Jesus’ sayings – what these sayings meant

© October 16, 2018 | Schulter Etyang

I think the founders of every major religion in the world, roll in their graves when they hear how their words are misconstrued by religious leaders. Every major religion in the world has had some form of their religion misinterpreted with brutal consequences. Within these religions are theologians, teachers, custodians of the traditions, etc. who have to constantly grapple with the threat posed by heretical interpretations and teachings of their faiths. 

At one stage in history, the Christian faith had to grapple with the Crusades. The Muslim faith is presently dealing with their own version of “the Crusades” namely ISIL/S. ISIL/S is the “Crusades” of the Muslim faith. Here’s the point – the Crusades and ISIL/S were formed out of misconstruing the words of the founders of their faiths, which led or has led to untold suffering to millions, even billions around the world.

Which brings me to this

Jesus chose his twelve disciples, named them apostles, and then went to a certain place. Multitudes of people came to hear him, and he healed them, cast out demons from them, and those who touched him, were healed. And then Jesus, as usual, starts this long discourse addressed to his disciples. 

Luke 6:20-49. You can read it here. Verses 20-28 are famously known as the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:1-12 NKJV) The rest of the verses are recorded separately in Matthew 7:1-6, 15-20, 24-28

Theologians and commentators of the Christian scriptures have long argued that in this discourse, Jesus was presenting the ideals of the kingdom – What the kingdom is, Who the kingdom is for and how it operates. This comes close after he had chosen his disciples, therefore, it seems like it was a job description session that he was having with his disciples. 

My first encounter with this discourse was 20 years ago. I was a young Christian. I read and listened to sermons around this passage that explained that we are to DO what Jesus said in these passages. My initial reaction was “yes, bring it on. I could do that.”  But, as years went by, I began dreading reading these passages because I knew that I had flouted every one of them. I came from, “yes, bring it on. I could do that,” to “God knows my heart. I try my best.”  And this went on for years until I rediscovered the gospel. 

Context matters

Speaker – Jesus

Audience – His disciples

Venue – on a mountain (Matthew’s account) or a level place (Luke’s account)

Jesus’ ministry was in the era of the law of Moses. He was addressing people who were under the law of Moses.

Why the discourse? He was ministering in an era where the Law had either been watered down or layers of “laws” added to the Law. The religious leaders of his day had either tried to water the Law down so that they could “keep” the law. They also added “laws” to the Law so that the Law became cumbersome and ambiguous.

So, Jesus the ultimate lawgiver and keeper painted for them a picture of what the kingdom of God is. And the key statement, from my vantage point, is this –

Luke 6:46-47 (NKJV)

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:

Therefore, all the way from verse 20 – 45 were Jesus’ sayings. 

Jesus was addressing people who were under the law, and who understood the basic premise of the law of Moses – if you obey and do, God would bless you. If you disobeyed and didn’t do, God would curse you. Jesus used the same prism – if they DID his sayings, their lives would be like a house built on the rock, and when floods beat vehemently against the house, the house would stand firm. The effect of doing Jesus’ sayings was, you will be firm as a rock in hard times.

This, I tell you, is what countless hear in churches across the globe. In one form or the other, Jesus’ sayings are used to spread the idea that if you DO what Jesus tells you to do or what we want you to do (layers on the Law), then your life will be successful or stand the test of times. The result is, many people go like, “yes, bring it on. I could do that”, and a few years later end up like, “God knows my heart. I try my best.” 

I think Jesus sighs with exasperation when he hears how these words of his are misconstrued, and the heavy load that is placed on his people.

If all these sayings peg on the idea of DOING, then Jesus’ sayings had three implications:-

  1. He was bringing them to the end of themselves.
  2. He was going to live out these sayings in full view of them.
  3. After his death, resurrection and ascension, all these sayings were going to be imputed to his disciples. Imputed to them as if they had done all these sayings.

New Covenant

We, in the New Covenant, therefore, should not hear these sayings and go like, “yes, bring it on. I could do that.” We, instead, should hear that Jesus was the only one who could live out these sayings and that these sayings have been imputed on us. This is the New Covenant. Jesus obeyed for us and fruits of his obedience were imputed to us – put on our account, reckoned as ours. 

Jesus’ question to us through our preachers should go like this –

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not believe the things which I have done?  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and believes that I did them on their behalf, I will show you whom he is like:

In the New Covenant, how we become as solid and immovable as the rock is by believing that Jesus DID these sayings for us. This is what makes us solid and immovable during challenging times. 

It is uncanny how when we believe what Jesus has done for us, we effortlessly and unintentionally produce accompanying fruit. We effortlessly and unintentionally do Jesus’ sayings – actions and behaviours that only come from BELIEVING OR RESTING in what Jesus has done for us. What Jesus has done for us? Yes! In his obedience, and in taking the penalty for our disobedience.

So, every time I read passages such as these, my heart leaps with delight because I know that Jesus has performed all these sayings perfectly for me, and these sayings have been imputed to me. And, when I fail to do them, I am not condemned. Furthermore, Jesus by his Spirit empowers me to produce these sayings in my life. In simple terms, it is all JESUS’ DOING.

I hope that one day, very soon, we will all come together at The Life Place, and hear how  Jesus DID all these sayings, how these sayings have been imputed to us, and how the Holy Spirit empowers us to live out these sayings, effortlessly. 

That’s what grace looks like.

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Husband | Orthodox Charismatic Christian | Leads The Life Place | Enjoys meeting new people, reading, cooking, traveling and exercise | Loves Jo’burg