The gospel of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be wholly limited to the things he said; only the matchless life he lived can provide us with the full stereoscopic reality of the depth of his teachings. It is remarkable to think that such marvellous truths could be hidden in plain sight. Indeed, if you were to ask many Christian theologians 'what was truly original about the teachings of Jesus?' many would be at a loss to tell you, and while this might seem extreme – it is nonetheless valid.
Part of the difficulty we experience when we try to interpret the life and teachings of the Man from Nazareth is to be found in the audience of Jesus. Of necessity, he had to speak in a language they would understand – not simply Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek but employing the idioms of that day, age and culture. Consequently, it was inevitable that he would employ the vocabulary of concepts supplied by the Torah; it was literally the only show in town. While he was at pains to ensure his disciples did not confuse the Torah with the Gospel he taught and lived, undoubtedly, the flawless fluidity with which he employed the Torah to relate gospel truths compelled his followers to think they were co-extensive and mutually inter-dependant. Heaven knows, they were hardly likely to be very familiar with the traditions of others.
Jesus was so skilful in the art of putting new spin on old truths; so artful in his employment of available idioms and common concepts; so expert in using the ordinary and everyday things of life to communicate extraordinary truths; and we should remember, the truths he taught were so vital, vivifying, and enlightening, that not only was their spirit revered but so too were their very forms; such that incidental facts associated with the gospel came to be viewed as fundamental elements of it – the New cloth was sewn onto the Old. Consequently, the Old Wineskin of the Torah, contrary to the teachings of Jesus, was blended with the New Wine of the Gospel he taught and lived. For all his effort to ensure that his followers did not confuse the spirit of his gospel with its inevitable cultural expression, the subtlety of his message proved too fine – consequently they missed his point, and his gospel became identified with, and ultimately seen as an extension of, the Torah. Such was the success of this hybridisation that in the hearts and minds of nearly all Christendom the Torah is now regarded as an indispensible element of the gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.
Do you realise, or can you appreciate, the truly marvellous nature of the revelation made by Jesus? For many people, prior to the arrival of Jesus, God was a terrifying mystery – the One who inspired fear and dread; a God of War, Judgement, and Vengeance; but the Cross put an end to such a god. Behold! In place of the god of War, we find the Prince of Peace! In place of Judgement, we find Mercy! In place of Vengeance, we find Forgiveness! In Jesus we discover a God who inspires Love and Faith and Hope; a God who can quench the raging fire of terror with the Great River of Peace that flows from the Rock of Faith; who can turn tragedy into triumph, defeat into victory, despair into hope, death into everlasting life; who can transform the flawed and weak creatures of time into the perfected children of an Eternal God.
And so, on the cross, we see the greatest spectacle this world has ever beheld! The death of an old god and the birth a new and everlasting Ideal; a God who inspires transforming love, a hope that can give life new direction, new meaning, new value; an enlightened faith that no darkness can extinguish! A God of Loving Mercy! Behold! He was beaten and tortured, did he curse? Did he revile? Did he promise retribution? Vengeance? No! This is the one who proclaimed, 'You that have seen me, have seen God.' Behold the Great Revelation! Know your God!