The Crucifixion - Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, by Gustave Dové

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

The Crucifixion

Introduction

II. —Jesus and the Theme of Love

In his famous speech at St. Helena, Napoleon exclaimed:

I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ, and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and any other religion the distance of infinity . . . Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him"

(Monser, 503, 508). Kennedy, James and Newcomb, Jerry (1994), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

The basic reason accepted by the Early Christians for the crucifixion was that God loved man so much, that he sent his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice that would atone* for the sins committed by mankind. Thus, the one idea central to Jesus'

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* atone: the reunion of man and God by the life, and the sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

mission is love. This was most clearly expressed when Paul, one of his greatest disciples, (see Note) said:

13 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

13 So faith, hope, love abide,* these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

The word Love has so many meanings and shades of meanings that when translating the Bible from Greek into English, the translators came upon the word agape, which has been

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*abide: to always dwell in a place or in one's heart/mind.

 
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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

translated as "God's Love". With this in mind, the English word "charity" has sometimes been chosen to translate the Greek agape. This was meant to reinforce the idea of agape being a selfless, giving love. Of course, God's Love is unselfish. It is generous, kind, peaceable, trusting, temperate, patient and humble. God's Love is everything good. It consists of pure things that are lacking in the imperfection of mankind; So this is the Love meant by Paul in the above quote. This is the Love that Jesus brought to us to generate in our hearts.

1. The Life of Jesus and the Gospels

We do not know much about the life of Jesus. It is only through the four Gospels of the New Testament (see Note) that we know some of the details of his ministry and teachings. The Gospels tell us that he was a public figure. We know that he gathered a devoted following, He preached to multitudes and the Gospels record his important sayings, which are his public ministry. His ministry lasted for three years, and seems to have focused especially around teaching and the working of miracles such as the casting out of demons and healing people. He finally went to Jerusalem at the time of Passover, (see Note) an important festival in the Jewish holy calendar where he was soon arrested and executed. In fact, in contrast to the rest of his life, the Gospels give most detail about his trial and execution.

2. The Gospels

Since the four canonical * Gospels are the only source of Jesus' words and actions, it is important that the reader has

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* canon(ical): the officially accepted holy writings or scriptures: the canonical Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

some idea of how they came to be written. For the past 2000 years each Gospel was believed to have been written by eye- witnesses, so-called Evangelists, but modern scholarship has found varying evidence that makes it unclear as to who the Evangelists actually were. Accordingly, there is the question of when each Gospel was written. In this essay, the focus will be on the Gospels as they were accepted by Christians through the 2000 years of the history of Western Civilization, and it is possible to make a reasonable guess as to how the Gospels were written

How the Gospels Were Probably Written

First, there was the public ministry of Jesus, which is usually dated to approximately 30-33 CE.* Jesus himself did not leave anything in writing, and nothing was written about Jesus in the course of his public ministry, except, perhaps, the sign at the top of the cross that Pilate ordered, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". The evidence of the Gospels suggests that Jesus did not instruct his twelve followers, the Apostles to write anything about him. Rather, he commanded them to preach and to teach.

The second stage in the formation of the Gospels is the preaching and teaching of the apostles. In fact, the meaning of the word 'gospel' is "good news". This period can be dated approximately to 70 CE. After the first Easter, the date in the Christian holy calendar of Jesus' Resurrection, the apostles and eyewitnesses proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus as the revelation of God's love for the world. They began the proclamation of the revelation where the four written Gospels end, which is with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles soon went on to speak about the life of Jesus, his words and his deeds, perhaps in response to such questions as,

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* CE: Common Era: used by non-Christians or secular persons instead of the Christian AD (in the year of our Lord).

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

'Why was Jesus crucified?' A good example of such preaching is to be found in Peter's words to the pagan Cornelius.

34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God Was with him. 39 And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

(Acts 10:36-43)

These first preachers understood the significance of Jesus' identity and mission in a way that was not possible during his public ministry. That is to say, they preached and taught in the light of their faith in the crucifixion and resurrection.

The language spoken by Jesus and the Hebrew people (see Note) around him was Aramaic. The first preachers were from Judea and spoke Aramaic. But soon the tradition about Jesus had to be translated from Aramaic into Greek as the preaching of the Gospel spread beyond the area in and around Jerusalem. These first preachers and teachers were not interested in conveying information about Jesus for its own sake. They sought

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

to arouse faith in others, faith in Jesus as the Christ, (see Note) as Lord and Saviour. They selected from the tradition of Jesus' words and deeds that which would be most helpful in preaching the gospel to unbelievers, in teaching the gospel to those who had come to believe, and in disputing with Jewish opponents. In time, they may have gathered together the teaching of Jesus according to his parables (see below) on the kingdom; and the miraculous deeds of Jesus such as healing stones.

It must be imagined that the handling of the tradition surrounding Jesus in the early Church involved revisions of that material, in order to apply it to the actual problems of the developing church, the most important problem being the increasing number of gentiles*. entering the Church. However, the forty years of this second period was predominantly a time of oral tradition. While the tradition concerning Jesus' public ministry, death and resurrection circulated orally as preaching and teaching, in the course of this period, some of that tradition began to be written down. There may well have been an early version of the Passion (see Note) narrative in this second stage. In other words, some of the tradition concerning Jesus had already begun to be put into writing before the first Gospel was written.

