There were many other ways of teaching. The great rabbi Hillel lived just before Jesus, he had established a whole school of disciples (the school of Hillel) which has influenced Judaism unto this very day. Hillel specified 7 different principles of biblical interpretation and application – how to interpret the Bible and apply it to people’s lives. I mention this just to illustrate to you that Jesus was using well-established techniques. I want to look at one of them – a principle which is called kal v’chomer in Hebrew. Basically this is a method of teaching the Scripture by going from the simple to the complex. If you have done a course on logic you will know this principle by its Latin name – a fortiori. E.g. If this be the case, then all the more is this the case. This is one of Hillel’s 7 principles that rabbis followed (including Jesus) of correctly teaching the Word of God.
Matt. 7:9-11 is an illustration of this principle: If you being evil give good gifts to your children, how much more will God being good, give good gifts to you.’ That is kal v’chomer – the principle of arguing from the simple to the complex. Do you see the logic here? This is a typical rabbinic way of teaching. You will see this throughout the Scripture; now you will recognize it when you see it. Matt. 10:24, 25. Vs. 25 - ‘if…how much more’. If the head of this house is the devil how much more will his disciples be of the devil?
Look at one other example – Luke 23. This will lead us into a discussion of Jesus’ principle teaching technique. One more illustration of kal vechomer, although it may not immediately be quite as obvious to you. I want to show you the beautiful sophistication of Jesus’ teaching. If nothing else I hope you will leave with a renewed appreciation of the sophistication of Jesus’ teaching methods. He was a masterful teller of parables, he was a master at biblical interpretation, but he was a genius at another teaching technique which pervades all of his teachings. Luke 23:28-31 – this again is one of those scriptures which are so fantastic, but we have totally missed the meaning of it because we don’t know the language, the context, or the culture. What in the world is Jesus saying here? Here Jesus is suffering and in agony, and he is still teaching — and he is teaching with great sophistication. The message is incredibly powerful, but you have to understand what he is doing here.
In this passage Jesus is first of all hinting at or referring to two different texts in the Tanach (OT - Hebrew Scriptures). Vs. 30 is a quote from Hos. 10:8, where Hosea is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem. Hosea says a time is coming when there is going to be enormous destruction and suffering - so much so that people will cry out, ‘cover us’; they will cry to the mountains, ‘fall on us’. In other words, they will long to be dead because the suffering will be so intense under the judgement of God. Jesus is hinting that that is about to happen. And secondly he is hinting at a passage in Ezek. 20:45. I want you to get this context because it is very powerful. The ‘south’ is Judah, Jerusalem. Vs. 47 is the reference Jesus is hinting at when he says, ‘if they do these things to the green tree, what will they do to the dry?’ Ezekiel is prophesying that the Lord is going to consume the forest of the south, both the green trees and the dry; ‘the blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it. Everyone will see that I the Lord have kindled it, it will not be quenched’. Ch. 21:7. Vs. 1-7 is a continual prophecy against the destruction of Jerusalem that is coming.
What is Jesus saying? The terminology in Ezekiel – green and dry trees – refers to the righteous (green tree) and the wicked (dry tree – those who bear no fruit, who have no life in them). Ezekiel is saying that destruction is coming from God; it is going to consume everyone, both the righteous and the unrighteous — they are all going to be consumed by the fire, they are all going to fall under the sword of the Lord. But to understand what Jesus is saying here, you must also know that in rabbinic tradition by the time of Jesus, the term ‘the green tree’ had come to be a messianic term, i.e. it was a term for the Messiah. Remember, the term Messiah was not used much, it was a technical term, but there are many other expressions – Son of David, the righteous branch, Lord, etc. And one of the expressions of the Messiah was ‘the green tree’ — in other words, it refers to Jesus being the righteous one. Here Jesus is using the technique of kal vechomer. Jesus is saying to these women who are crying out on his behalf and who are upset about his treatment, ‘don’t cry for me, a time is coming very soon where you are going to suffer to such an extent; it is as if you wish you never had children, and you will cry out for death—just as Hosea and Ezekiel had prophesied, that time is coming’.
Then Jesus culminated his teaching by saying, ‘if they do these things to the green tree’. In other words, ‘if they treat me, the Messiah this way; how much worse will it be for you, the unrighteous?’ Is that powerful? Do you see how much is there if you only understand Jesus’ teaching in its context? ‘If they treat me, the green tree (the righteous) this way, how much more will it be for you, the unrighteous of Jerusalem?’' This illustrates for us the principle teaching method of Jesus—it is called remez in Hebrew.