By Steven Chan
After Jesus completed his teaching to the disciples and the multitudes as recorded in Matt 5-7, the Bible noted that “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him…” (Matt 7:28-29; 8:1).
There was no mention of Jesus having performed His miracles as yet, and the people were already following Him because of His teachings. What was so special about His teachings?
1. In a world where materialism was of high priority, He taught them how to have a “blessed life” and have a “great reward in heaven” (Matt 5:1-16) by having the proper attitude, behaviour and ambition such that their lifestyle will bring glory to God.
2. In the then prevailing legalistic religious environment, He taught them the way of righteousness that exceeds that of the religious teachers of the days, i.e the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 5:17-48). One that addresses the issues and attitudes of the heart that will affect our everyday action. His teachings started with “you have heard that it was said to those of old” and ended with, “but I say to you”. He urged them to replace their old teachings with a new level of teachings that exceeded those old teachings. What we are taught will affect how we behave.
3.Well aware of the hypocritical behaviour of many religious practitioners of the day, He warned them against the danger of undertaking their religious activities just to be seen my men, rather than to please God – whether it be giving alms or even in the practice of prayers (Matt 6:1-22). Hypocritical behaviour in the practice of our religion is futile because God sees everything and He knows our hearts.
4.Knowing the daily challenges faced by the ordinary folks to earn their daily bread, He taught them not to have a divided mind (trying to serve two masters, i.e. God and Mammon) or be overcome by anxiety, but to pray and seek God first and to trust Him to provide for their everyday needs (Matt 6:24-34)
5. Mindful of the stress in the relationship with one another, often caused by being judgemental or critical of others, Jesus taught them to be aware of their own weaknesses and to practice the golden rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”( Matt 7:12) Treat others as you would want them to treat you. How often we complain about others when we ourselves are guilty of the same (Matt 7:1-12).
6.Many people tend to be influenced by the popular vote or decisions of the majority – Jesus taught them not to be misled by the decision of the majority or by false teachers, and that indeed “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”(Matt 7:13-19)
7. Jesus ended His ground-breaking message with a warning that going to heaven requires more than just merely calling on God: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”(Matt 7:21). We need to faithfully do the will of God in our lives. We need to know God’s will and do His will.
No wonder the people were willing to follow Him. His teachings were different from those of the scribes and Pharisees. He taught simply, clearly, authoritatively and offered hope to the ordinary people. May we all remember the central teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we will indeed do His will and thereby glorify our Father in heaven.