Throughout Jesus’ ministry He used sharp contrasts to teach His audience what God deemed right and what He deemed wrong. They could walk away from an encounter with Him knowing exactly what they should and shouldn’t be doing. In many cases He’s very blunt in challenging the tradition behind a belief by saying, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” The list below summarizes the majority of His lessons and then provides a summary of how we can apply His teaching method and the lessons to our own lives.
- Wise vs foolish home builders (Matthew 7:24-27) – hear Jesus words and act upon them as the foundation of all things
- King who forgives servant’s debt vs servant who doesn’t forgive debt (Matthew 18:23-35) – God loves and forgives us for our great debts (sins) against Him. We should do the same for the small sins committed against us
- Wheat vs tares/weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) – we cannot know for sure who the true followers of God are because false disciples are intermixed with true ones. At the judgment, it will become clear when God separates one from another
- Obedient (tax collectors, sinners) vs disobedient sons (Priests) in the vineyard (Matthew 21:28-32) – we must repent (change our mind like the good son) and obey God
- Prepared vs unprepared virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) – be ready for Jesus return, so that we aren’t left out of the kingdom
- Sheep (righteous) vs goats (unrighteous) (Matthew 25:31-46) – serving those in need is equivalent to serving Jesus and is an indication of our salvation
- A servant with large debt (prostitute) vs a small debt (Simon) (Luke 7:41-50) – it takes more love to forgive someone who owes a great deal, but that is what God’s love is like
- Prodigal son vs faithful son (Luke 15:11-32) – the Father forgives our past and accepts us into His house when we return to Him
- Rich man vs Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) – our position in this world is based on lineage and wealth, in eternity the delineation will be between those who know God and those who don’t
- Arrogant Pharisee vs humble tax collector in prayer (Luke 18:9-14) – humble will be exalted
Encounters and examples
- Those who love others vs those who don’t (enemies/tax collectors/Gentiles) (Matthew 5:43-48) – love others by engaging with them and praying for them
- Those who do good secretly before God vs the hypocrites who seek public praise (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18) – give, pray and fast in secret
- Centurion’s faith vs Jews’ lack of it (Matthew 8:5-13)- Jesus authority over all things should lead us to complete faith in Him
- Those who lose their life vs those who save it (Matthew 16:24-26)– deny our earthly desires and find life in following Jesus
- Mary vs Martha (Luke 10:38-42) – service is second to maintaining a relationship with Jesus
- Ungrateful (nine) cleansed lepers vs one grateful one who thanked Jesus (Luke 17:11-19) – thankfulness for God’s provision
- Rich men vs poor widow giving at temple (Luke 21:1-4) – giving a little sacrificially is of more value than giving much out of plenty because it shows God where our heart is and Who we trust in
- Greatest vs least disciples (Luke 22:24-27) – those who are great humbly serve others rather than seeking to elevate themselves
- We learn about Jesus nature. He is wise (Mark 12:34) and authoritative (Matthew 7:29). We understand this through how He responds to people’s questioning
- Jesus doesn’t leave us guessing at how to live the Christian life. He creates a clear dichotomy between those who follow their sinful nature vs those who have a new nature to illustrate how His listeners should live (loving, thankful, servants, obedient, repentant, trusting, forgiving)
- We see that He is counter-cultural. His teaching makes women, Jewish enemies (e.g., Samaritans, Romans) and the lowest castes of people (e.g., prostitutes, lepers, and tax collectors) the heroes of the illustrations
- We can understand the value of contrast as a teaching technique because He constantly relies upon it. We don’t truly understand something until we learn what not to do or be like. For example, this affirmation and denial from the Gospel of Jesusstatement:
- We affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, the only mediator between God and humanity (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5).
- We deny that anyone is saved in any other way than by Jesus Christ and his Gospel. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus uses these very incisive techniques not only to teach the truth but also to reject non-truth. So there is no middle road. It makes sense why believers need transformation of mind before they can truly understand Jesus’ teachings and embrace them fully.