This brings us to the third and final stage, which is the writing of the canonical Gospels said to be by the Four Evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, and covers the period from 70 to 100 CE. The writers of the Gospels inherited the tradition about Jesus that came from the original eyewitnesses largely as an oral tradition. However, the authors, who were responsible for the actual writing of the Gospels, were not themselves eyewitnesses. They were the next generation to the eyewitnesses, and this is true of the four Evangelists. This is clearly recognized by Luke at the very beginning of his Gospel:

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*gentile: non-Jewish person (see also heathen)

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

"Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the first, to write an orderly account for you..."

(Luke 1:1-3)

Luke acknowledges that the Gospel he is about to write is based on the tradition that was handed on by the original eye witnesses who subsequently became 'servants of the word', i.e. preachers and teachers. Accordingly, we must distinguish the 'apostles' who knew Jesus from the sacred authors/writers of the Gospels, whose work was to introduce and bring forth the faith.

3. The Three Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels to be written were those of Mark, Matthew and Luke. These three Gospels belong together and are called 'synoptic' because of the many correspondences between them. The large number of the similarities between Mark, Matthew and Luke can only be explained on the basis of some kind of literary source that they all used. It appears that Mark's gospel was written first and is the primary written source for Matthew and Luke. The dates for the writing of the Synoptic Gospels are said to be between 70-90 CE.

The Fourth Gospel

The Fourth Gospel, John's Gospel, seems to have been composed independently of the other three. In it, what had been claimed for the Torah, where the Law is to be found, is now being transferred to the Son of God. That is, in the Fourth Gospel, Jesus recognizes in himself and is recognized as the

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Christ. Therefore, while Jesus urges his disciples to keep the Law, it could be said that Jesus sees the Law alone as being unable to regulate human action. John sees Jesus as fulfilling the Law, as its completion. Jesus goes beyond the letter of Law. The dialogue between Jesus and the Jews in John 7 illustrates this point very well. Jesus has been branded a sinner for healing on the Sabbath and so some Pharisees (see Note) wish to kill him. But Jesus points out that in trying to kill him, they break the Law themselves. In this encounter, Jesus identifies his work with the work of Moses (see Appendix), but on a higher level of consciousness:

"If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man's whole body on the Sabbath?"

John 7:23)

John can thus state:

"The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ".

John 1:17)

Increased consciousness followed by action inspired by Love is truer to God's intentions for humanity than simply following the words of the Law. John is clearly making the statement that in the words of Jesus a new law, a life-giving law based on Love now applies. The revelation of God is now no longer only in Moses. Moses, himself, who according to the Gospels is supplanted by Jesus, prophesized the coming of a great prophet.

15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. 17 The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

tell them everything I command him."

(Deut. 18:15,17,18)

All Gospels have a Passion narrative because one of the central Christian rituals, the Eucharist, (see Note) is presented in the telling of the story of the Passion.

What do the Gospels reveal about Jesus and his mission

There are several essential aspects of Jesus in the Gospels: Jesus as the miracle worker, Jesus as the preacher who made a deep impression upon those who he came in contact with, his ability to attract large crowds, his ability to attract a dedicated core group of followers or disciples, as well as a much larger group of people who saw him as someone special. This man clearly was peculiar, this man clearly made a mark, left an impression, someone you did not forget. Somebody who had power in a social sense. Someone who -actually was able to somehow attract, enchant, and hold a large group of followers within the three years of his ministry.

So what pattern do we see? He is a holy man, a miracle man, someone who gets in trouble with the authorities, whoever they may be. Pharisees, scribes, priests, elders, he is constantly in trouble with them as a free-spirited individual. Someone who preached in the synagogue. All of these activities are the function of his power, the power that he has as a miracle worker and a holy man. This is what gets him into trouble with the authorities. This is finally what leads him to be crucified. At some point, such an individual with strong views on God simply could no longer be tolerated by the powers that be. These authorities had to protect the beliefs of their religion, the Jewish religion, so deeply believed by them, as well as being responsible not to anger the Roman rulers of Jerusalem.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

The Influence of the Gospels

That the Gospels reinforce Jesus' preaching is undoubtedly true, but how they developed directly from that preaching is much more difficult to know. In any event, the assertion that the Gospels were more preaching than biography is probably a valid point, considering the ever increasing number of gentiles who were to be converted, but who had no Judaic background to understand monotheism and the Law's insistence on obedience to God.

Rather than being actual history, the Gospels' purpose was quite similar to that of preaching or religious instruction: the bringing of Jesus' message to converts, the confirmation of believers in their faith, and the nurturing of the faith of members of the newly formed churches. But, on the other hand, one cannot forget that the Gospels have been accepted as absolute truth by Christians for 2000 years, and their influence in history and culture must be based on that fact.

Historically, Christian missionaries took Christianity and the message of the Gospels to the barbaric tribes of Europe. With the spread of Christianity throughout barbaric Europe, came the forms of Roman law and Greek culture that eventually civilized these tribes. Christianity, along with its own message, was the primary source and carrier of classical civilization to the Western World. But the result of such missionary activity was not a rebirth of classical paganism but a new birth of something quite different. Through teachings such as the Sermon on the Mount (see below), Christian Europe developed a morality based on Jewish ideas, which had been absent from pagan cultures. Christian morality is in the main Jewish morality. But, without the Church, no means to spread this new moral order would have existed, proving the wisdom of Paul in bringing the message of Jesus to the gentile world... to the whole world.

