Papyrus p46 from 200 A.D. Codex Vaticanus from 350 A.D. Papyrus p52 of John 18:31-33 from before 150 A.D. Codex Sinaiticus from 350 A.D.
The Message of Jesus

            Compiled by G. Nehls

 The Message

  • What Jesus Taught Us

  • What Jesus Said About Himself

  • The Challenge



Jesus did not teach high theology or deep philosophy. He spoke to the people as they were able to understand:

"He told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear…

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. What was sown on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. What was sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But what was sown on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’."

—Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23

God criticized the unwillingness of the hearers to respond. So Jesus warned:

"You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."

—Matthew 13:14-15

"Therefore consider carefully how you listen."

—Luke 8:18

Also in a parable Jesus explained another important truth:

"A man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir’, the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig round it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’."

—Luke 13:6-8

In another parable Jesus explains:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Fathers commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other."

—John 15:1-8

None of us could honestly claim to bring such fruit by our own effort. Elsewhere in the Bible we are instructed that this fruit consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:23). Who does not want to bear such fruit?

Another parable shows a different facet of the same topic:

"Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my half of the estate’. So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

When he came to his senses, he said: ‘How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men’. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. But the father said to his servant: ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found’. So they began to celebrate.’"

—Luke 15:11-24

We need "to come to our senses", as the wayward son did. He did not attempt to compensate for his wrongdoing by offering a repayment, which he could not produce anyway. His father did not expect it either. He simply wanted to go home - and he went. The "best robe" is symbolic for the covering of his filth, the ring for his acceptance again as son into the family and the sandals to show he was now a free man again, for slaves were to walk barefoot. The principle is the same as taught in yet another parable:

"Two men owed money to a certain money-lender. One owed him five hundred Denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

—Luke 7:41-42

Forgiveness is a gift of God to those who sincerely seek it and ask for it. Stories illustrating the compassion of God are repeated again and again:

"Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulder and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’. I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

—Luke 15:3-7

I suppose most of us never saw God in this light. We think in terms of compensating God for the sins we committed. But what He wants is our heart. Remember, neither of the men who "owed" could repay. A sin, once committed, can never be undone. It is a colossal misunderstanding or misjudgment of God's holiness. Our sin results in a vast unbridgeable gulf between God and us. We are totally and utterly dependent on what God does for us! Let us look at a last parable of Jesus to hear what he has so say about this point:

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like all other men—robbers, evil-doers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said: ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

—Luke 18:10-14

A Pharisee was a highly respected religious leader in the contemporary society. He did indeed stick to a rigorous, self-disciplined life-style in an effort never to break one of God's Laws. But in his self-deceit he gloried in his achievements, his fasting, giving etc., thinking that he would by that effort be acceptable to God.

But Jesus explained:

"When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say: ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’."

—Luke 17:10

Jesus indicated that there is no merit in doing right or good. It is our duty to do. God’s standard is the norm. Therefore, forgiveness for failure is always due to God's grace. It is an undeserved act of His compassion:

"He said to them: ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight’."

—Luke 16:15

When Jesus was once asked about the most important commandment, he answered:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

—Matthew 22:37-40

The military application of the word ‘obedience’ is mellowed and changes its meaning, when something is done out of love!

While Jesus taught to love and fear the Lord God, he also told us not to fear what men can say and do to us:

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

—Matthew 10:28

It is when we trust in what he says, when we lovingly serve him with all our hearts, that we honour him:

"The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God."

—John 16:27

"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me."

—John 12:26

Faith in God is in fact linked to faith in Jesus. There is really no difference:

"When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that on-one who believes in me should stay in darkness."

—John 12:44-46

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."

—John 3:16-17

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I raise him up at the last day."

—John 6:40

"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

—John 16:27

Every decision we make has consequences. A decision to follow Jesus certainly has consequences. We might be ridiculed or even persecuted:

" will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

—Matthew 10:22

"No servant is greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you also."

—John 15:20

But Jesus comforts us:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."

—Matthew 5:11-12

Jesus wants us to love, respect and honour him more than anybody or anything else:

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

—Matthew 10:37

As God’s children (He is our Father!), and because we need one another’s support in our walk with God, Jesus said:

"A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."

—John 13:34

He also left us a test, to enable us to assess ourselves:

"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

—John 14:21

We are obedient, because we trust and love him. Obedience is not a tool to merit forgiveness and Paradise.

God’s Kingdom is of a different kind and greatness is measured by different values:

"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."

