Journey with Jesus

Introduction

One of the modern-day songs that has always given me comfort is “Rest In The Arms of God” by Mark Lowry. I was listening to this song, the night I rededicated my life to Jesus after more than a decade of ignoring him. In summary, it says, if you’ve tried everything yourself and nothing seems to be working to solve a problem or mend a broken heart, rest in the arms of God.

Jesus knows the problems you are facing. He knows the challenges you’ve gone through, how you’ve been hurt by others. He’s gone through all your grief with you. He loves you with an everlasting love and is waiting for you to stop trying so hard and turn it all over to him.

When Jesus walked the earth in human form, he saw all the pain his followers experienced. He taught us how to live life to make the pain bearable, and even avoidable. He taught us how to love the Triune God with all our heart, soul and mind. And he taught us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. His teachings are often referred to as the “commands” of Jesus.

Were they commands? Or, was the Co-Creator of the universe giving us directives to guide us? Your view of Jesus’ teachings might affect the way you use them.

When I was younger, my father had stern rules. Some I agreed with and followed wholeheartedly. Others cramped my style, so I looked for ways to get around them without my father knowing that I was being disobedient. On the other hand, I have friends who are very successful in business and other areas of life where I want to excel. When they tell me, I should do something in a certain way, I do it anticipating success similar to theirs.

When we think of the Old Testament commands being given to the Israelites by God, we tend to think of them being given by the stern Father figure of the Triune God. We hear the commands from the Father as if they are commands from a General in an army.

When we hear Jesus’ words, we tend to think of them as being from Jesus our successful friend or brother giving us suggestions on how to navigate life based on his experience.

The Hebrew word often translated into commands in the bible is mits’vah. The words commands and commandment do not properly convey the meaning of mits’vah.

The word command implies words of force or power. When a General gives his troops a command, the General’s words are not just suggestions. The General expects his words to be followed.

According to the Ancient Hebrew Dictionary website, mits’vah is more like a directive as in the description of the way to go. It is intended to guide, govern, or influence to point us in a direction[1]. Tsiyon (which is also the name Zion) is a related word that means a desert or a landmark. The Ancient Hebrews lifestyle was nomadic. They traveled the deserts in search of green pastures for their flocks. A nomad uses rivers, mountains, rock formations and other landmarks to guide them. The verbal root of mits’vah and tsiyon is tsavah meaning to direct one on a journey[2].

While I do not intend to change the meaning of scripture, perhaps the word “commands” associated with Jesus’ teachings misrepresents his intension. Given this information on the original Hebrew word mits’vah used to describe Jesus’ teachings, it might be more helpful to think of this list of 50 teachings of Jesus as directives or landmarks that we use to guide us rather than commands. For example, when we are in the midst of a crisis and commanded not to worry, it can make us worry even more if we find it difficult not to worry. It might be easier not to worry if you visualize Jesus’ teaching “Do not worry” as a big brother or friend guiding you to a more peaceful life than as a stern command that can be difficult to follow. Note: The commands don’t worry sounds like something I need to do. But if I hear it as I if it is coming from Jesus my friend, it will come out sounding like, “don’t worry Keith? I’m in this with you. I’m going to help you through this.”

Whether you look at Jesus’ teaching as commands or directives, it is clear that Jesus gave them to us to make life more enjoyable, to help us grow in Christ-likeness and as a way to express our love to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The teachings of Jesus do not negate the Ten Commandments or make them obsolete. Jesus said he did not come to abolish any of God’s commands. He came to fulfill them since, we cannot fulfill them ourselves. Many of the New Testament teachings in this list from Jesus relate to one or more of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus expects us to take these commands seriously. Toward the end of Jesus’ life, after he had taught all that he was going to teach, he gave us one last directive. Jesus said, “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age[3],” He stressed the importance of following his commands by stating three times that following his commands are how we can show the Father how much we love the Son. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands[4].” A second time, he said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me[5].” A little later, when referring to them as his teachings, Jesus said, “…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching[6]”.

Jesus also said it is to our benefit to keep his commands. When teaching that he is the vine and we are the branches, Jesus said, ““As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s 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[7].” Who wouldn’t want the joy of the Son of God, the co-Creator of the universe to be in them through all of life’s problems, challenges, hurts and pain?

The following are 50 topics that Jesus taught his followers. They were recorded so we could use them to navigate life in a way that is both joyful for ourselves and reflects the light of Jesus to others.  I encourage you to study these commands and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to incorporate them into your life so you can experience the joy of Jesus.

[1] “Ancient Hebrew Dictionary,” https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/dictionary/5000.html

[2] “Ancient Hebrew Research Center,” https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/definition/command.htm

[3] Matthew 28:19-20

[4] John 14:15

[5] John 14:21

[6] John 14:23

[7] John 15:9-11