It has been said that the West is an offspring of the Church and that the Church and the West are inextricably bound

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

together. It has been said that the history of the West is the history of the Church and the culture of the West is the Church's culture. Whatever be the merit of these views, it is true that Western culture is permeated by the Love Jesus preached and taught as the key to God's Kingdom. The whole world has not been made Christian as Jesus commanded of his disciples, but certainly his Love has played an enormous role in shaping the world as we know it today.

Western law to the extent that it is tempered with mercy and seeks social justice reflects its moral roots in the New Testament. The dynamic in the West leading to ever expanding freedom for individuals and groups is based on the idea that all are equal before God.. Although taken out of the context of Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice, Portia's famous speech on Justice tempered by mercy exemplifies this ideal.

PORTIA

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God's

When mercy seasons justice. ....

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

4. How Jesus Taught

According to the writers of the New Testament, the most typical form of the teachings of Jesus was the parable:

"He said nothing to them without a parable" (Matt. 13:34)

Like the rabbis* of his time, Jesus used familiar events to illustrate a religious or ethical situation called parables to help people understand who God is and what his kingdom is like. Jesus used images and characters taken from everyday life to create a miniature play or drama to illustrate his message. In fact, this was Jesus' most common way of teaching. Over a third of the Gospels by Matthew, Mark, and Luke contain parables told by Jesus. Jesus used these illustrations to reach the heart of his listeners by stimulating their imagination, and to point to another order of reality — hidden, yet visible to those who had "eyes to see" and "ears to hear". These vivid illustrations captured the imaginations of his audience more powerfully than an abstract explanation could.

He used easily understandable images and stories, such as hidden treasure, a determined woman looking for her lost coin, the pearl of great price, the uninvited wedding guests, to help the listener to grasp timeless and extraordinary truths. The parables commonly featured examples or illustrations from daily life in ancient Palestine, such as mustard seeds and fig trees, wineskins and oil lamps, money and treasure, stewards, workers, judges, and homemakers, and children's games. Jesus' audience would be very familiar with these illustrations from their everyday life.

Jesus sometimes taught by use of comparisons: Here is one well-known example.

30 And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of

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* rabbi: a Jew trained for professional religious leadership of a Jewish congregation.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

(Mark 4:30-31)

Most commonly, a parable was told to bring out a moral lesson or important truths about God and his kingdom. There were lessons pertaining to the way life should be lived and the happiness which God has for us. First, there is the literal meaning, apparent to all as we all have experience with the simple subject matter. Of course, beyond the literal meaning lies a deeper meaning; a beneath-the-surface lesson about God's truth and his kingdom. For example, the parable of the leaven* (see Matthew 13:33) describes the simple transformation of dough into bread by the inclusion of the yeast. In like manner, we are transformed by God's kingdom when we allow His word and Spirit to take root in our hearts. And in turn we are called to be the leaven that transforms the society in which we live and work.

For example, why should a shepherd go through a lot of bother and even risk his life to find one lost sheep when ninety-nine are in his safe keeping? The shepherd's concern for one lost sheep and his willingness to risk his own life for it tells us a lot about God's concern for his children. God's love for us is made clear in this parable.

 

15 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them. 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not

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*leaven: an ingredient like yeast or baking powder that causes dough, etc. to fill with bubbles of gas and thus lightens the resulting bread or cake.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will he more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

(Luke 15: 1-7)

It is to the sinner that Jesus brings the message of God's love.

5. Parables

There are too many parables to present more than a small number of them. But, here are three of the most famous. Both illustrate Love, the Love that God has and that we should have as well for the sinner, especially one who finally understands his folly and returns to the fold, and the Love that we must have for each other without any prejudice.

(a) The Prodigal* Son

11 And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; 12 and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. 15 So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have fed on the

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* prodigal: recklessly wasteful or extravagant, as in disposing of goods or money.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

in consciousness? With what part of our being do we see and then understand? For such a change, no law can be written. The righteous are His already; they have His Love. But they are not to be self-righteous,* or jealous of their position in His eyes. They are to Love with His own Love; to yearn as He does for the return of their wandering brothers. Jesus illustrates this point in another well-known parable.

 

(b) The Pharisee and the Publican

 

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 111 fast twice a week, I give tithes** of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(Luke 18: 9-14)

Humility is the lesson of this familiar parable. The praying Pharisee's pride in his goodness blocked out the love God asks us all to have for each other. The Pharisee was so busy congratulating himself for not being like other men, it never occurred to him that he was not much like God either. In contrast, the kneeling tax collector recognized the vast gulf between God and himself and, consequently, "went down to his house justified." Because of prideful ego in human nature,

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* self-righteous: someone convinced that only he is right while intolerant of other views.

** tithe: Christianity, a tenth part of produce, personal income, or profits, contributed for the support of the church.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

in consciousness? With what part of our being do we see and then understand? For such a change, no law can be written. The righteous are His already; they have His Love. But they are not to be self-righteous,* or jealous of their position in His eyes. They are to Love with His own Love; to yearn as He does for the return of their wandering brothers. Jesus illustrates this point in another well-known parable.

