Jesus’ Life and Ministry
The Way to Life
THE way to life is that of abiding by Jesus’ teachings. But this is not easy to do. The Pharisees, for example, tend to judge others harshly, and likely many imitate them. So as Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount, he gives this admonition: “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged.”
It is dangerous to follow the lead of the overly critical Pharisees. According to Luke’s account, Jesus illustrates this danger by saying: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Both will tumble into a pit, will they not?”
Being too critical of others, magnifying their faults and picking on them, is a serious offense. So Jesus asks: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”
This does not mean that Jesus’ disciples are to use no discernment in connection with other people, for he says: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither throw your pearls before swine.” The truths from God’s Word are holy. They are like figurative pearls. But if some individuals, who are like dogs or swine, show no appreciation for these precious truths, Jesus’ disciples should leave those people and seek out ears that are more receptive.
Although Jesus has discussed prayer earlier in his sermon, he now stresses the need to persist in it. “Keep on asking,” he urges, “and it will be given you.” To illustrate God’s readiness to answer prayers, Jesus asks: “Who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? . . . Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?”
Next Jesus provides what has become a famous rule of conduct, commonly called the Golden Rule. He says: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” Living by this rule involves positive action in doing good to others, treating them as you want to be treated.
That the way to life is not easy is revealed by Jesus’ instruction: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”
The danger of being misled is great, so Jesus warns: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves.” Even as good trees and bad trees can be recognized by their fruits, Jesus notes, false prophets can be recognized by their conduct and teachings.
Going on, Jesus explains that it is not simply what a person says that makes him His disciple but what he does. Some people claim that Jesus is their Lord, but if they are not doing the will of his Father, he says: “I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Finally, Jesus gives the memorable conclusion to his sermon. He says: “Everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass.”
On the other hand, Jesus declares: “Everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them will be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house and it caved in, and its collapse was great.”
◆ What does Jesus say about judging others; yet how does he show that his disciples need to use discernment regarding people?
◆ What does Jesus further say regarding prayer, and what rule of conduct does he provide?
◆ How does Jesus show that the way to life would not be easy and that there is a danger of being misled?
◆ How does Jesus conclude his sermon, and what effect does it have?