If, however, we take a general view of Jesus’ teaching, we shall see that it may be grouped under three heads. They are each of such a nature as to contain the whole, and hence it can be exhibited in its entirety under any one of them.
Firstly, the kingdom of God and its coming.
Secondly, God the Father and the infinite value of the human soul.
Thirdly, the higher righteousness and the commandment of love.
That Jesus’ message is so great and so powerful lies in the fact that it is so simple and on the other hand so rich; so simple as to be exhausted in each of the leading thoughts which he uttered; so rich that every one of these thoughts seems to be inexhaustible and the full meaning of the sayings and parables beyond our reach. But more than that—he himself stands behind everything that he said. His words speak to us across the centuries with the freshness of the present. It is here that that profound saying is truly verified: “Speak, that I may see thee.”
Our course in what follows will be to try to learn what those three heads are, and to classify the thoughts which come under them. They contain the main features of Jesus’ message. We shall then try to understand the Gospel in its relations to certain great questions of life.
I. The kingdom of God and its coming.
Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God runs through all the forms and statements of the prophecy which, taking its colour from the Old Testament, announces the day of judgment and the visible government of God in the future, up to the idea of an inward coming of the kingdom, starting with Jesus’ message and then beginning. His message embraces these two poles, with many stages between them that shade off one into another. At the one pole the coming of the kingdom seems to be a purely future event, and the kingdom itself to be the external rule of God; at the other, it appears as something inward, something which is already present and making its entrance at the moment. You see, therefore, that neither the conception of the kingdom of God, nor the way in which its coming is represented, is free from ambiguity. Jesus took it from the religious traditions of his nation, where it already occupied a foremost place; he accepted various aspects of it in which the conception was still a living force, and he added new ones. Eudemonistic expectations of a mundane and political character were all that he discarded.