—Matthew 20:25-27

Likewise outward religious rules are exposed and corrected by Jesus:

"Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said: ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of man that makes him unclean’. ‘Are you so dull?’, he asked. ‘Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body’. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean). He went on: ‘What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these things come from inside and make a man unclean’."

—Mark 7:14-15, 18-23

That is why Jesus scolded the religious leaders:

"Woe to you, teachers of the Law ... you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence!"

—Matthew 23:25-26

Religious practices concern themselves mostly with outward dietary and cleansing rituals. In stark contrast to this Jesus taught:

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

—Matthew 5:8

Jesus addresses a number of issues regarding human relationships and our relationship with God. His words stir our minds and hearts:

About truthfulness he said:

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord’. But I tell you, ‘Do not swear at all’. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

—Matthew 5:33-34, 37

About loving other people Jesus sets yet another standard than we would normally have:

"You have heard that it was said: ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

—Matthew 5:43-48

Jesus cautions us about piety and prayer:

"Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what you right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by man. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’. For if you forgive men when their sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

—Matthew 6:1-15

Jesus also emphasizes the relationship between forgiveness and prayer:

"And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

—Mark 11:25

Jesus taught about our dependence on God – and God’s willingness to respond:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Who of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

—Matthew 7:7-11

About fasting Jesus warned:

"When you fast, do not look somber (i.e. don’t show it) as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also."

—Matthew 6:16-21

The real value of goods, our attitude to them, and our responsibility regarding them Jesus also clarified:

"Then he said to them: ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’"

—Luke 17:15

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property who will give you property on your own? No servant can serve two masters. 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 both God and money."

—Luke 16:10-13

The tempation to be anxious and worried is part of our life. Jesus shows us a better way to deal with them:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."

—Matthew 6:25-34

Our life is made up of many choices. Jesus tells us that one choice is exceeds all others:

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

—Matthew 7:7-14

Do we find hypocrisy in religion? We all know that it abounds. Therefore Jesus said:

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father, who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose and the wind blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

—Matthew 7:21-27

Problem number one in the world is that of broken relationships, and in particular the broken relationship with God. Jesus, according to his own statements, came primarily to reconcile us with God. But He also came to heal broken human relationships. Very particularly he addressed partners in marriage regarding unfaithfulness:

"You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

—Matthew 5:27-28

To describe the severity of sin, which causes broken relationships, Jesus uses a very drastic metaphor:

"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

—Matthew 5:29-30

Divorce is an issue that Jesus addressed quite emphatically:

"Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

—Matthew 19:4-6

"It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce’. But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced commits adultery."

—Matthew 6:31-32

"And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

—Luke 16:18

"Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."

—Matthew 19:8-9

Jesus wants us to forgive each other. This is, in fact, a prerequisite to receive forgiveness from God. In a model prayer Jesus taught us to pray:

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

—Matthew 6:12

He also said:

"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him."

—Luke 17:3-4

When one of Jesus' disciples asked him, how many times he should forgive his brother, mentioning: "Seven times?", Jesus answered:

"I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven."

—Matthew 18:22

By his deeds Jesus confirmed his words. A touching example is recorded of this. We have to tell the whole story, not just the words spoken by Jesus, to transmit his spirit of forgiveness:

"Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’. They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw the stone at her’. Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no-one condemned you?’ ‘No-one, sir’, she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you’, Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’."

—John 8:1-11

We all know that God hates sin. But did we also recognize Jesus’ compassion for sinners, as this story demonstrates? It is matchless. He is in fact waiting for all of us to come to him to plead for forgiveness. Once we have received it our love and appreciation for him will not make it difficult for us to turn away from sin.

Obedience and commitment do not lead to bondage, but rather to true freedom:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

—John 8:21-32

"I tell you the truth, everyone who (keeps on doing) sins is a slave to sin."

—John 8:34

Jesus spoke of the supernatural element in believing and following him:

"I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

—John 3:3

Continuing, Jesus added that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without such an experience. This illustrates that as natural life begins with the natural birth, so spiritual life begins with a spiritual birth. It starts when we are "set free" or "born a new". We are set free after God has forgiven our sin and by that cleansed us from it. Then the bondage is broken, our guilt is removed and the "new life" i.e. the working of God’s Spirit in us in us causes a constant renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). This soon makes us hate sin, love righteousness and follow the one who set us free, Jesus - the Messiah. It all begins with the decision to accept God’s gift - his pardon. The result is always the desire to know more about God. That happens when we let God speak to us through His Word and live in close union with our heavenly Father.