Jesus is our Master Teacher, and his Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) contains one kernel of truth after another. He began with his spiritual ideals, his eight Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), and then explained how his disciples are salt and light (Mt 5:13-16). The third topic of his sermon was “the law and the prophets,” the commandments, and Jesus declared, “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:19b).
The Commandments. The commandments are laws, statutes, decrees, or ordinances given by God to guide people in their relationship with God and neighbor. The most famous commandments are the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 20:1-17 and Dt 5:6-21). The entire Mosaic Law is not only the Ten Commandments, but all 613 precepts contained in the Torah or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus consolidated or simplified this long and detailed list into the Great Commandment, love God and neighbor (Mt 22:34-40). Jesus commands us to obey his entire gospel which is summed up by his New Commandment, “love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (Jn 13:34).
Obeys and Teaches. Jesus has a two-part directive when it comes to the commandments: obey and teach, which is equivalent to good deeds and good words. Jesus does not follow the usual order, “words and deeds,” but rather, “deeds and words” because actions speak louder than words. Moreover, good example is easier to see and understand, and without obedient good deeds, any words of teaching ring empty.
Others. Others are children, the impressionable, and new converts, as well as non-believers. It includes everyone. Jesus is concerned about our influence on others. Our faith is supposed to be lived in a public manner. Those who give bad example and lead others in the wrong direction are considered the least, while those who give good example, lead others in the right direction, and teach the commandments are the greatest.
Jesus and Moses. Jesus was in step with Moses who had given a similar instruction to the Israelites. When it came to teaching, Moses directed the adults to “keep repeating them (i.e., the commandments) to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up” (Dt 5:7), and when it came to obedience, Moses ordered them to “bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be a pendant on your forehead” (Dt 5:8). With the commandments constantly in heart and mind, they would surely obey.
Teachers of the Faith. It is the duty of all Christians to obey and teach the commandments, but for many Christians, to teach the commandments and impart the faith is a major aspect of their vocation: parents with their children, catechists with their formation students, the RCIA team with the candidates for the Sacraments of Initiation, teachers or professors with their pupils, coaches with their athletes, mentors with their understudies, and priests with their parishioners. The path to greatness in the kingdom of heaven is to guide others in the right direction, to both give good example and teach the commandments.