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What on Earth did Jesus really teach?

Too often people claiming to be Christians utilize blatant mistruths to advance their own agendas. Whether it is homophobia or pro-life ideology that they are attempting to put forth, they posses a general lack of understanding 

Opinion writer CJ Haberbush believes that many alleged Christians have yet to grasp what Jesus was truly trying to convey. So what did he really teach? Credit: Joel Mayorga/The Foothill Dragon Press.

Too often people claiming to be Christians utilize blatant mistruths to advance their own agendas. Whether it is homophobia or pro-life ideology that they are attempting to put forth, they posses a general lack of understanding for the teachings of the man that they claim to follow.

In a society where religion inundates politics and policy, many people simply do not read their Bibles or critically assess the teachings of the church.

We are all familiar with the name Jesus Christ. Whether you use his name as a swear word or in humble prayer, do you know what the man really taught?

Modern practice is filled with fallacies, and we are left to wade through the swamp of fact and fallacy. Pastors preach on the prophet’s stories, but how do we know that the ordained are accurate in their sermons? People often rely solely on sermons without ever cracking a page of the holy book.

So what did Jesus really teach?

The only way to truly understand is to read the Bible that contains his teachings. Many people claim to follow the religion of Christianity, yet possess only a weak understanding of what Christ actually taught.

Many would tell you that Jesus preached sermons filled with love and forgiveness. Others will tell you that he spoke about peace, and how to attain the kingdom of God. While these statements are not incorrect, they are not entirely correct either. Jesus’ teaching was much more dynamic, and far harsher than many realize, or care to admit.

The first fallacy is this, Jesus came to establish a new covenant and abolish Levitical law…right?

Perhaps not.

This belief primarily stems from the teachings of the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers, but is not found in the teaching of Jesus.

“By calling this covenant ‘new’ he has made the first one obsolete.” Hebrews 8:13.

The author claims that Jesus has established a “new covenant” and therefore the old one is no longer needed, yet this is in direct contradiction with what Jesus teaches. He states in his sermon on the mount “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” –Matthew 5:17-18.

Jesus’ intent was not to abolish the law, but rather to reform it.

Judaism in the time of Christ consisted of three main sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. As the primary religious and political leaders during the time of Christ, the Pharisees, through extreme acts of hypocritical piety, took Levitical law and corrupted it, harshly enforcing minor commands while ignoring others.

As just one example, Exodus 20:8 states, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

The Pharisees took this to mean that no work was to be done on the Sabbath at all. Even simple everyday acts could be construed as “work,” and the Pharisees took great pains to define what could and could not be done on the Sabbath so as to remain within the Law. An extreme example is “the Sabbath day walk” which defined the number of steps a person was allowed to take on the Sabbath. Practices such as these resulted in severe legalism, a corruption of Levitical Law that was odious to Jesus.

In response, he states “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Matthew 15:8-9.

He is calling out the Pharisees on their intense hypocrisy. He is speaking out against the show of piety without the works to back it up.

When his disciples warn him that the Pharisees were offended by his statements, Jesus replied “Every plant my heavenly father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides.” Matthew 15:13-14. Jesus is harshly stating that those who claim to follow God but in truth do not will not be accepted by the Lord but rather spurned.

Jesus explicitly states that his purpose is to uphold the law and speaks strongly against the corruption and hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Although the rigid dietary regulations and the concept of atonement through sacrifice of animals of Judaism has been replaced in modern Christianity by Christ’s self-sacrifice, the basic tenets and morality of God’s law has not changed. The concept that the “Old Covenant” has been abolished stems more from the teachings of Jesus’ followers, and less from the teachings of the man himself.

Another popular fall fallacy is that to attain the Kingdom of God one must simply accept Jesus into their heart. Although this concept can be backed up scripturally, the mere statement of faith was never the “minimum” requirement as taught by Jesus.

As a person raised in Christian home I have heard innumerable times, “Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.” However, this is simply a watered down version what the Bible actually states.

Attaining the Kingdom of God requires much more than just faith.

James 2:17 states “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The meaning of this passage is simple and requires little interpretation. If one does not prove that they have faith through their actions they do not have faith at all.

A powerful metaphor for faith without works is the withering of the fig tree just days prior to Jesus’ death.

“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed.” Matthew 21:18-20.

Taken literally and without context, the act seems harsh and difficult to understand, especially by the man many hold as perfect. To understand it fully, one must know that fig trees must be in leaf in order to bear fruit. The fig tree that Jesus saw was in leaf and gave the appearance from afar that it would contain fruit, but under closer examination it was shown to be fruitless.

The tree symbolizes a person who has the appearance of faith (leaves) but lacks the works (fruit) to prove that they are truly followers of God. Jesus withered the fig tree because it was deceptive and worthless, just as a person who claims to have faith but does not show it through works.