(b) The Pharisee and the Publican

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: 10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 111 fast twice a week, I give tithes** of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

(Luke 18: 9-14)

 

Humility is the lesson of this familiar parable. The praying Pharisee's pride in his goodness blocked out the love God asks us all to have for each other. The Pharisee was so busy congratulating himself for not being like other men, it never occurred to him that he was not much like God either. In contrast, the kneeling tax collector recognized the vast gulf between God and himself and, consequently, "went down to his house justified." Because of prideful ego in human nature,

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* self-righteous: someone convinced that only he is right while intolerant of other views.

** tithe: Christianity, a tenth part of produce, personal income, or profits, contributed for the support of the church.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

it is difficult to be humble. Yet it is plain that Jesus wants those who Love God to be aware of the blindness to others that their own pride causes. Overcoming pride will elevate human nature so that self-righteousness no longer has any place. Jesus wants humanity to aspire and open both inner and outer eyes while humbly pursuing Truth.

(c) The Good Samaritan

The title of this parable itself has come to mean a stranger who shows kindness to another person who is in difficulty. The parable emphasizes the need for true compassion that God demands. Here is the parable from Luke's Gospel that so clearly brings out the commandment to Love our fellow humans.

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" 27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28 And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." 29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

when I come back.' 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?" 37 He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

(Luke 10: 25-37)

Responding to the lawyer who asked, "Who is my neighbour?" Jesus makes it clear that any human being in need is our neighbour. By casting one of the Samaritans (men much despised by the Jews because the religion of the Samaritans, although similar to Judaism, was considered heretical:;"), in the role of the compassionate neighbour, Jesus challenges his audience. He seems to be saying: If a Samaritan, whom you consider .an outcast, will rescue a Jew in trouble, what a reflection it is on you and your religion if, in indifference, you pass by those in need. Through Jesus and the Christian religion the commandment to love one's neighbour has become basic to Western and even much of world thought. Remembering the Jewish origins of Jesus' thought, the same rule is to be found in Leviticus of the Torah:

 

18 You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19: 18)

However, in the Old Testament this commandment to love is buried in a large collection of other commandments. From Jesus, the commandment to Love becomes distinct and a basic way of life. This commandment to love all of humanity along with the commandment to love God are fundamental.

36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"

37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your

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* heretical (heresy): unorthodox opinions or dogma strongly unacceptable by a religion.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

(Matt 22:36-40)

Once more, Jesus reaffirms his Jewish background by declaring the most basic statement of Jewish faith. Almost the same words are spoken by Moses as he repeats the commandment that these words are to be recited daily and taught to the children through all the generations. And indeed this clear statement of faith is still repeated daily by religious Jews, even four times a day. Its importance in both meaning and ritual is so fundamental to Judaism that this statement which is said in prayers daily is given a name, the Sh'ma.

4 "Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; 5 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

(Deuteronomy 6: 4)

6. Jesus also teaches as a rabbi

The form the confrontations take between Jesus as rabbi and the representatives of the rabbinical tradition are clear in the question and answer form in which certain of his teachings appear in the Gospels. Perhaps the model is the Mishna (see Note), one of the most ancient of Judaic holy texts, where one of the styles used to make points is the question and answer.

"A woman had seven husbands (in series, not in parallel): whose wife will she be in the life to come" ? (Matt. 22: 23-33)

30 ... in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

"Is it lawful for a devout Jew to pay taxes to the Roman authorities?"

15 Then the Pharisees (see Note) went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, ... saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why-put me to-the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the money for the tax." And they brought him a coin. 20 And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" 21 They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 22 When they heard it, they marveled; and they left him and went away.

(Matt. 22:15-22)

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17-22)

17 ... a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 And Jesus said to him, ....19 You know the commandments:... 20 And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." 21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you. have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" 22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again,"Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18:1-6)

18 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

With this method of teaching, the one who puts the question sets up the opportunity for Rabbi Jesus to drive home the point, with the clarity and authority of his answer.

7. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29)

Along with the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, the great teaching, The Sermon on the Mount, found in St. Matthew's gospel, is the foundation of Western Civilization's moral and ethical code. In the Sermon, Jesus teaches as if with divine power and authority, and by this seeming empowerment makes possible a higher level of consciousness in following the Law. For Christians, next to the Ten Commandments as an expression of God's will, the eight beatitudes (5:3-12) have been revered for expressing succinctly* the values on which Jesus placed priority. In the Sermon, Jesus wants all to know that God has reached out to the whole of humanity in all its diversity, and they, who would enter the kingdom of God must develop a new consciousness. Jesus especially teaches these beatitudes to the disciples who are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world as they go about bringing the words of Jesus to the people (5:13-16).

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 succinct (ly): short, accurate statement (s) or explanation that is clear and to the point.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Matt. 5 — 1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

(a) The Beatitudes

"Blessed are the poor in spirit" meaning that Love has no boundaries and even those who can find no real relation to God are yet blessed by Him. So Jesus, as a bringer of God's Word is saying that even the people who cannot find God are to be loved and thereby, blessed. So Jesus asks of God what he demands of humanity as well. The evildoer himself is a victim, so can we... can He... judge the poor in spirit? Compassion is necessary.

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,

7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel*, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus (5:17-48) presents God's demand not by dispensing with the Law but by asking for a deeper observance that gets to the fundamental reason for God's demands on humanity, i.e., to be "perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48), And this perfection is perfection in Love. Jesus tells us then, that our virtue should exceed that of the those who seek to understand only the mere letter of the Law.

