What on Earth did Jesus really teach?


Christopher Haberbush

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?