1-3. How did Jesus’ former neighbors respond to his teaching, and what did they fail to recognize about him?
The audience was stunned. The young man Jesus was standing before them in the synagogue and teaching. He was no stranger to them—he had grown up in their city, and for years he had worked among them as a carpenter. Perhaps some of them lived in houses that Jesus had helped to build, or maybe they worked their land with plows and yokes that he had made with his own hands. But how would they respond to the teaching of this former carpenter?
2 Most of those listening were astounded, asking: “Where did this man get this wisdom?” But they also remarked: “This is the carpenter the son of Mary.” (Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-3) Sadly, Jesus’ onetime neighbors reasoned, ‘This carpenter is just a local man like us.’ Despite the wisdom in his words, they rejected him. Little did they know that the wisdom he shared was not his own.
3 Where did Jesus get this wisdom? “What I teach is not mine,” he said, “but belongs to him that sent me.” (John 7:16) The apostle Paul explained that Jesus “has become to us wisdom from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) Jehovah’s own wisdom is revealed through his Son, Jesus. Indeed, this was true to such an extent that Jesus could say: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Let us examine three areas in which Jesus manifested the “wisdom from God.”
What He Taught
4. (a) What was the theme of Jesus’ message, and why was that highly important? (b) Why was Jesus’ counsel always practical and in the best interests of his listeners?
4 First, consider what Jesus taught. The theme of his message was “the good news of the kingdom.” (Luke 4:43) That was highly important because of the role the Kingdom would play in vindicating Jehovah’s sovereignty and in bringing lasting blessings to mankind. In his teaching, Jesus also offered wise counsel for everyday living. He proved himself to be the foretold “Wonderful Counselor.” (Isaiah 9:6) Indeed, how could his counsel be anything but wonderful? He had a profound knowledge of God’s Word and will, a keen understanding of human nature, and a deep love for humankind. Hence, his counsel was always practical and in the best interests of his listeners. Jesus uttered “sayings of everlasting life.” Yes, when followed, his counsel leads to salvation.—John 6:68.
5. What were some of the subjects that Jesus covered in the Sermon on the Mount?
5 The Sermon on the Mount is an outstanding example of the unparalleled wisdom found in the teachings of Jesus. This sermon, as recorded at Matthew 5:3–7:27, would likely take only 20 minutes to deliver. Its counsel, however, is timeless—as relevant today as when it was first given. Jesus covered a wide range of subjects, including how to improve relations with others (5:23-26, 38-42; 7:1-5, 12), how to keep morally clean (5:27-32), and how to live a meaningful life (6:19-24; 7:24-27). But Jesus did more than just tell his listeners what the course of wisdom is; he showed them by explaining, reasoning, and offering proof.
6-8. (a) What compelling reasons for avoiding anxiety does Jesus give? (b) What shows that Jesus’ counsel reflects wisdom from above?
6 Consider, for example, Jesus’ wise counsel on how to deal with anxiety about material things, as stated in Matthew chapter 6. “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear,” Jesus advises us. (Verse 25) Food and clothing are basic necessities, and it is only natural to be concerned about obtaining these. But Jesus tells us to “stop being anxious” about such things. * Why?
7 Listen as Jesus reasons convincingly. Since Jehovah has given us life and a body, can he not provide food to sustain that life and raiment to clothe that body? (Verse 25) If God provides birds with food and he clothes flowers with beauty, how much more will he care for his human worshipers! (Verses 26, 28-30) Really, undue anxiety is pointless anyway. It cannot extend our life even by a fraction. ** (Verse 27) How can we avoid anxiety? Jesus counsels us: Continue giving worship of God priority in life. Those who do so can be confident that all their daily needs “will be added” to them by their heavenly Father. (Verse 33) Finally, Jesus gives a most practical suggestion—take one day at a time. Why add tomorrow’s anxieties to those of today? (Verse 34) Besides, why worry unduly about things that may never happen? Applying such wise counsel can spare us much heartache in this stressful world.
8 Clearly, the counsel Jesus provided is as practical today as it was when it was given nearly 2,000 years ago. Is that not evidence of wisdom from above? Even the best advice from human counselors tends to become outdated and is soon revised or replaced. The teachings of Jesus, however, have stood the test of time. But that should not surprise us, for this Wonderful Counselor spoke “the sayings of God.”—John 3:34.
