Three things Jesus taught that strike me.
There is a Jesus out there, obscured my modern Pharisees, and targeted by the militant atheist, that I have long admired. But he is not the Jesus of the collected New Testament, but rather, like modern Homo sapiens, a fragment of what is presented there. Some may say this is cherry picking, and maybe it is, but it is still the Jesus that came to admire.
Jesus was not humble, at least not in the way most would think of humility. He put himself out there, and his message was at once revolutionary and traditional, but most of all it aimed to dismantle the comfortable sameness of ordinary lives. Today, as then, we may think of someone who professes to be the Son of Man as many things, crazy comes to mind, but not humble. And yet, he is celebrated for his meekness and humility. Much more could be said on this point, but humility is a deeper subject requiring a more spiral approach to learn its secrets. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride…for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” I think it is more accurate to say that he humbled himself, as did Ben, to achieve a certain end.
Jesus apparently did not believe in hierarchies (at least not earthly ones), which oddly enough, was old school Jewish tradition. From Matthew 20:25-26King James Version (KJV) we find this:
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And while this sounds pretty outlandish, it hearkens back to the days of the judges when Samuel foretold Israel what a king would mean among them (the list is a veritable foretelling of modern problems in politics), “But the people refused to heed Samuel’s warning. Instead they said, “No! There will be a king over us! We will be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.” So at least in this regard, Jesus was merely trying to lead his people back to a more conservative time.
Jesus understood spirituality and the purpose of the law. There is a short passage in Mark I still remember, “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:” Here, he displays an understanding not common for the day. He knew that life could be a heavy burden, and that the law was not above the individual. Rather, the law was created to help provide for individual needs. This is something that we could take into congress today with positive effect.
Again in Mark, Jesus tries to explain to a hostile group (some Pharisees and scribes had come out from Jerusalem) why his disciples did not follow some of the laws, like eating without washing one’s hands, etc. His reply was poignant, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.” Indeed, one can read on many social media outlets the frustrations at modern Christians who talk the talk but can’t walk the walk. Jesus would have none of it, and he told them so.