The Wisdom of His Teachings. Scripture says that the people were “astounded” at Jesus’ teaching, because he didn’t teach like their scribes but as one having authority. What made Jesus’ teaching so different?
Study and Discussion Questions:
- At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew declares that the people were astounded. Mark doesn’t have the sermon, but he makes the same statement about the effect of Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue: He taught with authority, not like their scribes. How did Jesus bring about that striking effect?
Comment: A simple comparison with the rabbinical style of teaching of that era reveals an astonishing contrast in styles between Jesus and his rabbinical contemporaries. Jesus simply told stories and practiced what he preached. In the Jewish traditional writings that have come down to us, the rabbis seemed to feel that they were at their best when they were teaching in the name of some greater rabbi. Here is one sample dialogue from Midrash Rabbah (a comment on Genesis 15:17): “In this matter we come back to the controversy of R. Hinena b. Papa and R. Judan, R. Idi, and R. Hana b. R. Hanina. R. Hinena b. Papa said…. R. Judan, R. Idi, and R. Hama b. R. Hanina said on the authority of a certain sage in Rabbis’ name….”
- How does the Sermon on the Mount compare with the OT and with the wisdom of world religions? Is this brand new truth, or old truth presented with fresh paint?
Comment: We should not overlook the six comparisons Jesus’ makes in Matthew 5. (“You have heard, but I say….”). In some ways his teaching contrasted sharply with the Old Testament. Yet Jesus claimed to be the God of the Old Testament too. So there must be a consistency and a harmony between the two.
- What did Jesus teach us about God that was so remarkable? Did Jesus strike joy to the heart of sinners or terror to the hearts of sinners? Or both?
- In the Sermon on the mount, the Lord’s prayer tells us that if we can’t forgive others, God cannot forgive us. How does Jesus help us get away from that distinct impression that we have to forgive first? Does he tell any stories that will help? What about the paralytic in Mark 2: Your sins are forgiven you! Or the man at the pool of Bethesda in John 5?
- How does Jesus’ teaching on humility fly in the face of our natural tendencies? Did James and John understand that when they asked for the top positions in the kingdom (Mat 20:25-28)?