1-3. What is the setting for the sermon that Jesus delivers on a spring day in 31 C.E., and why are his listeners astounded?
IT IS a spring day in 31 C.E. Jesus Christ is near Capernaum, a bustling city on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. Up on a mountain in the vicinity, Jesus has prayed in solitude the entire night. As the morning unfolds, he calls his disciples, and from among them he chooses 12, whom he names apostles. Meanwhile, great crowds of people—some from considerable distances—have followed Jesus to this location and are assembled at a level place on the mountain. They are eager to hear what he has to say and to be healed of their ailments. Jesus does not disappoint them.—Luke 6:12-19.
2 Jesus approaches the crowds and heals all who are sick. Finally, when not one among them feels the pain of serious illness, he sits down and begins to teach.a His words spoken in the spring air that day must surprise his listeners. After all, they have never heard anyone teach as he does. To give weight to his teachings, he appeals neither to oral traditions nor to well-known Jewish rabbis. Rather, he repeatedly quotes the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. His message is straightforward, his wording simple, his meaning clear. When he is finished, the crowds are astounded. Indeed, they should be. They have just listened to the wisest man who ever lived!—Matthew 7:28, 29.
3 That sermon along with many other things that Jesus said and did is recorded in God’s Word. We do well to dig into what that inspired record says about Jesus, for in him are “all the treasures of wisdom.” (Colossians 2:3) Where did he get such wisdom—the ability to put knowledge and understanding to work in a practical way? How did he manifest wisdom, and how can we follow his example?
“Where Did This Man Get This Wisdom?”
4. What question did Jesus’ listeners in Nazareth raise, and why?
4 During one of his preaching tours, Jesus visited Nazareth, the town where he had been reared, and began teaching in the synagogue there. Many of his listeners were amazed and wondered: “Where did this man get this wisdom?” They knew his family—his parents and siblings—and they were aware that he had come from humble circumstances. (Matthew 13:54-56; Mark 6:1-3) They no doubt also knew that this eloquent carpenter had not attended any of the prestigious rabbinic schools. (John 7:15) Their question thus seemed logical.
5. Jesus revealed that his wisdom was from what source?
5 The wisdom Jesus manifested was not simply the product of his perfect mind. Later in his ministry, when teaching openly in the temple, Jesus revealed that his wisdom was from a far loftier source. “What I teach is not mine,” he said, “but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) Yes, the Father, who sent forth the Son, was the real source of Jesus’ wisdom. (John 12:49) How, though, did Jesus receive wisdom from Jehovah?
6, 7. In what ways did Jesus receive wisdom from his Father?
6 Jehovah’s holy spirit was at work in Jesus’ heart and mind. Concerning Jesus as the promised Messiah, Isaiah foretold: “Upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:2) With Jehovah’s spirit resting upon him and guiding his thinking and decisions, is it any wonder that Jesus’ words and actions reflected superlative wisdom?
7 Jesus gained wisdom from his Father in another profound way. As we saw in Chapter 2, during his prehuman existence, which spanned countless ages, Jesus had the opportunity to absorb his Father’s thoughts on matters. We cannot begin to imagine the depth of wisdom that the Son gained at his Father’s side, laboring as God’s “master worker” in the creation of all other things, both animate and inanimate. For good reason, the Son in his prehuman existence is described as wisdom personified. (Proverbs 8:22-31; Colossians 1:15, 16) Throughout his ministry, Jesus was able to draw on the wisdom he had gained alongside his Father in heaven.b (John 8:26, 28, 38) Therefore, we need hardly be surprised at the breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding reflected in Jesus’ words or at the soundness of judgment evident in his every deed.
8. As followers of Jesus, how may we gain wisdom?
8 As followers of Jesus, we too need to look to Jehovah as the source of wisdom. (Proverbs 2:6) Of course, Jehovah does not impart miraculous wisdom to us. He does, however, answer our earnest prayers for the wisdom necessary to deal successfully with the challenges of life. (James 1:5) To gain that wisdom requires much effort on our part. We need to keep seeking for it “as for hid treasures.” (Proverbs 2:1-6) Yes, we need to continue digging deep down into God’s Word, wherein his wisdom is revealed, and to bring our life into harmony with what we learn. The example of Jehovah’s Son is especially valuable in helping us to acquire wisdom. Let us examine several areas in which Jesus manifested wisdom and learn how we can imitate him.
