During His ministry on earth, Jesus Christ taught His disciples and the people, giving purpose to their lives and to our own.
Within Jesus Christ’s teachings we find the plan for our happiness, our redemption, and our salvation—a divine blueprint that includes faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, keeping God’s commandments, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. These are the saving principles taught by Jesus Christ, the bedrock on which everything else is built. Before Christ suffered in Gethsemane for our sins, made His atoning sacrifice, and overcame death with His Resurrection, He spent three years sharing parables, allegories, and plain-spoken sermons to teach His gospel—a Greek word meaning “good news.” What an appropriate description, because this was indeed good news: the much-prophesied Savior had come, and His long-awaited message was one of love, hope, and salvation.
Shortly after His baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ had one of His earliest opportunities to teach the multitudes; we know it now as the Sermon on the Mount. In this powerful sermon, He taught humankind how to live as His disciples. As Matthew 7:29 records, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” From the beginning, Christ’s message was not of man but of His Father. While the people of Moses’s time lived the lesser law, Christ proclaimed a higher law—it was the new and everlasting covenant that fulfilled the Mosaic law as described in the first five books of the Old Testament. By the time Jesus was born, this law had stood for more than a thousand years as the civil, criminal, and religious code of the Jewish people, guiding them in every aspect of daily life.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduced a new standard of righteousness that expanded on the Ten Commandments, which were at the heart of the Mosaic law’s 613 prohibitions and commandments. “Thou shalt not kill” was no longer enough; Christ required His followers to reject hatred, be forgiving, and even love their enemies. He asked the people to change their hearts as well as their actions.
The Beatitudes summarize how Christ’s followers, past and present, should be; He described them as the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Then, as now, His disciples were counseled to be humble, pure in heart, merciful, peacemaking, forgiving, and meek; they were asked to proclaim glad tidings, trust God, turn the other cheek, minister to those in pain or in need, and bless those who cursed them. They were to discern truth clearly and live a righteous life fearlessly. They were to save people, not judge them.
Devotion to God and kindness toward each other is what the Savior taught that day on the Mount. He also taught the importance of keeping the commandments and the covenants we have made with God. Before Christ’s coming, animal sacrifice had been performed in anticipation of the Lamb of God’s own atoning sacrifice, and so, once completed, remembrance replaced anticipation—and taking the sacrament became the way we remember and renew our covenants with the Father. The sacrament was introduced at the Last Supper, another of many occasions in which Christ taught His disciples.
Every encounter Jesus had with people—whether it was one on one or in a crowd of thousands—became an occasion for the Savior to reveal divine truth. Shortly before the Sermon on the Mount, He preached in a synagogue, teaching those who were gathered there about the kingdom of heaven. He compared it to a growing seed, and He described important doctrines such as spiritual progress and eternal life. He declared that in order to enter this kingdom we have to develop the faith of a child and be baptized by water and the Holy Spirit. He said that the greatest among those in the kingdom were those who served God and other individuals.
Sometime later, as a multitude of 5,000 men and an untold number of women and children gathered around Him near Bethsaida, Jesus Christ fed them all with two fish and five loaves of bread. Through His actions, he taught an important lesson about faith, kindness, and God’s ability to make great things from our most humble offerings—in this case, food from a small boy who was among those assembled.
Similar opportunities to teach arose when He encountered lepers, rich men, the woman at the well, and the Pharisees. He taught at religious and social gatherings, He taught among the afflicted as He healed them, He taught among the powerful as He rebuked them, and He taught among the sinners as He forgave them.
Because of Christ’s compassion and divine insight, He was uniquely able to understand His audience and speak compellingly to them through simple words as well as through parables. The use of the latter was a powerful teaching method that fit into the tradition of His time, and indeed these simple, memorable stories represent a third of His teachings found in the Bible. The unique power of parables is that they contain several layers of meaning and can be understood on different levels depending on the spiritual preparation and sensitivity of the audience.
But Christ’s teaching is found in much more than just His parables and sermons; it is also found in the personal example He set for us throughout His life, an example of obedience, humility, and love. And the eternal truths He taught, both by word and deed, can influence our lives today as much as they did the lives of those who were within the sound of His voice when He first taught His gospel—His good news—during His earthly ministry.
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