I opened a co-op blog a few months back called What Would Jesus Do Next? in hopes that fellow-writers would help me recapture some of the freshness and awe in our perception of Jesus by recounting the unusual things He did and said - perhaps from a first-century first-person point-of-view.
John Alan Turner went a slightly different direction (which is great, too) in his post there Jesus the Teacher. It's been niggling at the back of my mind ever since, and popped in the foreground yesterday morning during the start of a new Bible class series on the gospel according to Mark, as well as a fine sermon titled "No One Ever Spoke Like This."
I've got a craving to bullet-point what Jesus taught us to do. Not the theological depths. Not the secrets of the kingdom. Not to discuss it, argue about it, question it or interpret it. Not as a rule book or a checklist. Just to lay out the imperative teachings, book by book: what He told us to do and not to do. It could take a while. (I'll leave out the Kingdom teachings, because I've already been there with a series.)
So let's start with Matthew.
Unless you count Jesus' instruction to John to baptize Him in fulfillment of all righteousness, His first imperative teaching in this gospel is for Satan, quoting Old Covenant scripture.
- "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
- "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."
Then after John was imprisoned, He went to preach - echoing John - by the lake near Capernaum in Galilee.
- "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
After calling some followers and healing some sick and tortured people, He went up on a mountain and proclaimed the blessings of the Beatitudes, then instructed:
- "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
- " ... anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."
- " ... if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way."
- " ... anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. ... And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."
- " ... anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."
- "Do not swear at all ... Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No' ..."
- "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
- "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
- "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
- "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them ... So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets ... But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret."
- "... when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen."
- "...when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans ..."
- "... if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
- "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do ... But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting."
- "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ... store up for yourselves treasures in heaven."
- "You cannot serve both God and Money."
- "... do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. ... Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."
- "Do not judge, or you too will be judged."
- " ... take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
- "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs."
- "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
- " ... do to others what you would have them do to you."
- "Enter through the narrow gate."
From that point on, His compelling words are often for his closest followers, less often for crowds. For the crowds, he mostly tells stories - parables - and their explanations are also for his disciples ... but that's a whole different series!
- "Watch out for false prophets."
- (to His disciples) "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
- (to His disciples) "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth."
- "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me."
- "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
- "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"
- "... unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ... whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."
- "If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."
- "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones."
- "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along ... If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
- "... anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. ... The one who can accept this should accept it."
- " ... whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."
- "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. ... Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come."
- "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
- "Take and eat; this is my body. ... Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant."
- "... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
Those are the imperatives I found in Matthew's gospel. Did I miss any? Include some I shouldn't have? (I left out instructions given to just one person, or those which seemed connected to immediate events only, rather than to eternal truths.)
Did you notice how often He seemed to be in the midst of admiring children? And how protective He was of them? And that their faith counted, too?
Did you see authority? Variety? A call to discernment? Harmony? Kindness? Gentleness? Servitude? Peace? An expectation of perfection? A warning of judgment?
Was there anything He asked us to do that He was not willing to do - or had not already done?
Part II | Part III | Part IV | Epilogue