Jesus: The Master Teacher (1)
With thanks to Roy B. Zuck

By Paul Robison

Someone puts it this way: Philosophy says, “Think your way out!” Indulgence says: “Drink your way out!”  Television says: “Entertain your way out!” Jesus says: “I am the Way out!” (Unknown).God promised that He would teach all mankind under a new covenant in Isaiah 2:2-3.  It should be no surprise, then, that when Jesus Christ came to earth in the flesh, He presented Himself as a Master Teacher (Daugherty).  One brother states: “In the Greek society and culture, no profession was more respected than that of the teacher.  One who had information that he was able to impart to another was [highly respected].  To speak of one who was a 'Master Teacher' was to describe a person who had the capability of skillfully and interestingly imparting knowledge to others” (Garner).  In Jewish culture, a rabbi was also greatly respected for his teaching skills.  The Jews had a proverb which said: “Let the honor of your friend border on the honor for your teacher, and let the honor of your teacher border on the fear of God.”

Someone has rightly observed: “By word and deed in and with His whole life, Jesus is the teacher and educator of mankind” (Schmidt).  Someone else put it this way: “No other teacher in history has had a more profound and lasting effect on humanity than Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher” (Rushmore).  A writer once noted that Jesus is the Master Teacher because His teachings have lasted over 2000 years, and they have transformed the lives of millions (modified Pugh)!  Another writer observed: “The study of Jesus' life and work from an educational viewpoint is of great historical and practical value” (McCormick).  So this morning, and in a few more lessons, we want to look at Jesus' work as a teacher.  How can His role as a teacher be described?  Well, there are three ways mentioned on the back of your bulletin: He was a recognized teacher; He was an authoritative teacher; He was an outstanding teacher. We want to look at each of these descriptions more closely and suggest some reasons for them.

Why could Jesus be described as a recognized teacher?  First of all, we see that the writers of Gospels frequently use the term “teacher” for Jesus.  In John 3:2, a Jewish religious leader addresses Jesus by saying: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”  Then in John 8:3, some Jewish religious leaders bring an adulterous woman to Jesus and address Him in this way: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do you say?”  In John 13: 13, Jesus refers to Himself as a teacher with these words: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.”  When compared with other terms in the Gospels used for Jesus, the word “teacher” comes in fourth place.  According to one source, “Jesus” is found 615 times, “Lord” is used 151 times, “Son of Man” is seen 80 times, and ‘Teacher” is used 70 times (with Luke using it the most; Zuck).  All kinds of people called Jesus a teacher—from Jewish religious leaders to Jairus’ servants (Matthew 9:11; Mark 5:35).  There are also 47 passages which speak about Jesus’ “teaching” in the Gospels.  So the frequency of the terms “teacher” and “teaching” shows that those of Jesus' day recognized Him as a teacher.  Secondly, the Greek words used for “teach” and “teaching” also show how Jesus was recognized as a teacher.   Mark 6:34 states: “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.  So He began to teach them many things.”  Mark 8:31 reports: “And Jesus began to teach them [His disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”  Luke 23:4-5 says: “So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no fault in this Man.’  But they were the more  fiercer, saying, ‘He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.’”  In all these passages, Jesus’ teaching role is underscored.  The word for “teach” and teaching” in these passages is very interesting. One part of the word literally means “to extend the hand to” and the other part of the word means “to repeat”; thus, “the key idea is that of a continued activity [until] the learner [could] assimilate [or grasp] the concept, the skill, or the insight of the teacher” (Zuck).  Now let's look at Luke 24:45: “And He [Jesus] opened their [i.e. the apostles'] understanding, that they might comprehend the Scripture.”  Another word used for “teach” here means to open up or to explain something that was previously unknown (Ibid).  Now let's read Luke 24:27: “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He [Jesus] expounded to them [to two disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”  The word translated “expound” literally means “to give in interpretation to a text,” so here Jesus is interpreting how these Old Testament passages were pointing to Him and His mission.  So, we see from these passages that three terms associated with teaching were also linked to Jesus' activity as a recognized teacher.  Thirdly, other terms used for teacher were also used for Jesus.  In John 6:25, the crowd asked Jesus: “Rabbi, when did you get here?”  In Luke 9:33, Peter exclaimed to Jesus at His transfiguration: “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: ...”  Using the term “rabbi” showed great respect, and using the term “master” often showed an urgent need.  Another saying of the Jews exalted the rabbi over one's father: “Your father has given you temporal life, but your teacher has given you eternal life.”  Jesus' opponents never used the term “rabbi” when speaking to Him.  The term “rabbi” means “my great one”, and the term “master” basically means “leader”.  We see how both these terms were used to address Jesus as a teacher.  So Jesus was a recognized teacher because He was called “teacher” 70 times, three words for teaching were associated with His ministry, and two other terms for teacher were also applied to Him.  Someone has rightly noted: “Teaching was Jesus' ministry: His life was the model; transformed lives were the result; eternal salvation was the goal (modified Tolbert).”

