January 2023 | The True Vine and The Soon Coming King

Jesus the Teacher
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Jesus the Teacher

Pr. Joji Mathew

The question, who Jesus is, appears to be the most pertinent one down through the centuries. It is Paul Tillich who said that, Christianity began when one of Christ’s disciples boldly proclaimed, “you are Christ the son of the living God.” Jesus is the Son of God, the savior of the world. There are number of titles used in New Testament to address Jesus Christ. New Testament portrays Jesus as an extraordinary teacher. This article deals with the topic Jesus, the teacher. It is said that, of the 90 times Jesus was addressed directly in the gospels, 60 times he was called Teacher. This was the word the multitudes used. This was how the disciples referred to him. Jesus himself used the term when he said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).

A wealthy young ruler approached the Lord asking, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). Even Jesus’ enemies addressed him as “Teacher” (Matthew 22:16, 24), though their use of the expression was not always genuine. Jesus’ final command was a teaching command. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20 

The Teacher Came from God

Jesus is not simply a Jewish Rabbi, he is the teacher who came from God. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, conceded that Jesus of Nazareth was “a teacher” from God, as documented by the “signs” which he did (John 3:2). Jesus is the most important teacher we could listen to because his words are spirit and life (Jn.6:63) and they teach us the truth which able to set us free from sin and lead us to eternal life (Jn. 8:32; 14:6). Whenever Jesus spoke he always did so with authority and told the truth. He did not give mere opinions or theories as man does. Men and women throughout time have had many opinions, theories and philosophies but they are always constantly changing. Our text books we have in schools have to be constantly updated and changed because the perceived truth at the time has changed. But we see that is not the case when it comes to Jesus’ words because they do not change. They are eternal.  In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” His teaching has divine authority. The acceptance or rejection of his words decides the destiny of human beings. In John 12:48 Jesus says “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”  

His Incomparable Method of Teaching

Jesus’ method of teaching is unique and incomparable. The Savior taught gospel truths simply. He used clear and understandable language, stories, and examples from everyday life. His lessons included many common experiences that people could understand. He spoke of finding a lost sheep, searching for a coin, and rejoicing over the return of a wayward son (Luke 15). Jesus used his listeners’ natural, real-life experiences as teaching tools. He asked them to consider the lilies of the field and the traveler who was assaulted by thieves. He helped the young man face a real choice between giving up his temporal wealth and becoming a true disciple or forfeiting his place in the kingdom. He helped the woman at the well face the fact that she was living out of wedlock. He prepared Peter to receive instruction by contrasting two experiences: fishing all night and catching nothing, then feeling the joy of a full net. For the most part Jesus used the natural context of his listener to get his attention and focus his interest.

The teaching mode of the Savior was varied. He used a number of different ways to teach the people. One of His favorite methods was to tell a story. These stories are often called parables. Jesus Christ used parables to reach people at a variety of levels. Approximately, thirty parables form about one third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. They often contain symbolism, and usually relate the physical world to the spiritual. Common themes in these tales include the kindness and generosity of God and the perils of disobedience. His parables, such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), convey profound truth. Those who were willing to listen with their hearts were able to pull deep meanings from the stories. He could give the teachings that brought the most blessings only to those who listened with their hearts. “The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (Matthew 13: 10,11).

Jesus also taught spontaneously or arranged an informal teaching moment. For instance, when he came upon the woman being stoned, he was able to teach a lesson in only one sentence, when he suggested that the person who was without sin be the first to stone this woman for her own sin. The men understood the message and went away, ashamed of themselves. He told the woman He didn’t judge her, giving her an important message about her worth before God. Then He instructed her to give up her sins.