Words of Wisdom
9. What made Jesus’ teachings so wise?
9 People in great numbers flocked to Jesus just to hear him speak. (Mark 6:31-34; Luke 5:1-3) And no wonder, for when Jesus opened his mouth, words of surpassing wisdom issued forth! His teachings reflected a deep knowledge of God’s Word and a matchless ability to get to the heart of matters. His teachings are universal in their appeal and timeless in their application. Consider some examples of the wisdom found in the words of Jesus, the foretold “Wonderful Counselor.”—Isaiah 9:6.
10. What positive qualities does Jesus urge us to cultivate, and why?
10 The Sermon on the Mount, referred to at the outset, is the largest collection of Jesus’ teachings not interrupted by narrative or the words of others. In this sermon, Jesus does not simply advise us to pursue proper speech and conduct. His counsel goes much deeper than that. Well aware that thoughts and feelings lead to words and actions, Jesus urges us to cultivate positive qualities of mind and heart, such as mildness of temper, a hunger for righteousness, an inclination to be merciful and peaceable, and love for others. (Matthew 5:5-9, 43-48) As we build up such qualities in our heart, the result will be wholesome speech and conduct that not only please Jehovah but also promote good relationships with fellow humans.—Matthew 5:16.
11. When giving counsel on sinful behavior, how does Jesus get to the root of the matter?
11 When giving counsel on sinful behavior, Jesus gets to the very root of the matter. He does not simply tell us to refrain from violent acts. Rather, he warns us not to allow anger to smolder in our heart. (Matthew 5:21, 22; 1 John 3:15) He does not only forbid the act of adultery. Instead, he warns of the passion that begins in the heart and leads to such betrayal. He admonishes us not to allow our eyes to arouse improper desire and stimulate lust. (Matthew 5:27-30) Jesus deals with causes, not just symptoms. He addresses the attitudes and desires that give birth to sinful deeds.—Psalm 7:14.
12. How do followers of Jesus view his counsel, and why?
12 What wisdom there is in the words of Jesus! Little wonder that “the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching.” (Matthew 7:28) As his followers, we view his wise counsel as a pattern for living. We seek to cultivate the positive qualities he recommended—including mercy, peaceableness, and love—knowing that we will thus be laying a foundation for godly conduct. We endeavor to root out of our heart the negative feelings and desires he warned against, such as bitter anger and immoral longings, knowing that doing so will help us to avoid sinful conduct.—James 1:14, 15.
A Way of Life Governed by Wisdom
13, 14. What shows that Jesus used good judgment in choosing his life course?
13 Jesus manifested wisdom not only in word but also in deed. His entire manner of life—his decisions, his view of himself, and his dealings with others—demonstrated wisdom in its many beautiful facets. Consider some examples showing that Jesus was governed by “practical wisdom and thinking ability.”—Proverbs 3:21.
14 Wisdom includes sound judgment. Jesus used good judgment in choosing his life course. Can you imagine the life that he could have made for himself—the home he could have constructed, the business he could have built up, or the worldly prominence he could have achieved? Jesus knew that a life devoted to those pursuits “is vanity and a striving after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4; 5:10) Such a course is foolishness, the opposite of wisdom. Jesus chose to keep his life simple. He was not interested in making money or accumulating material possessions. (Matthew 8:20) In line with what he taught, he kept his eye focused on a single purpose—the doing of God’s will. (Matthew 6:22) Jesus wisely devoted his time and energy to Kingdom interests, which are far more important and rewarding than material things. (Matthew 6:19-21) He thus left behind an example worthy of imitation.
15. How can followers of Jesus demonstrate that they are keeping a simple eye, and why is this the course of wisdom?
15 Followers of Jesus today see the wisdom of keeping a simple eye. They therefore avoid weighing themselves down with unnecessary debt and with mundane pursuits that consume too much attention and energy. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Many have taken steps to simplify their lifestyle so that they can devote more time to the Christian ministry, perhaps even serving as full-time Kingdom proclaimers. There could hardly be a wiser course to pursue, for keeping Kingdom interests in their rightful place results in the greatest happiness and satisfaction.—Matthew 6:33.
