Greatness of Jesus' Teachings and Character

A. Ethical and Moral Teachings
Jesus ethical and moral teachings may be the gratest ever recorded, of course that's a biased and culturally bound appraisal. But they are certainly among the greatest, and the leaders and theologians of other world religions laud him for his teachings and many of them try to claim him as their own; the Moslems, The Hindu, and the B'Hai. Yet is was not the originality of his moral thinking that makes him great; the Stoics and others said many of the same things. And yet there are certain factors which do make Jesus' teachings unique and worthy of particular attention above and beyond that of most if not all ethical teachers...

1) Value System
a) Beatitudes
The "beatitueds" that Jesus speaks in the Sermon on the mount indicate the value system out of which he opporated. Blessed means "happy" but he is saying more than "happy are the peacemakers." In prouncing them blessed he is saying basically 'there are the goodguys' and indicates a natural Tao working through the divine economy to protect and vidicate those who live by such values. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for their is the kindgom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted;...meek will inherit the earth...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled...merciful showen mercy...pure in heart will see God...peacemakers called sons of God...those persecuted for rightousness for theirs is the kingdom of heave." (Matt.5:3-10)

This is the way, this is how to be, these are the values one should hold. This is basically what he is saying. Essentially these qualities are those of a righteous person, they are oriented around God as the primary value and love for the neighbor as the main manifestation of love for God. To mourn probably means repenting for the evil we have done, or at least being able to empathize with other, to care about the pain others. "poor in spirit" refurrs to real poor people made more explicit in Luke, but the poor in the Bible are the righteous poor who trust in God for their sustainance.

  b) Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...

"Do not be anxious saying 'what shall we eat?' 'what shall we drink?' 'what shall we wear?' The Gentiles seek all fo these things and your heavnly Father knows that you need them all, but seek first his kingdom and his riaghteousness, and all these will be added unto you..." (Matt. 5:28-33)

2) Golden Rule

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." ..Other religions, probably all, have similar injunctions, but I have not found has this qualifyer making it a self-reflexive command.

a) Self-Reflexive nature
By placing the command in terms of one's own standard of well being, the command becomes an exhortation to "love the neighbor as you love yourself." No higher standard could be given, one does to himself only that which he/she most desires to be done. By placing the command in these terms one cannot refuse to come to the aid of anyone in need. We would all prefur that others come to our aid. If the command were stated negatively, "do not do unto others that which you would not have done to yourself" one could ignore the neighbor in need. If the command stopped at merely loving the enemy or the neighbor one could refuse to help. By placing it in these self reflexive terms it is made active. One must go out of his way to seek out the needy.

b) Categorical Imperative.
Kant's great ethical system the categorical imparative was based on the Golen Rule of Jesus.

3) Love for Enemies

If you love those who love and hate those who hate you even the Gentiles do that, but I say unto you love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you

matt 5-6....
4) Greatest commandment
Matt 22:35. "and one of them, a lawgiver, ask him a question to test him, 'teacher what is the greatest commandent?' ...37 "and he said to him ye shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first command,and the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend the law and the prophets." (RSV).

Note: All lgegal regulations and striving of law keeping are summed up in love of God and love of neighbor. This shows that Jesus' ethics surpass the rulekeeping stage and ascend to the highest level of conceptual morality, that of the ideal stage where actions are motivated by internalized principles. Moreover, by basing the second command upon love for the neighbor, but relating to love for self, it forms it's own second version of the categorical imparative. Note also if we love our neighbor as ourselves we are commanded to love ourselves, to recify the self image in relation to recipricle nature with others. At the same time, we cannot get off the hook by loving enemies any less (since even enemies are neighbors). Thus the will for the good of the other is indexed by our own will for our own good.

5) Psychological Motivations
B. Great Compassion

The compassion of Jesus can be seen in many of the stories. The woman caught in the act of adultary is taken before him and the mob wants to stone her. She has broken the law, she is worthy of death (accordin to that culture and that time). Jesus stoops and writes in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but perhaps it was the names of those in the mob who had slept with her (they weren't being accussed). He says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." There is the compassion he exhibited to the many people who implored him for healings, and he never refussed anyone.We forget anyone else would have been running from those lepars and demoniacs that he healed. The demoniacs were dangerous, and the leapers thought contageous. But the also demonstrates a total lack of hypocracy in being unafraid to associate with those who needed him most. When he was criticized for being in the company of drunckards and prostitutes; he merely made fun of the prudes and said, in affect "well, I didn't come to help those who are so well off (the self rightous people) but those who know they need help" There is no way to capture the greatness of Christ's compassion and moral teachings in one of these subpoints, but I urge you to get a Bible and read the Gospels over and over, and with an open heart and you will see no greater compassion than that of Jesus Christ, and that of course is culmenated in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins.

C. Greatest Sacrafice

He did lay down his life for the sins of the world. "Greater love hath no man than to give up his life for a freind," yet Jesus' died for everyone; and his own understanding of what he was doing was that he laid down his life as a "ransom for many." But it seems unlikely that his followers would enlarge upon his mission to this extent. Perhaps they could have enlarged upon his deatht o include the mission to Israel and it was Paul who expanded it to the rest of the world. But there is great likelyhood that he understood himself to be doing something benificial for all humanity. After all it was not Pauline Theology but the understanding of the Beloved Deciple of the fourth Gospel who puts into Jesus mouth the statement "for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."