His Manner of Teaching
9. What did some soldiers say about Jesus’ teaching, and why was this no exaggeration?
9 A second area in which Jesus reflected God’s wisdom was his manner of teaching. On one occasion, some soldiers who had been sent to arrest him returned empty-handed, saying: “Never has another man spoken like this.” (John 7:45, 46) This was no exaggeration. Of all the humans who have ever lived, Jesus, who was “from the realms above,” had the greatest reservoir of knowledge and experience from which to draw. (John 8:23) He truly taught as no other human could teach. Consider just two of the methods of this wise Teacher.
“The crowds were astounded at his way of teaching”
10, 11. (a) Why can we not help but marvel at Jesus’ use of illustrations? (b) What are parables, and what example shows why Jesus’ parables are so effective for teaching?
10 Effective use of illustrations. “Jesus spoke to the crowds by illustrations,” we are told. “Indeed, without an illustration he would not speak to them.” (Matthew 13:34) We cannot help but marvel at his matchless ability to teach profound truths through everyday things. Farmers planting seeds, women preparing to bake bread, children playing in the marketplace, fishermen hauling in nets, shepherds searching for lost sheep—these were things his listeners had seen many times. When important truths are tied in with familiar things, such truths are etched quickly and deeply on the mind and heart.—Matthew 11:16-19; 13:3-8, 33, 47-50; 18:12-14.
11 Jesus often used parables, short stories from which moral or spiritual truths are drawn. Since stories are easier to grasp and remember than abstract ideas, the parables helped to preserve Jesus’ teaching. In many parables, Jesus described his Father with vivid word pictures that could not easily be forgotten. For example, who cannot comprehend the point of the parable of the prodigal son—that when one who has gone astray shows genuine repentance, Jehovah will feel pity and tenderly accept that one back?—Luke 15:11-32.
12. (a) In what way did Jesus use questions in his teaching? (b) How did Jesus silence those who questioned his authority?
12 Skillful use of questions. Jesus used questions to get his listeners to arrive at their own conclusions, examine their motives, or make decisions. (Matthew 12:24-30; 17:24-27; 22:41-46) When the religious leaders questioned whether he had God-given authority, Jesus replied: “Was the baptism by John from heaven or from men?” Stunned by the question, they reasoned among themselves: “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why, then, did you not believe him?’ If, though, we say, ‘From men,’ we have the crowd to fear, for they all hold John as a prophet.” Finally, they answered: “We do not know.” (Mark 11:27-33;Matthew 21:23-27) With a simple question, Jesus left them speechless and revealed the treachery in their hearts.
13-15. How does the parable of the neighborly Samaritan reflect the wisdom of Jesus?
13 Jesus sometimes combined methods by weaving thought-provoking questions into his illustrations. When a Jewish lawyer asked Jesus what was required to gain everlasting life, Jesus referred him to the Mosaic Law, which commands love of God and neighbor. Wanting to prove himself righteous, the man asked: “Who really is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling a story. A certain Jewish man was traveling alone when he was assaulted by robbers, who left him half dead. Along came two Jews, first a priest and then a Levite. Both ignored him. But then a certain Samaritan came upon the scene. Moved with pity, he gently dressed the victim’s wounds and lovingly carried the man to the safety of an inn where he could recover. Concluding the story, Jesus asked his inquirer: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” The man was compelled to answer: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.”—Luke 10:25-37.
14 How does the parable reflect the wisdom of Jesus? In Jesus’ day, the Jews applied the term “neighbor” only to those who kept their traditions—certainly not to Samaritans. (John 4:9) Had Jesus told the story with a Samaritan victim and a Jewish helper, would that have overturned the prejudice? Jesus wisely framed the story so that a Samaritan tenderly cared for a Jew. Notice, too, the question Jesus asked at the end of the story. He shifted the focus of the term “neighbor.” The lawyer had, in effect, asked: ‘Who should be the object of my neighborly love?’ But Jesus asked: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor?” Jesus focused, not on the one who received the kindness, the victim, but on the one who showed the kindness, the Samaritan. A true neighbor takes the initiative to show love to others regardless of their ethnic background. Jesus could hardly have made his point more effectively.
15 Is it any wonder that people were astounded at Jesus’ “way of teaching” and were drawn to him? (Matthew 7:28, 29) On one occasion “a big crowd” remained near him for three days, even going without food!—Mark 8:1, 2.