When He says repeatedly "You have heard it said... but I say to you...", Jesus explicitly modifies or corrects what God had said through Moses. He makes the demand of the Law more penetrating (e.g., by prohibiting not only killing but anger as well, not only adultery but also lust); he forbids altogether what the Law allows (no divorce, no oath); and he turns from the Law to its opposite (no retaliation (Deut.l9:21), but rather generosity to offenders; not hating enemies (Deut.7:2) but loving them). In other words, the Jesus of the Sermon speaks with a confidence that implies that he is closer to God than Moses, and thus makes ethical demands of mankind with all the assurance of the God of Sinai.

17 Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.

18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota,** not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

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* bushel: a measure of about eight gallons often in the shape of a basket used by farmers.

** iota: very small amount.

 
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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Let us think that since the time of the giving of the Law to Moses, humanity had evolved, so that the Love that God has for us is the Love that we need to have for God and for each other. And that means all of humanity... To obey God means to go beyond the letter of the Law. To obey God requires Love, Love that flows meaningfully from one to all, from God and to God. This new kind of Love, which is without any romantic overtones was and is called by the Greek word agape.

Let's see some of the lines from the Sermon that have echoed through the 2000 years since the time of Jesus. Jesus tells us to 'turn the other cheek'. To whom? To your enemies, who you may have thought of as Godless people. It can be said that his meaning is to clean violence from your heart. Jesus speaks to the mass of people sitting at his feet. Love has to be in the process of justice. Simply to judge by the outward act (a smack on the cheek) is insufficient. So He says "Love your enemies; do good to them; Bless them that despitefully harm you, etc." (43)

21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You

shall not kill, and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'

22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard,, and you be put in prison;

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'

28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members* than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'

32 But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress;

and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not swear'"* falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.'

34 But I say to you. Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,

35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

37 Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

(b) A New Commandment

In 5:38-48, is one of the most famous teachings of Jesus. Instead of 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' which is part of the Law of Moses, in 38-39, Jesus gives humanity a new commandment: Do not take revenge; Forgive those who hurt

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* member: a part of the body such as an arm or leg.

** swear: to call on God to witness your promise.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

you rather than take the revenge allowed by the Mosaic Law of 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' And Jesus demands humanity to go even further when he commands humanity to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (See also the Lord's Prayer below.)

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'

39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also:

40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;

41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

44 But I say to you.. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;

for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(c) How to Pray

In 6:1-18 Jesus makes us think of how one who is truly devoted to God should manifest this holy devotion in everyday life: almsgiving, prayer, fasting, and so on. His warnings here are not against sincere godly practices but against ostentation*.

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* ostentation: using one's wealth in a showy way for all to see.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Chapter 6

1 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

3 But when you give alms*, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

The Lord's Prayer, known so well by all practicing Christians and others, is a petition asking God to bring about His kingdom. The Prayer then continues by asking God to let the petitioner to share in the coming of the kingdom. This will involve God's judgment, so the petitioner asks for forgiveness on the criterion of forgiving others. Finally, the prayer asks for the strength in the dangerous struggle to overcome evil forces.

 

6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 Pray then like this:

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*alms; money or goods given to the poor or needy.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed* be thy name.

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

.And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive men their trespasses,** your heavenly

Father also will forgive you;

but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

(d) The Golden Rule and Other Instructions

In 6:19-7, Jesus provides further instructions on behaviour for the Kingdom. These touch on total dedication to God, as opposed to worrying about things of this world. Examining oneself carefully rather than examining others is urged; God's generosity in answering prayers is assured; and the Golden Rule (7:12) is given: "Do to others what yon would have them do to you."

16 "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,

18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

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* hallowed: some thing, place or words taken to be sacred or holy.

** trespasses: an old fashioned word meaning sins or crimes.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,

20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light;

23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. *

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

 

As God takes care of the creatures of nature, He will also care for you, so do not concern yourself with accumulating riches. But rather prepare yourself to enter His kingdom.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit** to his span of life?

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, 0 men of little faith?

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* Mammon: riches and greed in the form of a false god and regarded as a source of evil and corruption.

** cubit: an ancient measure of length.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink? or 'What shall we wear?'

32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomor- row will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Chapter 7

1 "Judge not, that you be not judged.

2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

6 "Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.

7 "Ask. and it will be given you: seek, and you will find;

knock, and it will be opened to you.

8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?

11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the Law and the prophets. (The Golden Rule)

13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

14 For the pate is narrow and the way is hard. that leads to life. and those that find it are few.

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous* wolves.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?

17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.

18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

21 "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'

23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'

24 "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;

25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

26 And every one who hears these words of mine and 'does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;

27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,

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* ravenous: ferocious and greedy.

 
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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

8:1 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.

The conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount confirms the special status of Jesus not only as Rabbi but as Prophet. (Matt. 7:28-8:1)

 

8. Jesus as a Prophet whose coming was predicted

 

That identification of Jesus as a Prophet was a means both of affirming his continuity with the prophets of Israel and of asserting his superiority to them as the Prophet whose coming they had predicted and to whose authority they had been prepared to yield. God tells Moses, to tell the people,

 

15 "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses) from among you, from your brethren — him you shall heed."

(Deut. 18:15-22)

In the New Testament and in later Christian writers, the prophet-to-come is taken to be Jesus. We are to take Jesus as the one Prophet in whom the teaching of Moses was fulfilled and yet superseded, the one Rabbi who both satisfied the Law of Moses and transcended it; for "the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" John 1:17).

