Jesus Christ spoke about every aspect of human life and experience during his three years of teaching 2,000 years ago. He spoke to all levels of society from people in authority to the poor and destitute. He spoke to huge gatherings of thousands of people and also to individuals. His words were recorded by people who travelled with him and knew him closely. The words of Jesus can be found in five books of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are written on basis of eye-witness testimony, perhaps even by those eye-witnesses themselves. For example, Luke, who wrote Luke and Acts, was a Greek doctor who compiled his account from speaking to eyewitnesses.
It is no surprise that many of Jesus’ sayings have found their way into our everyday language. The Bible is the most popular book on Earth. More copies of it are sold every year than any other book. It has also been around longer than almost any other publication in regular use. Many people with no Christian faith use phrases first spoken by Jesus Christ.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Here are some of the best-known sayings of Jesus, with some context and explanation:
On how to live
Blessed are the meek – for they will inherit the Earth… Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God. This is part of what is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. To be blessed is to experience a deep sense of joy and peace.
You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world. Jesus is telling his disciples their lives should be a positive influence on those around them. Salt was used as a preservative to stop food rotting.
Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.
Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Jesus is explaining that God cares deeply for all people and that worrying will not make a difference.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Jesus is teaching on judging others while ignoring our own faults.
What God has joined together, let people not separate. Part of Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends
Love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus called this the second commandment. The first is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
On not retaliating
If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other to him also – i.e. turn the other cheek.
If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles - i.e. go the extra mile.
Love your enemies. Another counter-cultural statement from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing. One of the last things Jesus said before dying – his prayer as he was crucified.
On wealth and money
No-one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and Money. People must decide which is their bigger priority.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What good will it be for a person to gain the whole world, if they lose their soul? There is no point in immense wealth in life at the expense of spiritual poverty forever.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. It is hard for the wealthy to go to heaven because they find it difficult to give up all they have for the Christian faith.
Do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing. Jesus is talking about being secretive when giving to charity, rather than ‘going public’ to win approval.
Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Jesus’ response to a trick question about paying taxes.
Faith and following his teachings
To be ‘born again’. Becoming a follower of Jesus means a completely fresh start to life.
Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. God knows the intimate details of every person.
You of little faith. Jesus says this several times. In each case he is encouraging people to trust God more.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus encouraging people to come to him for rest.
Take up his cross and follow me. Jesus alluded to his coming death by crucifixion, saying the cost of following him and his teachings was self-sacrifice.
The last will be first and the first will be last. Jesus is stressing that God is gracious and generous and that people don’t always get what they think they deserve.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Jesus used this phrase in a story about how people should make the most of the talents God has given them.
Advice and warnings
‘Wolves in sheep’s clothing’ Jesus is warning his followers about false teachers, who seem harmless but have bad intentions.
If a blind man leads a blind man, they will both fall into a pit.
Pass by on the other side. Taken from the story about the Good Samaritan, where two men deliberately reject the chance to help a man beaten up by robbers.
Those who have ears, let them hear. Jesus often used stories to make his point. Not everyone understood. He was encouraging people to think about their meaning.
You brood of vipers. Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of Jewish religious leaders.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus uses this phrase several times to describe the distress of people who have rejected him.
Only in his hometown… is a prophet without honour. People in Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, remembered him as a boy and young carpenter and found it impossible to accept his real purpose as a man.
Get behind me, Satan. A rebuke to one of his closest followers, Peter, who didn’t want Jesus to be executed. But Jesus knew this was his destiny and not to go through with it would hand a spiritual victory to the devil (Satan).
They do not practise what they preach. Criticism of hypocritical religious leaders.
All who draw (live by) the sword, will die by the sword. When Jesus was arrested by armed soldiers, he rebuked a follower who wanted to fight back.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Jesus speaking of his disciples who dozed off when they should have been keeping watch over him as he prayed.