For the past year, I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation. The reason being I’m convinced its important for the Church to inoculate our young people with a healthy dose of catechesis before we ship them off to college, just enough so that when they first hear about Nietzsche or really study Darwin they won’t freak out and presume that what the Church taught them in 6th grade confirmation is the only wisdom the Church has to offer.
You can find all the previous posts here.
III. The Son
16. What did Jesus teach?
Jesus was not merely a teacher among teachers.
As the Incarnate Son, Jesus is what God teaches us.
Jesus was not one who taught us words about God; Jesus is the Word God speaks to us. Jesus, the content and character of his life, is the teaching God vindicates by retrieving it from the dead.
The incarnation presupposes it wasn’t sufficient for God to be for us (on the cross) otherwise Jesus’ teaching would be superfluous. His teaching isn’t necessary if he came only to deliver us, but his teaching is absolutely necessary if he comes because God is determined to be with us, for his teaching is how we learn to be with him and be with others, like him. That is to say Jesus taught the Kingdom of God, the world as it truly is and will be when creatures embrace their createdness, loving God and others as God loves God. Such a Kingdom will always appear upside down to those who’ve inverted God’s creation to their own ends.
Jesus’ Kingdom teaching was not unique to Jesus. Rather, it presumed the preaching of the prophets, who described the world when it obeys God’s creative intentions instead of sin’s false freedom.
While Jesus’ Kingdom teaching was not new, the way in which Jesus presented the Kingdom was new. He taught the Kingdom as a present reality, in and through him. This is why Jesus regarded sinners and outcasts already as the redeemed people they would be one day.
In teaching the Kingdom as a present, urgent reality, Jesus closed off the possibility of a delayed response among his hearers. Unlike the prophets who preceded him, those who heard Jesus teach the Kingdom immediately found themselves either called into its citizenship or realized that they had already rejected it.
Thus, in the way Jesus taught the Kingdom, he robbed his listeners of the possibility of any neutral response to it.
The Kingdom had arrived and was present in Jesus; hearers of this teaching could only either follow or depart sadly away.
Likewise, the Church does not teach that the Kingdom started with Jesus or that the Kingdom grows through its work. The Church, like Jesus, teaches the Kingdom as an urgent, response-demanding reality that is present through the re-presenting of Christ’s words and deeds, most especially in the eucharist.
‘…and the rich man went sadly away, for he had many possessions.’ – Mark 10.17-31