The Teachings of Rabbi Jesus
The first Jesus communities in the very first century right after his death didn’t know anything about Christianity. That was something that would emerge out of the chaos after Rome burned the temple and ransacked the Hebrew homeland in the year 72 a full 40 years after his death in Jerusalem. It was then that his followers started writing the Gospels and began the split with Judaism.
The first Jesus communities were good Jews who lived by the Torah and worshiped in the Temple and prayed in their local synagogues. They gathered in communities around this teacher who spoke of a Kingdom not of this world, not of Caesar but of God. This Kingdom was coming and it was available to you right now not just by obedience to the Law but by faith in the righteousness of God. This was a radical message to a people living under oppression. And many Jews responded and followed him even after his execution by the Romans.
So what did this Jesus teach that captured the imagination of so many good Jews in the First Century. You can and should live by the Law of Moses (The Ten Commandments) but that won’t get you into the Kingdom. It will make you a good person but to get into the Kingdom you have to learn to love like God. You have to forgive your neighbor who has sinned against you. You have to love your enemy and bless those that curse you. You have to give of yourself. The Kingdom of God is within you and you can live like it is already here. You must learn to live by a higher code of ethics then the letter of the law…and no matter what happens to you, you will be blessed. What a radical message.
This is where the Rabbi Jesus becomes a great teacher in the Jewish tradition. The Prophet Isaiah clearly states “My ways are not your ways, my ways are higher than your ways.” Jesus calls all people into the higher ways. This message really caught fire in the first century. How did it get lost? In the politics of the very Roman Empire against which Jesus gave his life. The Christian creed issued by the Council of Nicaea in 325 starts with the birth and goes directly to the death never mentioning the teaching of Jesus. So being a Christian became a faith in the story not a faith in the teachings. But it is the teachings that lit the fire.