When Martha and Mary had Jesus as a guest in their home, Martha fussed in the kitchen, making a special meal for their honored guest. She became frustrated because her sister, instead of helping, sat at Jesus’ feet, being taught the gospel. Martha asked Jesus to intervene, and He most likely startled her by suggesting that at this particular moment, Mary was choosing the better part. He wasn’t undermining the need to feed people or care for the home. He was teaching a lesson about choosing your priorities based on the moment. Jesus didn’t care about a fancy meal. There would be many days in which Martha could make fancy meals for people, but only a few in which she could sit quietly and learn from the Savior Himself.

Jesus’ most powerful teaching might be the lessons he taught by example. He made a point of living the way He wants us to live. When He was asked why He would be baptized, when He was perfect, He reminded them everyone was to be baptized. 

When a group of children were brought to see the Savior at the end of a busy day, the apostles wanted to send them away, because Jesus was tired. However, the Savior called them over and spent important time talking to them and blessing them. He demonstrated through his actions that children mattered, and that a parent or a teacher, no matter how tired or busy he might be, needed to find the time to spend with the children, and most particularly to find time to teach them the gospel.

Another way Jesus taught was through miracles. In Johannine understanding miracles are signs. His miracles demonstrated He really was sent by God, but they often taught a lesson, as well. He healed people no one else bothered to respect or worry about. He healed lepers, who were kept away from others. He healed the blind, who, in those days, were generally relegated to begging. He healed the poor and the rich alike. Through these healings of people considered unimportant, He taught us how to treat others. He helped us to understand our responsibility isn’t just to those in our social circle or economic class, but to everyone. By doing so, He gave dignity and importance to those who are often overlooked.

His influence

His influence is increasing even after twenty centuries. There are many leaders and teachers who have influenced the world. Scottish theologian James Stuart said, “The teaching of Jesus has had a power and an effect with which the influence of no other teacher can even for a moment be compared.” Some of these teachers have made a difference in people’s life but we can take all the great teachers in the world from the past to the present and we will not find a teacher who has even came close to the influence and impact that Jesus Christ has had on mankind. When Jesus had finished giving the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew tells us the crowds were so amazed at his teaching because “he taught as one having authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:29). Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and great number of religious leaders like Swami Vivekananda considered Jesus to be the greatest teacher. They were greatly influenced by the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ. It is one thing to teach what is right but living by what we teach is something else. Jesus lived what he taught.

Teacher of Love

The relevance of Jesus’ teaching is significant to be mentioned. The teachings of Jesus are needed more and more in this time of hatred and retaliation. He was a teacher of love. Jesus asked us to love God and our neighbor. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind ... And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). He commanded us to extend our love even to our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45).It is very easy to love those who love us. That is merely human. It is divine to love those who hate us. During His life on earth, the Savior showed great love and understanding to every person. He taught the poor, the rich, the outcast, and the sinners. He taught us to love everyone and to help one another. He said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Teacher of the Kingdom of God

Kingdom of God is the major topic in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus was the teacher and the preacher of the Kingdom of God. The rules of the Kingdom of God are established in Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As the new Moses, Jesus was giving a new interpretation of the Law. Jesus taught the significance of inward piety. He stressed the importance of inward righteousness. Jesus recognized that although people do and say many things, what really counts is their desire or intent. (Matt. 13:15; Matt. 15:8; Matt. 5:8; Matt. 12:34.) Since his major concern was helping them do the right things for the right reasons, he focused his teaching efforts on influencing their desires or dispositions. He was not satisfied with those who conformed to the rules or law but still lacked the correct desires in their hearts. (Matt. 23:23–25.) 

Conclusion

Jesus was compassionate teacher. He was compassionate to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. His was not a monologue. His teachings sessions were dialogical.Considering Jesus only as a teacher is a limited understanding about him. He is more than a teacher. Yet it is important to understand him as a teacher. Jesus was teacher beyond compare because he came from God, his words are eternal, he lived by what he taught and he had unique way of teaching. Calling Jesus merely as a great moral human teacher is wrong. He is that indeed, but limiting his glory only to that is unjustifiable. C.S. Lewis’ is worth quotable: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

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