus was actually reminding us that none of us is righteous by ourselves and that we all need the saving grace of the Gospel.
In Jesus’ teaching, the Kingdom is not just a future reality, in which all that is wrong will be set right, and in which we will live in perfect happiness. It is that, but it is more than that. The Kingdom of Heaven is a reality in which God’s children can live right now. That’s possible when we hear the words of Jesus, and when we believe in God. That’s why Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is already in our midst, and indeed, within us (Luke 17:21).
This present life in his Kingdom was included in what he was talking about when he said that he had come so people could have life, a “more abundant” life (John 10:10). Jesus told many stories (parables) to illustrate how much God loves us and wants to bring us home to his Kingdom. “I am the good shepherd,” he said; “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example of how God welcomes us into his kingdom (Luke 15:11-32).
Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is built on love. He taught that it is based on his love for us, and then he provided guidelines for people, showing them what it means to live lives of love in the Kingdom while still part of this world. His Sermon on the Mount, particularly the simple statements of the Beatitudes (Matthew chapter 5), illustrate how Jesus’ way is the opposite of the way the world believes we can have successful, happy lives.
He also taught us how to communicate with God in two very important ways. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) gives us guidance about putting the truly important things of life in God’s hands. And Jesus also gave us his own example. He maintained constant communication with his Father, demonstrating that we, too, can live in the Kingdom of God here and now, when we remain in close communion with him throughout our lives.
The most important thing that we can say about what Jesus taught is that he showed us what God is really like, in his words, his life and his sacrifice.
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