Applying What Jesus Taught

The great challenge of following Jesus, is applying what he taught, but Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5:15-17 to know God’s will indicates that we are to understand what Jesus wants without it being explicitly stated. Jesus seemed to expect this from his disciples and marveled when they didn’t grasp it. After the disciples told Jesus to send the people away to get food, Jesus told his disciples to give them something to eat (Matthew 14:16). When they balked at the command, Jesus showed them how. Based on Jesus’ warning about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, the disciples assumed that Jesus was talking about the bread they had forgotten to take with them. But Jesus expected them to understand that they didn’t need to worry about bread anymore, since he had shown them how to feed the five thousand and then, again, the four thousand. He expected them to understand that he was warning them about the teaching of the Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:14-21).

It is as if Jesus supplies the “if” part of the statement and we are responsible to arrive at the “then” part. If, with Jesus, the disciples could feed the five thousand, then they no longer needed to worry about bread or any material need. While Jesus didn’t explicitly say the latter, he clearly expected them to live by this freedom from worry. For example, Jesus reserved his greatest praise for the centurion who requested that Jesus not enter his home in order to heal his servant—the centurion understood Jesus’ authority. Jesus didn’t need to be present; all he needed to do was say the word. The centurion understood that he, as an officer, had the authority to issue a command to a soldier and it would be done—even though he didn’t actually observe the obedience. Jesus, being an even greater man with even more authority, surely would have a similar power over disease. Jesus praised this man and even marveled at his faith, declaring that he had never observed such a faith in all of Israel (Matthew 8:5-13). The centurion grasped, without being taught, that if Jesus was who he revealed himself to be, then it would not be necessary for him to be present in order to heal the servant. The centurion became a model of how we are to live out what Jesus taught.

This concept of comprehending Jesus’ teaching opens up a whole new realm of living it out. Not only are we responsible to follow what Jesus taught directly, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are to exercise our faith and live out the implications of all that he taught—which aren’t specifically stated. This may be what the author of Hebrews refers to in Hebrews 6:1-2, when he urged his readers to go beyond what we often assume is the bulk of Christianity: repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands (which refers to receiving gifts, healing, and appointing leaders), resurrection of the dead, eternal life, and the coming judgment. In this statement, the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to expand their walk with Jesus beyond where most Christians live their lives. When we live out by faith the implications of Jesus’ teaching and expect him to do more than what he explicitly said in the Bible, we cause Jesus to marvel at our faith.

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