A couple of days ago, a commenter on this column asked if anyone out there had a list of all of Jesus' commands. Someone kindly obliged with a link to a list of 49. That was a good start.
The request was a fine one, but I was a bit taken aback by it because it was quite revelatory of something about American Christian culture. The fact of the matter is that the words of Jesus are chock-full of commands! There are many, many things Jesus tells us to do. Indeed, you cannot open a page of the New Testament without finding commands. Try it. But the fascinating thing is that it is possible not to see them because our focus has not been directed to them much in our Christian culture.
A child goes outside on a typical Philadelphia night with the goal of counting the stars, and he reports back confidently that there are 23 stars in the universe. That's how it seems to us about the commands of Jesus. We have not been tuned in to thinking that Jesus gave us commands and instructions to obey, but we can't seem to recollect any of them when asked.
I opened the New Testament at random and scanned a single chapter for the commands of Jesus. I picked 2 Timothy 2. (Though the words are penned by Paul, they are, of course, the words of Jesus. See Acts 1:1; John 16:12-13.)
Here is a partial list of commands of Jesus from one chapter of the Bible:
- Be strong (v.1).
- Commit my teachings to faithful men for transmission to others (v.2).
- Endure hardship (v.3).
- Don't get entangled in worldly pursuits (vv.2ff).
- Think about the things I say (v.7).
- Keep in mind that Jesus was raised from the dead (v.8).
- Be willing to die with Him (v.11).
- Endure with Him (v.12).
- Don't be faithless (v.13).
- Remind people of the things I have told you (v.14).
- Charge people not to argue about words (v.14).
- Don't argue about words (v.14).
- Be diligent to present yourself approved to God (v.15).
- Handle the word of God rightly (v.15).
- Get rid of all worthless talk and babbling (v.16).
- Depart from iniquity (v.19).
- Cleanse yourself from worthless things in your soul (v.21).
- Flee youthful lusts (v.22).
- Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (v.22).
- Avoid foolish disputes (v.23).
- Be gentle and patient, not quarrelsome (v.24).
Even that list from that single pericope is not exhaustive. You have heard the expression "Your wish is my command," right? Every expressed wish, opinion, perspective, and desire of Christ is also our command. Every question Jesus puts to someone is also our command. We are to love Him so much that we will want what He wants, even if He doesn't command it per se. We are to love Him so much that we are to mull over His questions to see how they speak to us. There is an imperative dimension to Jesus' questions. (For example: "Where is your faith?")
Do these lists of commands seem burdensome to you? I hope not, because they are not burdens at all but guardrails and pathways to a peaceful life. You might want to reread Psalm 119 sometime. The man is absolutely in love with the commands of God. He's no fool who sees that the keeping of Jesus' words yield light and life.