Jesus' Precepts and Deeds through His Three Years of Teaching

First day in Sychar

- Chapter 40 -
The priests criticize the misunderstood sermon on the mount. Nathanael's profound explanation on behalf of the Lord.

hen the sermon had ended many were shocked, and mainly the priests and some of the people said, 'Who can attain to salvation? We teachers of the law also preach properly and justly as once Moses proclaimed from the mountain the commandments to the people. But all that is like dew and a gentle evening breeze compared to this strict teaching and mightiest of sermons. There is hardly a tenable argument against such precepts, but they are too severe and hardly anyone will be able to practice them.
Who can love his enemy, who do good to the one who harms him maliciously and who can bless those who hate him and speak only bad about him? And if a person wants to borrow something from me, I must not turn away and refuse to listen to him nor steel my heart against his words, even if I see clearly that the borrower will never be able to return what he has borrowed? Ah, what a silly thing! If the lazy ones and the shirkers hear about it, will they not promptly go to the wealthy and borrow from them as long as they possess something? Once they have in this way - and nothing is easier than that - lent everything to the poor, who can never return what they have borrowed, and in the end have nothing left themselves, the question arises: Who will in the future be working and from whom will the poor then receive a loan?
It is only too obvious that with the observance of such precepts, which oppose the nature of all human institutions, the world would in no time become a real desert. Once the world is a desert, where will men receive any education, since all schools just come to an end if no one has the means to establish and support them?
This teaching will not do at all. The bad people and enemies of the good and their good works must be punished and who slaps my face must be slapped back at least twice, so that he will no longer wish to slap my face again. The careless borrower must be put in a work-house to teach him to work and in future earn his living by diligently working with his hands. The very poor may ask for alms and they will not be refused. That is an ancient but very good law under which a human society can well exist. But the precepts this alleged Christ has now given are too impractical for human life and cannot possibly be adopted.
I did not want to mention all the other things, absurd as they sounded, but the suggested self-mutilation in case of vexation through parts of one's own body and besides the evidently recommended idleness, according to which no one should be concerned about anything, but only keep seeking the Kingdom of God, as all else would be given him from above! -Let us try this only for a period of a few months, during which people do not touch anything or work, and we shall soon see whether fried fish will be swimming into their mouth.
And how stupid is the recommended self-mutilation when limbs cause vexation. If we let someone with a sharp axe in his right hand cut off and fling away the left, what will he do when afterwards the right hand vexes him, - how will he cut that off, and how tear out the eyes and finally, without hands, cut off his feet that might still annoy him? Ah, leave us alone with such a teaching! This would not be good enough for a crocodile, let alone for man. If you think only a little of the consequences, it will become clear to you that such a teaching can be nothing else but the result of some ancient Jewish fanaticism.
And if all the angels descended from the heavens and taught men such ways of attaining everlasting life and the use of such means for gaining heaven, such stupid teachers should be thrashed out of the world so that they may swallow their stupid heaven. - But what inconsistency. - "A tooth for a tooth" and "an eye for an eye: he considers unjust and cruel, preaches utmost gentleness and tolerance, even opens the gate for all thieves by saying: "If a man demands your shirt, let him have your coat as well." What a teaching! -But on the other hand people are to tear out their eyes and cut off hands and feet. - Which one of you has ever heard a greater nonsense?
Here the Priest steps up to Me and says, 'Master, your deeds prove that you can do more than any ordinary man, but if you are able to think correctly, which I do not doubt since at the house of Irhael I heard you speak quite wisely, then revoke certain most impracticable precepts of this your sermon. Otherwise we must, notwithstanding all your deeds, which are truly worthy of a Messiah, regard you as a fanatical magician taught in some ancient Egyptian school and expel you from here as a real Messiah-blasphemer.
Just have a closer look at your mighty teaching, and you will see that your teaching is quite useless for gaining everlasting life and cannot be followed by anyone. For, if a person is to win heaven in such a way, he is sure to forgo heaven. It would be preferable not to have been born than thus to win a heaven which one can enter only as a mutilated cripple. Tell me honestly whether you understand this or whether you are really serious about your teaching.'
Say I, 'You are a high priest, but you are blinder than a mole under the earth; what can be expected of the others? I gave you metaphors here and you swallow only their material part which threatens to suffocate you. You do not seem to have the least idea of the spirit I put into these metaphors.
Believe Me, we are quite as wise as you imagine yourselves to be and know very well whether or not a person could and should mutilate himself to gain everlasting life. But we also know that you do not grasp the spirit of this teaching and will not be able to grasp it for quite some time. We shall not, however, revoke our words because of that. Although you have ears, they do not hear the right thing, also you have eyes, but they are spiritually blind and, notwithstanding your open ears and eyes, you do not hear and see anything.'