Our Father

One of the striking features of the New Testament is the title "Father" for God. He is called by no other name. The Sermon on the Mount often asks humanity to interact with Our

 
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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Father who art in heaven. Therefore, if God is pleased to become the Father of his people, this must mean that He is willing to enter into such a deep personal relationship with humanity that no name will be in any way needed to distinguish Him from His children. The command to love him with all our hearts, souls and minds thus has the best prospect of fulfilment if God, in deep love for us, is willing to become our very own Father. What child is there whom his father does not love? As John put it:

"See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are".

(1 John 3:1)

In The Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus ascend the mountain to give a new law to his people just as Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah, the Law, from God.

In John's Gospel, we can see Jesus' connection to Moses emphasized:

"The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ".

(John 1:17)

According to the New Testament, the obedience that had been demanded by God for the Torah is now being transferred to the teaching of Jesus. If we read the Sermon on the Mount, we can see clearly that there is a focus on the connection to the Mosaic tradition. However, Jesus goes beyond the Law. Temple ritual, which is so important in the Torah, has no place in the Sermon.

It is said that in the comments of the rabbis, such as the Talmud, many titles were given to the Law: light of the world, water of life, bread of life, good shepherd, way, truth and life. In the Gospels these titles are now applied to Jesus. John clearly makes the statement that in the revelation of Jesus a new

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

law, a life-giving law, now applies. The revelation of God is now no longer just in Moses, but, in fact, chiefly to be found in the words of Jesus. It has been said that the hundreds of laws of the Torah are now reduced to just two commandments by Jesus.

37 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great  and first commandment.'

(Matthew 22:37-38)

34 "A new commandment I five to you, that you love one another: even as I have loved you, that you. also love one another"

John 13: 34-35)

9. The Christian Theology of Love

The main purpose of this essay is to present the Love that Jesus brought to humanity through his ministry and his crucifixion as found mainly in the four Gospels and from comments and experiences of Paul. The doctrines and theology of the developing Christian churches came from these accounts as well. The theme of this essay is Love and so one important aspect of Christian theology must be presented.

According to Christian theology, Jesus is the Son of God and is also God. So the sacrifice on the cross is that of God himself. That is, God incarnated Himself as Jesus. This was made necessary because of the sinful nature of man, which made it impossible for man to obey the Law of Moses as he should. Since we fail to keep the Law perfectly, we fall under its curse. Jesus (God) redeemed us from the curse of the Law by bearing humanity's curse as a substitute for us. He was made sin for us so that we might not receive the punishment our sins deserve. He carried our sins, and the penalty of our sins, by his Crucifixion.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

 

21 God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2 Cor. 5:21)

Jesus, being sinless, did not need to die, but he willingly died to pay the penalty for us of our sins. The righteous died for the unrighteous. He received punishment, which we deserve, so we could receive forgiveness, even though we do not deserve it. He received death so that we might receive life. Jesus (God) loved us so much that He willingly died in utter shame and pain for our sins. On the cross, he bore all the world's sin because of His Love. The cross was the focus of Jesus' mission as a human. His job was not done until he was crucified.

The only way to complete His story of love is to love Him in return. Our love for Him is to be shown by Faith in God's (Jesus) sacrifice of Himself as Redeemer of our sins. You show this Faith by Baptism (see Note) and participating in the Eucharist (see note), the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. He told us to participate in these reminders of his death because his death, and our participation in his death, is the key to our salvation.

Is Jesus God? Was it Jesus/God who died on the cross? Was it God who sacrificed Himself so that humanity could be forever sinless, if humans have the faith to believe in the Crucifixion and Resurrection (see below) as their Salvation (see Note) ? To accept these as the truth are matters of faith. This is the faith that makes a Christian a Christian. This is the faith that has helped to shape Western civilization because it is an essential element of that civilization. The faith is stated succinctly in the Nicene Creed (see Note), written around 400 CE. It still is the basic Christian statement of faith for both Eastern and Western churches.

 
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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

10.De-JudaizationofJesus

The beginnings of this de-Judaization of Christianity are visible already within the New Testament with Paul's decision to "turn to the Gentiles".

45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled ^ with jealousy, and contradicted what was spoken by Paul, and reviled him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

(Acts 13:46)

After having begun his preaching in the synagogues, and then with the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, the Christian movement increasingly became gentile rather than Jewish in its members and outlook. In that setting, the Jewish elements of the life of Jesus had to be explained to gentile readers. For example, in John 2:6, the phrase, "....for the Jewish rites of purification,..." is felt necessary in the gospel of John to inform the increasing number of gentile readers

6 Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

While the action of the New Testament begins in Jerusalem, it ends in Rome where the two great disciples of Jesus, Peter and Paul were finally martyred.*

 

Affirmation of Jewish origins of Jesus by Paul

Recently, scholars have not only put the picture of Jesus

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* martyr: to kill a person who would rather suffer death rather than renounce his religious beliefs, (n.) such a person.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

back into the setting of first century Judaism; they have also rediscovered the Jewishness of the New Testament, and particularly of Paul. His epistle to the Romans (9-11) is the description of his struggle over the relation between early church and synagogue, concluding with the prediction and the promise: "And so all Israel will be saved"  not, it should be noted, converted to Christianity, but saved, because, in Paul's words, "as regards election they (the Jews) are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:26-29). This reading of the mind of Paul in Romans gives special significance to his many references to the name of Jesus there: from "descended from David according to the flesh... Jesus Christ our Lord" in the first chapter, to "the preaching of Jesus Christ," which "is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations" in the final sentence. Here Jesus is, as Paul says of himself elsewhere, "of the people of Israel..., a Hebrew born of Hebrews" (Phil. 3:5). The very issue of universality, supposedly the distinction between Paul and Judaism, was, for Paul, what made it necessary that Jesus be a Jew. For only through the Jewishness of Jesus could the covenant of God with Israel, the gracious gifts of God, and his irrevocable calling become available to all people in the whole world, also to the Gentiles, who "were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree" - namely, the people of Israel (Rom. 11:17).