Why could Jesus be described as an authoritative teacher?  Here are four reasons.  First of all, think about the authority behind His words.  Let's look at three passages in John which show that God is Source of Jesus' teachings.  The first passage is John 7:16: “Jesus answered and said to them: 'My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.'”  Jesus' teachings were not based on other rabbis, but they came directly from God.  The next passage is John 8:28: “Then Jesus said to them, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as the Father taught Me, I speak these things.'”  The last passage is John 14:24: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.” We see here that Jesus' words are God's words.  Since Jesus' words are God's words, He can confidently affirm: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will be no means pass away” (Mark 13:31).  So, the authority behind Jesus' words made Him an authoritative teacher.  Secondly, consider the certainty about His knowledge.  Jesus often discerned the thoughts and intentions of His audiences so He chose His words carefully. “He knew what was in man” (John 2:25).  This is seen especially in Jesus' responses to crowds, His disciples, and His opponents (Zuck).  Someone made this good observation also: “[Jesus] never ... expressed doubt about what He taught; He never once said: 'Maybe,' 'Perhaps,' or 'Possibly' in making assertions about the truth.  The Gospel gives no hint that Jesus was ever unsure of His words.  Not once did He say: 'I think so,' '... 'This might be true,' 'I hope this is right,' or 'I don't know.'  He never stumbled or fumbled over His words.  'He never spoke tentatively, timidly, or apologetically.  He knew His message and never stuttered in declaring it'” (Zuck and Hendricks).  The certainty about His knowledge, both of His audience and of His message, made Him an authoritative teacher.  Thirdly, ponder the finality within His claims. 
“His claims were unique because they had a note of finality to them.  What He claimed to be true matched reality.  What He promised came to pass.  What he asserted was fact, and what He affirmed was always correct. ... His claims left no room for debate or further investigations” (Zuck).  Three phrases that Jesus used also underscored the finality of His claims.  The first phrase is “My words”.  Notice what Jesus affirms in John 12:48: “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.”  Similar expressions with the phrase “My words” can be found ten times in the Gospels.  A second phrase that underscores Jesus finality of His claims is the phrase “I tell you” or the King James Version translates “Verily, I say to you.”  For example, Jesus says in Luke 15:10: “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of God over one sinner who repents.”  This phrase can be found in 64 other passages in the Gospels.  A third phrase that Jesus uses to show the finality of His claims is “I tell you the truth” or the King James Version translates “Verily, verily I say to you.”  An example is found in John 3:3: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!”  This phrase is used 74 more times in the Gospels.  In additions to Jesus' affirmations matching reality and these three phrases of emphasis, Jesus also made many promises, and the finality of some of them can be seen in Gospels.  For example, Jesus made this promise in John 2:19: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!”  John explains that Jesus was talking about His own body, and before John's gospel closes, we do see how Jesus came back to life and raised up His temple!  Jesus promises Mary that her brother Lazarus will be raised from the dead, and He does so!  Jesus promises His disciples that the Gospel will spread throughout the world starting at Jerusalem, then going into the provinces of Judea and Samaria, and then going elsewhere beyond Palestine, and by the end of Acts, we see this promise in Acts 1:8 fulfilled exactly as Jesus had affirmed!  These are just three promises which were fulfilled.  Let's review: what Jesus claimed to be true matched reality, three phrases added emphasis to His claims, and fulfilled promises all underscore the finality within Jesus' claims, and this, in turn, shows beyond doubt that Jesus' was an authoritative teacher.  Fourthly, the reality from some of Jesus' commands also show Jesus to be an authoritative teacher.  Jesus made about 480 commands.  Sometimes His commands were not made to get an immediate reaction: “Watch out for false prophets!” (Matthew 7:15).  The response to such a command is left up to hearer to fulfill.  But on other occasions, Jesus gave some commands, and the results occurred instantly!  In these cases, Jesus gave an order, and the power of His authority is clearly seen.  For example, Jesus tells the storm, “Peace, be still!”, and it happened immediately (Mark 4:39)!  Jesus ordered a dead girl: “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”, and she came back to life (Mk. 5:41)!  Jesus commanded some lepers: “Go, show yourselves to the priests” and they were healed as they traveled (Luke 17:14)!   See how Jesus powerful commands cause things to happen!  So we have seen four reasons that Jesus was an authoritative teacher based on the authority behind His words, the certainty about His knowledge, the finality within His claims, and the reality of some of His commands.  Someone has observed that Jesus had one hand on His students and one hand on His Father's and was able to bring them both together for dynamic life change (modified Gregory Carlson)!  Jesus was a recognized teacher, and He was an authoritative teacher!

