Jesus was remarkable not only for His miraculous works (see, e.g., Matt. 9:33; Mark 2:12; John 3:2; 7:31; 9:32), He was also a brilliant teacher. More than once the people who heard Him speak were amazed at His message: “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).
Two features of Jesus’ teaching captured widespread attention: (1) the content – He taught with originality, which we’ll focus on in this lesson; and (2) its composition – He frequently utilized parables, which is the subject of our next lesson.
The Sermon on the Mount
Perhaps the closest example we have to an entire teaching session of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5 through 7. In this message, He distills the essential principles for following Him. The content of the Sermon reflects common themes of His teaching: He inspires hope; tells them how it is, then how it ought to be; and shakes them up with warnings.
Here are the primary topics of the Sermon (summarized from the Dictionary of Bible Themes by Manser):
- The blessings of being in the kingdom (Matt. 5:3-12).
- Jesus Christ’s disciples are to have a positive influence on the world (5:13-16);
- The relationship between Jesus’ message and the Law (5:17-21)
- Jesus’ disciples are to exhibit a new level of righteousness (5:20; 5:48). More particularly:
- Not only murder but also anger and broken relationships are wrong (5:21-24)
- Not only adultery but also lust is wrong (5:27-37). Faithfulness in marriage is called for.
- Retaliation must be abandoned, and enemies as well as neighbors must be loved (5:38-48)
- Jesus’ disciples are to seek only God’s approval in their religious duties (6:1-4). More particularly:
- Giving to the poor, prayer and fasting are to be done secretly (6:5-18). He includes a pattern for prayer (6:9-15)
- Speaking of money, the kingdom is to be valued above material possessions (6:19-34)
- Jesus’ disciples are to avoid being judgmental (7:1-5)
- Jesus’ disciples should pray, confident of an answer (7:7-12)
- True disciples will obey Jesus’ teaching (7:15-27).
The principles of patience, pure motives, showing dignity to others, and having the habit of prudent action are key element of His Sermon, and are expected of His true disciples.
More about a key passage in the Sermon on the Mount: The Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) is in our YouTube video: Four Essentials for Following the Golden Rule.