His Way of Life
16. In what way did Jesus give “practical proof” that he was governed by divine wisdom?
16 A third area in which Jesus reflected Jehovah’s wisdom was his manner of life. Wisdom is practical; it works. “Who among you is wise?” asked the disciple James. Then he answered his own question, saying: “Let his right conduct give practical proof of it.” (James 3:13, The New English Bible) The way Jesus conducted himself gave “practical proof” that he was governed by divine wisdom. Let us consider how he demonstrated sound judgment, both in his way of life and in his dealings with others.
17. What indications are there that Jesus had perfect balance in his life?
17 Have you noticed that people who lack good judgment often go to extremes? Yes, it takes wisdom to be balanced. Reflecting godly wisdom, Jesus had perfect balance. Above all else, he gave spiritual things first place in his life. He was intensely occupied with the work of declaring the good news. “It is for this purpose I have gone out,” he said. (Mark 1:38) Naturally, material things were not of primary importance to him; it seems that he had very little materially. (Matthew 8:20) However, he was not an ascetic. Like his Father, “the happy God,” Jesus was a joyful person, and he added to the joy of others. (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15) When he attended a wedding feast—typically an event marked by music, singing, and rejoicing—he was not there to cast a pall over the occasion. When the wine ran out, he turned water into fine wine, a beverage that “makes the heart of mortal man rejoice.” (Psalm 104:15; John 2:1-11) Jesus accepted many invitations to meals, and he often used such occasions to teach.—Luke 10:38-42;14:1-6.
18. How did Jesus manifest flawless judgment in his dealings with his disciples?
18 Jesus manifested flawless judgment in his dealings with others. His insight into human nature gave him a clear-sighted view of his disciples. He well knew that they were not perfect. Yet, he discerned their good qualities. He saw the potential in these men whom Jehovah had drawn. (John 6:44) Despite their shortcomings, Jesus showed a willingness to trust them. Demonstrating that trust, he delegated a heavy responsibility to his disciples. He commissioned them to preach the good news, and he had confidence in their ability to fulfill that commission. (Matthew 28:19, 20) The book of Acts testifies that they faithfully followed through on the work he had commanded them to do. (Acts 2:41, 42; 4:33; 5:27-32) Clearly, then, Jesus had been wise to trust them.
19. How did Jesus demonstrate that he was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart”?
19 The Bible associates humility and mildness with wisdom. Jehovah, of course, sets the best example in this regard. But what about Jesus? It is heartwarming to see the humility Jesus showed in dealing with his disciples. As a perfect man, he was superior to them. Yet, he did not look down on his disciples. Never did he seek to make them feel inferior or incompetent. On the contrary, he was considerate of their limitations and patient with their shortcomings. (Mark 14:34-38; John 16:12) Is it not significant that even children felt at ease with Jesus? Surely they felt drawn to him because they sensed that he was “mild-tempered and lowly in heart.”—Matthew 11:29; Mark 10:13-16.
20. How did Jesus display reasonableness in dealing with the Gentile woman whose daughter was demonized?
20 Jesus showed godly humility in yet another important way. He was reasonable, or yielding, when mercy made this proper. Recall, for example, the time when a Gentile woman begged him to cure her badly demonized daughter. In three different ways, Jesus initially indicated that he was not going to help her—first, by refraining from answering her; second, by stating directly that he had been sent forth, not to the Gentiles, but to the Jews; and third, by giving an illustration that kindly made the same point. However, the woman persisted, giving evidence of extraordinary faith. In the light of this exceptional circumstance, how did Jesus respond? He did exactly what he had indicated he would not do. He cured the woman’s daughter. (Matthew 15:21-28) Remarkable humility, is it not? And remember, humility is at the root of genuine wisdom.
21. Why should we endeavor to imitate the personality, speech, and ways of Jesus?
21 How thankful we can be that the Gospels reveal to us the words and actions of the wisest man who ever lived! Let us remember that Jesus was a perfect reflection of his Father. By imitating the personality, speech, and ways of Jesus, we will be cultivating the wisdom from above.
(* The Greek verb rendered “be anxious” means “to have the mind distracted.” As used at Matthew 6:25, it refers to worried fear that distracts or divides the mind, taking the joy out of life.)
(**In fact, scientific research has shown that excessive worry and stress can put us at risk of cardiovascular disease and a host of other ailments that can shorten life.)