Jesus spent three years as an itinerant Jewish teacher before being executed in Jerusalem at age 33. He preached to the crowds in the open air; he trained his disciples, he challenged the authority of the religious leaders, and confronted their hypocrisy, he lived out the values he preached, he performed amazing deeds and after his death his disciples testified that he had come back to life.
In the next three hundred years, his message spread throughout the Roman Empire, and beyond. Without military force, and in spite of opposition and waves of official persecution, communities of Jesus-followers sprang up from Egypt to Armenia, from Britain to India. As they met together, their lifestyle challenged local culture. Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, slave and free, met together as brothers and sisters to celebrate Communion, and learn Jesus’ teaching. They cared for widows and the poor, they rescued abandoned babies, and, during epidemics of the plague, they risked their own lives to nurse the infected.
It is not too much to suggest that Jesus remains the single most influential figure in human history.
Today many millions around the world follow him and his teaching. Francis of Assisi, and Mother Theresa, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu were all profoundly influenced by him. Many of Jesus’ sayings, and events and people from his life, have become part of our every-day language. (For example; the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, “go the extra mile”, “greater love”, “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Lazarus, Judas, and Doubting Thomas.)
In the 2016 Australian census, 52% of Australians identified as being Christian. The principles derived from his teaching underlie our society, institutions and culture. Our social service sector would collapse without the massive contribution of Christian based organisations.
But what was his message? What was he on about? Here is an opportunity to consider his message seriously for yourself. If your ideas of Jesus and his message are only based on stories remembered from your childhood, or other people’s versions of what he said; if your view of Jesus has been spoiled by the failure of the Church or of some Christian leaders to practice what Jesus preached; or if you have simply never read his story in the Bible, please find out why so many people say Jesus has changed their lives – forever!
Today, it is easy to study the actual words of Jesus translated into modern English, or in any other language. His words are amazingly down-to-earth, and up-to-date. Here is an overview of his public teaching, as recorded by Matthew, presented in the form of 52 headlines, with comments by a wide range of Australian Christians.