Everyone is familiar with the parable, a short story with hidden meanings that Jesus used to teach His followers various lessons. But Jesus taught more lessons that do not appear in parable form. In this chapter we will be examining these “other” lessons Jesus taught those who would listen – followers and detractors alike. (for a complete treatise on the Parables see Chapter 5).
We are going to do this in a slightly different style, something I’ve been aching to try here for a number of years – looking at the Gospel teachings in a parallel format. I will be posting the verses from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and, where appropriate, from the Gospel of John, so we can see how the individual writers treat the teachings, where they are the same, and where they diverge. One of the cases brought up by unbelievers is that the writers differ on events, but the fact that they differ is more proof of the validity of the Gospels. How? Pick up two books on the life of John F. Kennedy, written 20-30 years apart and compare them – the major details of his life will be there, in proper sequence. But, what about the minutia? The debates with Nixon, his affair with Monroe, are they captured with equal accuracy? Maybe, maybe not, but consider that there is far more recorded information from the time of JFK’s life than there is for Jesus. We have birth records, military records, memoirs from the different people in his life, much written while he was still alive – we have none of that for Jesus. So, is there any question that there would be differences in the accounts? Each writer is conveying his own thoughts, the lessons he feels are important to teach, passing the information along first, second, even third hand, but written down for the first time, decades after the events. It’s amazing they got so much in agreement!
Now, I wish I could do this as columns as I do in class, but WP doesn’t have that option (at least in the format I use, maybe in other formats). So, here is a sample of a section of the NT in parallel, let me know if you find it easy to compare, or offer suggestions if you have a better way.
The Birth of Jesus
Matt 1:18-25 (RSV): Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and his name shall be called Emman′u-el” (which means, God is with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.
Luke 2:1-7 (RSV) In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Notice the difference in the narration, Matthew centers his story around the fact that Mary and Joseph had not yet consummated their marriage, the concern Joseph had about completing the marriage contract, and his concern over Mary’s life should he make her condition public. Luke, however, is more interested in the secular facts, placing the time of Jesus’ birth so that there could be no dispute over when or where Jesus was born (early heresy’s denied the actual birth of Jesus, centering on his godhood). Both emphasize that Jesus was the first born son.
This is what this chapter will be like, but concentrating on the non-parable teachings of Jesus.