“Support or reject the idea that Jesus intended there to be a following of his teachings.”
February 15, 2004
In the history of mankind, no one’s teachings have been more influential than Jesus of Nazareth’s. The ideologies presented within his speeches and conversations convey an aptitude for truth and morality that fully encompasses the spirit of righteousness without being defined by its laws. The values of his teachings have played themselves out in society so vastly that it would be practically impossible to quantify his influence. Even two thousand years after his time on this earth his greatest critics would not deny the title he referred to of rabbi, or teacher. What has remained a source of debate and discussion throughout the ages with all such teachers is not their status, but rather their intention. The orthodox view of Christianity supports the idea that Jesus’ teachings were a means to an end; the foundation for a following built upon his revelations from God the Father. Other views have arisen throughout the years. Albert Schweizer believed Jesus as a fanatic who died to bring about the end of the world. Bultmann believed Jesus was a prophet presenting a choice to the people?. The philosopher/theologian Tatian believed that Jesus was the expression of God the father in creation. Differing views and opinions have existed since Christ and will more than likely continue to exist.? What is most important about the debate is not the definitive answer when speculation is involved. It is the recognition of all aspects presented as being pieces of the puzzle. And unfortunately, the pieces of the puzzle that are Jesus’ teachings do not refer to his intent as much as they refer to his understanding. Therefore to make a conclusive statement of rejection or acceptance to the idea of a following being intended by Jesus would be flagrant at best. Examining his teachings and conversations, it becomes clear that Jesus was aware of such an attempt being made and responded by neither denying or confirming his intent for a following of his teachings but rather emphasized concern over the reconstruction of man’s interaction with mankind and his creator. Therefore it be comes clear that although he accepted his role as a teacher; he was not concerned with his teachings being followed as much as he was concerned with mankind understanding the truths that were present before his birth, encapsulated within his words and actions.
The focus of Christ’s teachings and revelations do not revolve around the necessity of his ideas, but rather their absolute truth within the intended will of God the Father. Jesus’ words focused almost exclusively on the way to live within the kingdom of God, which was understood to be impending, or in some cases immanent.? His actions toward sin seemed to give no value to sins power and authority within this world? and in doing so only furthered his teaching that the kingdom of God was about to reveal itself to humanity in a tangible form. His parables were clever metaphors for appropriate beliefs as well as actions. His conversations and personal interactions were those metaphors made tangible. His sermons were his tangible actions made simple, or within grasp of his audience, and his signs and miracles were parables, conversations, and sermons made personal.
Due to his focus on a kingdom that had not yet been visible to humanity, and him as the foundation for that kingdom, a distinct inference can be made that Jesus was teaching humanity (through his disciples) to follow his teaching.? This understanding of Christ’s intent is common and supported by numerous scriptures where Christ asks people to follow him, comments on the necessity of following him, and warns on the danger of not following him.? Through these scriptures and actions of those who did follow Jesus, there is undeniable proof that Jesus was aware of the foundation he was laying for a society that made his teachings a physical reality and there is historical evidence to support that Jesus was successful in creating this society.
If the evidence purports that Christ was successful and aware of his teachings and what they would accomplish, why is there controversy over whether he intended people to follow his teachings? To put it bluntly, man is a paranoid being and Jesus was a man who seemed to be a magnet for paranoia. Without having been at the events depicted within the texts of scripture, there is very little readily available physical evidence to support the events even happened by the social standards of today. The concept of Christ being a human being named Jesus that walked the earth two thousand years ago and now sits at the right hand of God is a concept that requires evidence beyond word of mouth. Certainly the evidence to support the validity of scripture becomes more and more substantiated throughout the ages by science and advancements in fields of historical study such as archaeology, but as science progresses to prove God, man moves away from the essence of understanding who god is, in that God has never explained his existence. This is the cause of the controversy; Mankind demands God prove that he exists, while at the same time not recognizing that his demand justifies God’s position that God can’t be explained, only known.
Jesus never tried to explain God to mankind; he did claim to be the way in which mankind would know who God is. It is in this context that Jesus’ teachings become valid; not in the summation of the law, but in the fulfillment of it. To hold his teachings as the end of his passion is to say that he intended to leave behind him a legacy that was summed up in those teachings. Jesus gave no indication of such a will in his life. He did not commission the writing of his thoughts, or debate their validity. He did not develop a definitive staff with individual priorities and responsibilities to perpetuate these things. His disciples were companions, walking side by side with him, taking in all they could.
Jesus was a man who did what he did because he believed in its validity above that of even his own life. At best, scripture supports that Jesus intended there to be a following of the morals and ideals of God the Father, but never in scripture does Jesus take credit for these things. He is a man pointing in a direction, but he is not the direction in which he is pointing.
This element of Christ’s teachings is probably the hardest to reconcile with the orthodox view of who Christ is. The common question has been, “How can someone know they will have a following, yet not intend for that following to exist?” I would submit that if the purpose of the question were to provide a way in which to successfully live life in the present, than the aforementioned question is valid. However, Christ was providing us with a destination that went beyond the boundaries of time and space and teachings on how we should and will be acting there. A following is inevitable, but the information that gained the following is merely a description of things to come. To think of Christ’s following of his teachings as being a purpose for his presence denies the truth presented in Christ.
Jesus did not come into this world that we might remain on the road to an eternal destination. He came to free us from such a perception. The way he did this was by teaching us where to place our focus in life, and this did not include a focus on his teaching so much as the truths they presented and eluded to. Jesus could not have intended there to be a following of his teachings because to do so would encapsulate the truth he was presenting into a smaller package than one which could contain something so absolute.