Would there have been anti-Semitism if....

No one can consider the topic of Jesus as rabbi and ignore the subsequent history of the relation between the people to whom Jesus belonged and the people who belong to Jesus. That relation runs like a red line through much of the history of Western culture, and after the events of the twentieth century we have a unique responsibility to be aware of it as we study the history of the images of Jesus through the centuries. The question is easier to ask than it is to answer, and it is easier

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

to avoid than it is to ask at all. But ask it we must: Would there have been such anti-Semitism, would there have been so many pogroms"", would there have been the Holocaust, if every Christian church and every Christian home had focused its devotion on images of Mary not only as Mother of God and Queen of Heaven but also as the Jewish maiden and the New Miriam, and on icons of Christ not only as the Cosmic Christ but also as Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, come to ransom a captive Israel and a captive humanity?

11. Jesus was Jewish

It is clear that Jesus was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world. All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship, what we call synagogues. ** He preached from Jewish scriptures*** He celebrated the Jewish festivals. He went on pilgrimage to the Great Temple in Jerusalem which was under the authority of priests. He was born, lived, died, and taught as a Jew. This is obvious to any casual reader of the Gospel texts. What's striking is not so much that he was a Jew, but that the Gospels make no pretense that he wasn't. The Gospels have no sense yet that Jesus was anything other than a Jew. The Gospels don't even have a sense that he came to found a new religion, an idea completely foreign to all the Gospel texts, and completely foreign to Paul. That is an idea which comes about only later in the history of Early Christianity. Therefore, to say that he was a Jew should be obvious. But, of course, it should not need to be said because as is well-known, Christianity becomes something other than Judaism by the 2nd century CE, and as a

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* pogrom: an organized attack, often murderous, against a Jewish population.

** synagogue: the place of worship and gathering of a Jewish congregation.

***scriptures: specific writings regarded as sacred by a religious group, e.g. Old Testament.

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

result, Jesus in retrospect is seen not as a Jew, but as the bringer of a new religion, as the foundation of Christianity.

To the Christian disciples of the first century the conception of Jesus as rabbi was self-evident, to the Christian disciples of the second century it was difficult for the converted Jews to explain to the increasing number of converted gentiles, to the Christian disciples of the third century and beyond, the connection to Judaism had become obscure.

12. Some landmarks of Jesus through history

If we can understand the love that Jesus told us to have for God and each other, then how has this manifested itself over the 2000 years since his crucifixion? And by passing through history you can see that the Love Jesus opened our hearts and minds to is obvious throughout this history. This essay can only mention a few outstanding examples, but your own study of history should help to fill in the details and to find many other instances.

From 400 CE on, the barbarians overran most of the Roman Empire. Their cultures, including their religions, disintegrated upon impact with what was left of Greco-Roman civilization. Thus, Christianity did not really find itself in head-to-head competition with an entrenched pagan religion tightly bound into a stable culture. Rather, Christianity found itself facing primitive cultures that admired the Greco-Roman culture they were conquering by force of arms. That is, the barbarians did not have cities or much art and reading and writing, which was almost unknown to them. As such cultures encountered the Greco-Roman world, they would tend to absorb Christianity under the influence of the far more advanced culture.

Furthermore, the culture of the invading hordes from northern Europe was tribal in nature. When the chiefs or key elders embraced Christianity, mass conversions within that tribe soon followed. Traditionally, religion among the barbarians had

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

been a community affair. That is why when a barbarian tribe did become Christian it often did so en masse. Thus, Christianity must have made the rapid advances it did because it was able to serve not only as an educative force, but as a socially cohesive one as well.

To the invaders from the north, Christianity then became a major stimulus in stirring them to produce a more advanced civilization. Thus, Christianity may have won quick acceptance because it served as a catalyst in cultural rebuilding. Rather than being a threat, Christianity had become a friend to the barbarians' culture. Settling down around monasteries, churches, castles and so on, the barbarians gave up their wanderings and formed the centres that would become the urban Europe of history.

 

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

In modern times, one of the clearest examples of the Love of Jesus applied to a social problem was the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. in the movement which successfully led to the elimination of the racial segregation which degraded the black people of the southern states of the U.S.A. As history tells us, Dr. King's non-violent leadership overcame the white segregationists' attempts to defeat the movement. As Dr. King himself asserted, the foundation of this movement's efforts was the Love brought to humanity by Jesus. But let Dr. King's words speak for themselves.

Criticizing the churches and synagogues of Birmingham for not taking a strong stand against segregation:

"Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformist."c

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

Emphasizing the non-violent but strong nature of the anti-segregation movement:

 

"Was not Jesus an extremist for love?" "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully , use you."

(Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 1963)

From his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, (Dec. 1964)

"I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and non-violent redemptive goodwill will pro- claim the rule of the land."

In Conclusion

From the beginnings of Christianity, agape was so prevalent that those around the early Christians could say, 'Behold, how they love one another.' But on the other hand, there were debates on what is the truth about Jesus and his ministry, his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension and of great importance, what was the very nature of this person, Jesus himself. Conflict and debate continued (often of an angry and vicious kind), since varying positions on major theological issues can all equally find support in the Bible. Where these divisions have been translated into Church life and politics, they frequently led to animosities, wars and persecutions among Christians which have made a mockery of the early description of Christians and agape.

In spite of the dark chapters in Christian history, this essay wishes to focus on the elevated consciousness that Jesus brought to humanity. So, Christianity is often redeemed from those dark aspects of its history considering the choice, Love, that Jesus gave us. Look again at the answer to the question of the rich young man,

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

THE REDEMPTOR, by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

17 "Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18 And Jesus said to him, ....19 "You know the commandments:" ... 20 And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." 21 And Jesus looking upon him

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Introduction - Jesus and the Theme of Love

 

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, by Gustave Dové

 

The Crucifixion

Introduction

II. —Jesus and the Theme of Love

 

In his famous speech at St. Helena, Napoleon exclaimed:

 

"I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ, and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and any other religion the distance of infinity . . . Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him"

(Monser, 503, 508). Kennedy, James and Newcomb, Jerry (1994), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

 

The basic reason accepted by the Early Christians for the crucifixion was that God loved man so much, that he sent his only son, Jesus, as a sacrifice that would atone* for the sins committed by mankind. Thus, the one idea central to Jesus'

__________

* atone: the reunion of man and God by the life, and the sacrificial crucifixion of Jesus.

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mission is love. This was most clearly expressed when Paul, one of his greatest disciples, (see Note) said:

 

13 1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

13 So faith, hope, love abide,* these three; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

 

The word Love has so many meanings and shades of meanings that when translating the Bible from Greek into English, the translators came upon the word agape, which has been

___________

*abide: to always dwell in a place or in one's heart/mind.

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translated as "God's Love". With this in mind, the English word "charity" has sometimes been chosen to translate the Greek agape. This was meant to reinforce the idea of agape being a selfless, giving love. Of course, God's Love is unselfish. It is generous, kind, peaceable, trusting, temperate, patient and humble. God's Love is everything good. It consists of pure things that are lacking in the imperfection of mankind; So this is the Love meant by Paul in the above quote. This is the Love that Jesus brought to us to generate in our hearts.

 

1. The Life of Jesus and the Gospels

 

We do not know much about the life of Jesus. It is only through the four Gospels of the New Testament (see Note) that we know some of the details of his ministry and teachings. The Gospels tell us that he was a public figure. We know that he gathered a devoted following, He preached to multitudes and the Gospels record his important sayings, which are his public ministry. His ministry lasted for three years, and seems to have focused especially around teaching and the working of miracles such as the casting out of demons and healing people. He finally went to Jerusalem at the time of Passover, (see Note) an important festival in the Jewish holy calendar where he was soon arrested and executed. In fact, in contrast to the rest of his life, the Gospels give most detail about his trial and execution.

 

2. The Gospels

 

Since the four canonical * Gospels are the only source of Jesus' words and actions, it is important that the reader has

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* canon(ical): the officially accepted holy writings or scriptures: the canonical Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

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some idea of how they came to be written. For the past 2000 years each Gospel was believed to have been written by eye- witnesses, so-called Evangelists, but modern scholarship has found varying evidence that makes it unclear as to who the Evangelists actually were. Accordingly, there is the question of when each Gospel was written. In this essay, the focus will be on the Gospels as they were accepted by Christians through the 2000 years of the history of Western Civilization, and it is possible to make a reasonable guess as to how the Gospels were written

 

How the Gospels Were Probably Written

 

First, there was the public ministry of Jesus, which is usually dated to approximately 30-33 CE.* Jesus himself did not leave anything in writing, and nothing was written about Jesus in the course of his public ministry, except, perhaps, the sign at the top of the cross that Pilate ordered, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". The evidence of the Gospels suggests that Jesus did not instruct his twelve followers, the Apostles to write anything about him. Rather, he commanded them to preach and to teach.

The second stage in the formation of the Gospels is the preaching and teaching of the apostles. In fact, the meaning of the word 'gospel' is "good news". This period can be dated approximately to 70 CE. After the first Easter, the date in the Christian holy calendar of Jesus' Resurrection, the apostles and eyewitnesses proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus as the revelation of God's love for the world. They began the proclamation of the revelation where the four written Gospels end, which is with the death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles soon went on to speak about the life of Jesus, his words and his deeds, perhaps in response to such questions as,

______________

* CE: Common Era: used by non-Christians or secular persons instead of the Christian AD (in the year of our Lord).

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'Why was Jesus crucified?' A good example of such preaching is to be found in Peter's words to the pagan Cornelius.

 

34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God Was with him. 39 And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him manifest; 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

(Acts 10:36-43)

 

These first preachers understood the significance of Jesus' identity and mission in a way that was not possible during his public ministry. That is to say, they preached and taught in the light of their faith in the crucifixion and resurrection.

The language spoken by Jesus and the He

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