16, 17. (a) In what ways did Jesus demonstrate that he was modest and realistic in what he expected of himself? (b) How may we show that we are modest and realistic in what we expect of ourselves?
16 The Bible associates wisdom with modesty, which includes being aware of our limitations. (Proverbs 11:2) Jesus was modest and realistic in what he expected of himself. He knew that he was not going to convert everyone who heard his message. (Matthew 10:32-39) He also realized that there was a limit to the number of people that he would personally be able to reach. So he wisely entrusted the disciple-making work to his followers. (Matthew 28:18-20) He modestly acknowledged that they would “do works greater than” his own, for they would reach more people over a greater area and for a longer period of time. (John 14:12) Jesus also recognized that he was not beyond needing help. He accepted the aid of the angels who came to minister to him in the wilderness and of the angel who came to strengthen him in Gethsemane. In his moment of greatest need, the Son of God cried out for help.—Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43; Hebrews 5:7.
17 We too need to be modest and realistic in what we expect of ourselves. We certainly want to work whole-souled and to exert ourselves vigorously in the preaching and disciple-making work. (Luke 13:24; Colossians 3:23) At the same time, we need to remember that Jehovah does not compare us with one another, nor should we. (Galatians 6:4) Practical wisdom will help us to set realistic goals in accord with our abilities and circumstances. In addition, wisdom will guide those in positions of responsibility to acknowledge that they have limitations and that they need help and support from time to time. Modesty will enable such ones to accept the help graciously, recognizing that Jehovah may well use a fellow believer to become “a strengthening aid” to them.—Colossians 4:11.
18, 19. (a) What shows that Jesus was reasonable and positive in dealing with his disciples? (b) Why do we have good reason to be positive and reasonable in dealing with one another, and how can we do so?
18 “The wisdom from above is . . . reasonable,” says James 3:17. Jesus was reasonable and positive in dealing with his disciples. He was well aware of their faults, yet he looked for the good in them. (John 1:47) He knew that they were going to abandon him on the night of his arrest, but he did not doubt their loyalty. (Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:28-30) Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus. Still, Jesus made supplication in Peter’s behalf and expressed confidence in his faithfulness. (Luke 22:31-34) On the last night of his earthly life, Jesus in prayer to his Father did not focus on the mistakes his disciples had made. Rather, he spoke positively about their course up to that night, saying: “They have observed your word.” (John 17:6) Despite their imperfections, he placed in their hands the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Matthew 28:19, 20) The confidence and faith that he expressed in them no doubt strengthened them to carry out the work he commanded them to do.
19 Followers of Jesus have reason to imitate his example in this regard. If the perfect Son of God was patient in dealing with his imperfect disciples, how much more should we as sinful humans be reasonable in our dealings with one another! (Philippians 4:5) Rather than focusing on the shortcomings of fellow worshippers, we do well to look for the good in them. We are wise to remember that Jehovah has drawn them. (John 6:44) Surely, then, he must see some measure of good in them, and so should we. A positive spirit will help us not only to “overlook faults” but also to search out areas in which we can commend others. (Proverbs 19:11, The New English Bible) When we express confidence in our Christian brothers and sisters, we help them to do their best in serving Jehovah and to find joy in that service.—1 Thessalonians 5:11.
20. What should we do with the treasure trove of wisdom found in the Gospel accounts, and why?
20 The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry truly are a treasure trove of wisdom! What should we do with this priceless gift? At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus urged his audience not just to hear his wise sayings but also to do, or apply, them. (Matthew 7:24-27) Molding our thoughts, motivations, and actions according to Jesus’ wise words and deeds will help us to find the best possible life now and to stay on the road to everlasting life. (Matthew 7:13, 14) Surely there is no better or wiser course that we could take!
a The discourse Jesus delivered that day has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount. As recorded at Matthew 5:3–7:27, it contains 107 verses and would likely take just 20 minutes or so to deliver.