In addition, many people claim that Jesus teaches against homosexuality, when in reality Jesus never once mentions anything on the topic. All homophobic ideology in the New Testament comes once again from the teachings of Paul, and homosexuality is mentioned only in the Old Testament in Levitcus 18:22 “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Christ himself never speaks on the topic.

So what did Jesus really teach? The only way to truly know is to read your Bible and decide for yourself. The Bible is a cryptic book filled with ample room for interpretation that can only be deciphered by reading the actual text.

Don’t let another person tell you what to believe, read it for yourself. A person who calls themselves a Christian yet does not read the Bible is not Christian at all.

What do you think?
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  • D

    DanielNov 26, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    I got the strong feeling that in the fundamentalist evangelical church I grew up it didn’t really matter that much in the end what Jesus did or didn’t teach. Jesus was primarily more like a facility, a tool, an object; the means – through his death on the cross and resurrection – to salvation. Secondarily he was an idealized & abstracted object of worship & prayer: the Son of God, Lord of Heaven & Earth, the addressee of all prayer for everything from the casting out of demons to the God who finds you a parking space in a busy shopping centre, the “personal Lord & Saviour” who lives in your “heart”. As to what he actually taught and preached while on Earth though, that seemed to come a rather distant second to the teachings of the apostle Paul. If you wanted authority and an authentic ruling on some or other matter (homosexuality, for example) you quoted Paul, not Jesus. Jesus was fine as God and Personal Saviour, but rather obscure and even frustrating when it came to solid, grounded, “uncompromising” biblical teaching. Eg Jesus talks about selling your earthly possessions to give to the poor. But Paul warns that he who won’t work, shall not eat. It’s obvious to any conservative, capitalist Evangelical who has the more sensible teaching. (Not Jesus!) Incredibly ironic in retrospect!

  • L

    LMSchmeerMar 31, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    I liked this essay/article. I feel as though what is written by the author is a philosophy that I strive to live by on a daily basis. I choose not to belong to an sect of Christianity in the conventional sense. I’m my mind and heart, there is too much hypocrisy in any sect. I believe in God and I believe that Jesus Christ walked the earth. And just as the author states “people of the cloth”, present their interpretation of the Bible. I want to add that as the ages have come to pass, that those write or put it together have modified it to their liking. It leave room for miss information, miss understanding, and slant. I want to explain & reveal that I am in recovery and follow the Big Book of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, written by William Wilson and Dr. Robert Silkworth. Many people have tried to claim that it’s a cult, but it’s not. Yes we do mention God, but it’s through living the principles of A.A., that I think in my opinion is the closest to how God has intended human beings, His creation, is meant to Live. We who practice and live by the principles of the program, learn how to not pass judgment, not lie, swear or try to stay away from the seven deadly sins and all sizes of sin. It’s a simple program for complicated people, being that simple is not easy but that it is what it is. Yes here in the United States, the “Christian “ who in reality, are hypocrites, in their view is slanted.

  • S

    Stebo Ma'atJan 26, 2022 at 12:49 am

    I see this being a little slanted in favor of a LGBTQ Ideology. The point being emphasized that Jesus did not speak on homosexuality is a moot point because God sore on it as you referenced and Jesus came to fulfil the prophecy and not change the law, so whether he spoke to the subject or not, Christians who subscribe to the word of God and law as is in the Bible are justifiable in their condemnation of homosexuality because the Bible states it is abomination. Just my two cents.

  • F

    fllightofhoenixDec 19, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Jesus was trying to convey to us what it says plainly in the bible. Love thy neighbor as thyself. And judge not lest ye be judged. Two main things I follow every day. Turn the other cheek if chastised. Whoever is free of judgment, throw the first stone! Etc, etc. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick. We are brothers and sisters after all. Why would we not help each other? The seven deadly sins are why! Many have fallen into that trap of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Lust of the eye, body, and of the world! Jesus was crucified due to his teachings and to show us the way of being moral human beings toward others and ourselves. That is my belief!

  • B

    brueOct 4, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Jesus was a “Socialist”, he believed in housing , feeding and caring for the people. Jesus was a radical. Jesus challenged the establish government. Jesus was not a racist. America, you claim to be a Christian Nation but, you are not, you are hypocrits, vipers, murderers. “Speaking my mind”. If the real Jesus believers keep standing by and watching America continue to be corrupt, abusive of its’ people and the world, you/we will experience devastation never heard of. America, change your way, start caring for the people and stop ignoring, brutalizing and murdering them…

  • N

    Noah ReeseNov 30, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I agree with your statement, “A person who calls themselves a Christian yet does not read the Bible is not Christian at all.”

    Far too many people rely on a preacher to tell them what to believe, instead of reading the actual source.

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What on Earth did Jesus really teach?