Why could Jesus be described as an outstanding teacher?  Here are six reasons.  First of all, there was the mastery of His subjects.  “Having come to earth to reveal God and His words, Jesus displayed full mastery [on the subjects] that He taught.  He was never dependent on notes, never at a loss for what to say, never unprepared, never taken aback or confused by a question from friend or foe, never unsure of what to communicate.  He had something to say—and people listened, hanging on to every word (Luke 19:48)” (Zuck).  Such mastery of His subjects is certainly one of the reasons that crowds flocked to hear Jesus.  Secondly, the consistency of His practices.  Ever hear someone say: “Our teacher doesn't always live by what he teaches.  Sometimes he does the opposite of what He tells us to do.”  That criticism could never be made against Jesus.  There was a perfect consistency between what He taught and what He lived.  “[Jesus] taught His disciples to love their enemies—and He did.  He taught them to pray—and He did.  He urged them to trust in Him and not to worry—and He trusted in His Father.  He challenged His disciples to love each other—and he loved them [fully]” (Zuck).  Jesus once challenged His opponents with this question: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46), and nobody could give any incident of inconsistency.  Of course, Jesus' consistency of His practices must have made a profound impact on the apostles who lived so closely to Him day in and day out for three years.  When you live outdoors with someone so closely, you get to know them as they really are!  His mastery of His subjects and His consistency of His practices made Jesus an outstanding teacher!  Another reason was the clarity concerning His concepts.  Someone made this good observation: “Jesus taught so the people could comprehend the material; He never taught merely to cover the material.  His vocabulary was always simply and easy to follow.  Scan the Gospel of John, and you will see how simple were His words.  Profound?  Yes, but still short words that were easy to understand.  Or read the Sermon on the Mount.  'There is scarcely a word in it which a ten year old boy cannot pronounce and spell and measurably understand'” (Zuck).  Sometimes Jesus' parables would hide His point, but more often than not, his listeners understood His meaning.  Jesus taught so that His hearers could follow Him and understand His concepts.  Another reason was the variety of His contexts.  Jesus taught in many different situations.  He taught indoors in synagogues, courts of the temple, and in people's homes.  He taught outdoors on a mountain side, in a boat, and as He traveled.  Sometimes He taught one on one, sometimes to small groups, like His disciples or the religious leaders, and sometimes to the multitudes.  His clarity concerning His concepts and the variety of His contexts also made Jesus an outstanding teacher.  Another reason was His flexibility concerning presentations.  About 50 speeches are recorded in the Gospels.  Some of them were lengthy; some were very short.  Besides these speeches, Jesus was also a master at taking advantage of situations and responding to questions which others asked (this happens about 22 times).  Sometimes there was flexibility demonstrated in the style of the presentation or the reply; Jesus used questions, parables, demonstrations, objects, actions, and something within an event to get His messages across.  Another reason was His empathy towards His listeners.  We see that Jesus “loved His students and responded to each one with care and concern [and even with correction and rebuke if needed]. ... His concern was to develop them, [and] not to make a name for Himself. ... Much of His teaching was directed towards encouraging His followers not to be afraid and not to worry (Matthew 10:26-31; Mark 13:11).  Jesus showed a personal interest in those that He taught beyond that of just sharing content.  Jesus' flexibility concerning His presentations and His empathy towards His listeners also made Him an outstanding teacher.  Someone has said: “A
lmost to the letter, Jesus Christ practices what modern education preaches, that complete education is seven-fold, namely, physical, moral, aesthetic, intellectual, social, vocational and spiritual. In both practice and theory, the Master Teacher long ago set up the standards which are also those of modern pedagogy” (Nixon of Outback Ministries).  Jesus was a recognized teacher, was an authoritative teacher, and was an outstanding teacher!

Now do you understand why those officials answered as they did to the religious leaders: “No man ever spoke like this Man!”  Another preacher made this observation:
Jesus' teaching ministry only lasted three brief years.  He wrote no books.  He held no university chair.  He did not travel extensively from his humble birthplace.  Yet, through the men He trained, Jesus has impacted the world like no other teacher!  This was because His teachings reflected His divinity” (Daugherty 135).  Jesus is not only the Master Teacher, but He's also the Eternal Answer to mankind's greatest needs (Nixon)!  God Himself instructed us: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:7)!  Let's listen to the Master Teacher and strive each day to put into practice His teachings!  If we do this, Jesus promises that we'll be ready when the storms of life hit.  Why not follow the Master Teacher and be immersed into His name or confess that your need to follow Him more closely?  He is willing to teach if we are willing to learn.  “Come unto Me and learn from Me” is still His call.  “Hear Him!” and express your intentions to obey Him!