As Jesus taught, he found that most people—although they had been taught the Bible from their youth—didn’t understand what God wanted them to do. They didn’t understand about God’s righteousness or the life He wanted all of his people to live. So Jesus taught it to them in a way they could understand.
Jesus gathered people together in every place he could and taught them. He set his disciples up front and spoke to them, but even those who did not follow him listened:
“If you are poor and oppressed and living a miserable life—you are so lucky! On the final day, God will grant you his reward of life and land and peace. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—you who are rejected by people, and shut out and hated and beaten for the sake of the Son of Man and for the gospel—because you will receive God’s kingdom.
“You know that you have to do what is right in order to gain God’s kingdom. But it’s harder than you think. There are people out there who are trying to get your focus off of God’s law. Some people say that if you don’t murder, that’s good enough. But I say that even speaking your hate against someone else will be punished like murder. Some say that if you divorce, its okay. But I say that since divorce damages so many people, you should never do it. Some say that to rebel against an evil authority is okay. But I say that you need to let authorities do whatever punishment they wish to you, and allow God to punish them.
“The general rule most people live by is: do good to your friends and hurt those who hurt you. But I say, do good to those who hurt you. Pray blessings on those who hate you. Offer benefits to those who despise you. If anyone insults you, speak well of them. We do this because the Father is our example—he gives life and peace even to those who never thank him or who do evil. So we need to love everyone, do good to everyone—even as our Father has mercy on everyone.
“In this way, we shouldn’t judge other people, we should rather forgive them. We shouldn’t withhold blessings from people because we don’t like what they do, or what they look like—we should rather give to everyone in need. If we judge people, we will be judged by God. But if we assume that people are doing things from a right motivation, unless we have proof, then God will have mercy on us.
“We all know that God wants us to pray to him, to give to the poor and to fast sometimes. But if we do these things to be rewarded by people, then we will receive no reward from God. If we give to the poor so we can have it written off on our taxes, or so that we can impress everyone with how much we give—then we will receive nothing from God. But if we give in secret so that no one else knows except God knows that we’ve done it, then we will be rewarded by God in front of everyone.
“If we pray only in front of other people, hoping that they will notice our excellent prayers and how long they are, then we will gain no reward from God. But if we pray in a way that no one else knows, then we will gain our reward for that prayer from God in front of everyone. Even so, we shouldn’t pray on and on, as if our prayers will only be heard because we talk a lot.
Rather, pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be made holy. Bring your kingdom to earth so that your command will be accomplished on earth just as it is in heaven. Give us today all that we need. Please wipe out our sins against you, even as we do not hold sins done against us. Let us never fall away from you—deliver us from trials that turn us away from you.’
If you forgive those who have done wrong against you, your Father in heaven will listen to you and forgive you. But if you fail to forgive those who turn away from their sin against you, your sins before God will be held against you as well.
“Some people think that my commands aren’t so important. They think they can call me ‘Lord’ and follow their own ideas of what it means to be ‘good.’ But anyone who calls me ‘Lord’ but does not do what I say will gain no reward from the Father. On that final day, there will be many who say, ‘Lord, didn’t we do miracles in your name?’ And, ‘Lord, didn’t we go to church every week?” And I will say, ‘Get away from me. I never knew you.’
“And so those who hear my words—like you are hearing right now—and do what I say, they will be like a child who build a castle out of stone. A terrible storm came up one night, but the next day the castle still stood, because it was made of solid material. But those who hear my words—like you are hearing right now—and do not do what I say, they will be like a child who build his castle out of sand. A terrible storm came up that night, and the castle melted away with nothing left.”
All the people listened to Jesus’ words, and they were amazed at how he taught.