“I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.” (John 18:20)

Jesus is answering questions from the Jewish high priest:
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. (John 18:19)
We can see clearly from this statement by Jesus, two important elements of his teachings.

First, that Jesus did teach within the confines of the Jewish temples and synagogues. While his teacher John the Baptist taught from a remote region of the desert, Jesus chose to teach within the temples and the courtyards of the temples.

But we do know that Jesus also taught outside the temples. We know he taught from hills in the fields, and from boats. We know from the scriptures that he didn't "always" teach from the temples.

So did Jesus say "always" as on "only"? Was he lying to the high priest?

Certainly not. The word "always" is being translated from the Greek word πάντοτε (pantote), which can mean "all the time;" "always;" or "ever" according to the lexicon.

Also we know that Jesus did not say "only" here, which would have been derived from the Greek word μόνος (monos). In other words, Jesus is not talking exclusively - as if he didn't speak anywhere else.

Jesus is speaking of his teachings here. He is saying that all his teachings were spoken within the temples and synagogues. He is saying that he wasn't hiding anything. It wasn't as if when he spoke in the temples he didn't say what he spoke elsewhere. It was all in the open, and what he said when he spoke in the temples and temple courtyards to people were the same teachings he taught in the countryside.

In other words, he is emphasizing what he says with "I said nothing in secret."

Yes, the high priest and those within the Jewish temple organization certainly had heard Jesus' teachings. He did not have to re-explain himself. Jesus' teachings explained his purpose and his message very clearly.

And the reason he spoke in the temples and synagogues is precisely as he states here - to reach those people who were attending the temple - those who were making some attempt to follow the teachings of the prophets by coming to the temple.

But this doesn't mean that he agreed with the politics and the ecclesiastical interpretations of the temple priests, including the high priest. This is in fact why he was arrested. Because his teachings were different from the teachings of the Jewish priests. We see this clearly as Jesus often criticized them:
“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:46-47)
Here we see that not only did Jesus abhor those who desired positions of respect among the Jewish institution, but those who took advantage of their students.

"They devour widows' homes" refers to the tithing collection policy whereby a widow's home would be taken by the temple when the husband would die as a collection. The motive was to provide the priests with salaries and palatial living quarters. At issue here is taking advantage of followers to boost the financial comfort of these teachers. This is an insult to the Supreme Being because they were claiming positions as God's representative.

But instead of representing the Supreme Being, they were actually looking out for themselves. They saw the institution as something that would provide them with financial security and a facility to gain people's respect and obtain followers. But the institution's source of income was their followers. So they were taking advantage of their followers.

The true representative of the Supreme Being has a mission to give to others. They never accept a salary for their service, because their service is loving service. It is loving service to the Supreme Being.

Thus while Jesus did come to the temple or synagogue to teach, he did not become part of the institution. He kept true to his own teacher, John, and to the Supreme Being. He never accepted a salary. He may have accepted meals and quarters from his students, but these were offered to him out of volition.

But aren't tithings from churches offered out of volition? Yes and no. Yes, the collection plate is passed around to the church members. But the institution sets up an obligation for its members to pay something into the collection plate. A person who doesn't won't be welcome at that church.

Still, the amount given is usually voluntary. And that is good. But since the process typically takes place in public, people see what others put in. This sets up peer pressure, as well as assures the institution more income.

But this is not the issue. The issue is the situation of the teacher: the priest, preacher, reverend. These are official positions which have been granted through election, and the positions pay a set salary. This sets up an obligation by the church institution, and sets up an exchange between the teacher and the institution.

That exchange is compensation. The teacher is being compensated for their service.

Therefore, it is not service to the Supreme Being.

The Supreme Being only accepts loving service when it is given out of love - without any condition of compensation. When there is a condition of compensation, that service might look as though it is service to God, but it isn't. It is a facade.

We might compare this to a TV show. In a TV show, an actor says "I love you" to the actress who is playing his wife. Does the actor really love her? Since the actor is being paid to say this, we know that it is only an act. He doesn't really love her.

But couldn't the actor love the actress in their private life?

Yes, but that moment when he says "I love you" as he is being filmed is an act. Because he is being paid to do it.

So can we say that a professional preacher who receives a salary for teaching at the church might really serve God during his off hours when he is not being paid?

Of course this is up to the Supreme Being, and all things are possible. But we simply cannot accept a person who is a professional teacher as being God's representative because they are being paid to do that service. This invalidates their teachings. Their teachings have no authority or empowerment. They do not come from the Supreme Being.

Only a person who serves the Supreme Being out of volition - loving devotion - can represent the Supreme Being. Only this person can be empowered.

Jesus was such an empowered person. He was God's representative. He was empowered by God to represent God, and that is why he spoke with such authority. He loved the Supreme Being. And representing the Supreme Being was part of that loving relationship.

And this is also why the ecclesiastical professional high priest was so envious of Jesus. Because he could see Jesus' authority. He knew what Jesus had been teaching. But he was vexed with envy. He was blinded by his enviousness of Jesus and the fact that he did not have that authority.

This is what ultimately caused Jesus' murder. It was the enviousness of the high priest. Because of his envy of Jesus' authority, he recommended Jesus be murdered.

But this did not circumvent Jesus' authority at all. In fact, it resounded Jesus' authority. The contrast between Jesus' authority and the high priest's envy made Jesus' service famous. It allowed the Supreme Being to show us how His authority outlasts those who are envious.

You see, Jesus didn't die on the cross. Only his temporary physical body did. This is evidenced by Jesus' continuing to teach his students after the death of his physical body. Thus, what Jesus taught his students was true:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more." (Luke 12:4)
The high priest and the governor could kill Jesus' body. But they could do no more. Jesus' teachings of love for God have continued to be passed on, despite the enviousness of those who wish to use innocent followers:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)



(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus  - translated from the original Greek texts.)