Jesus: The Master Teacher (2)
With thanks to Roy B. Zuck

By Paul Robison

Another preacher made this good observation: “God only had one Son.  He made Him ‘The Teacher.’  Yes, He preached, but to most, Paul is ‘The Preacher.’  Yes, He went about doing good, but Barnabas is ‘The Encourager.’  Uniquely, Jesus is ‘The Teacher.’  Jesus filled many roles, but at the bottom of the all, He was ‘The Teacher.’” (Hodge).  Someone else praises Jesus’ teaching abilities with these words: “Jesus was the greatest teacher this world has ever known.  Everything He did was focused on helping others get to heaven one day, and because of this, ‘the common people heard Him gladly’ (Mk.12:37)” (J. Baker).  And lastly, some good teacher, imitating 1 Corinthians 13, said this: “Where there are magic markers, they shall dry up.  Where there are chalk and blackboards, they shall crumble.  Where there be printed literature, it shall fade.  But a right relationship with God will endure forever, as it is shared in the lives of your students.  All work is a result of His love.  Now abide planning, preparation, and love—these three, but the greatest of these is love.  For without God’s love, all work is for naught” (Bulletin Digest).  Today’s lesson again focuses on Jesus as a Teacher who could also be described as:  an intentional Teacher, an influential Teacher, a motivational Teacher, and an inspirational Teacher.  Let’s look at each of these descriptions more closely.

First of all, Jesus was an intentional Teacher.  There are several statements by Jesus that reveal His purposes for His coming, and these intentions, in turn, must have affected His teaching.  For example, look at what He affirms in Luke 5:31-32 and 19:10: “Jesus answered and said to them [scribes and the Pharisees]: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’” and the next passage says: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”  These passages show us that Jesus’ teachings will have something to do with helping those who are sinners to repent, which means to change the direction of their lives from serving Satan and themselves to serving God and others, and those who are spiritually lost to become spiritually saved!  Next, look at John 9:39-41: “And Jesus said: ‘For judgment I have come into the world, that those who do not see may see [now He had just healed a blind man, but the blind man had just worshipped Jesus, showing that His spiritual sight was as healthy as his physical site], and that those who see may be made blind.’  Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’  [Hey, are You saying, Jesus, that we are spiritually blind?]  Jesus said to them: ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’  Therefore your sin remains.’”  [Since you gentlemen think that you know everything about God and spirituality by saying ‘We see’, instead of admitting that you are really blind and ignorant concerning God’s new workings and His Son, then ‘Yes, your sin remains and you are spiritually blind].  So these passages show us that Jesus’ teachings will confront us so strongly that we will admit our own ignorance and seek further guidance or we will stick up for our own traditions and fail to let Jesus’ teachings enlighten us.  Next, look at John 10:10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly!”  One commentator rightly observes: “The religious hierarchy of hardened Israel was the murderous thief intent on killing and destroying [and we know that spurring them on was Satan himself.  In our day, it’s the godless gurus behind the mass media that is showing glorified trash in order to kill and destroy our families and spiritual lives], and Christ is the true shepherd who came to bring abundant life to the people of God.  ‘Life abundantly’ – The Christian life is the happy life, free, overflowing, adventurous, and exciting beyond any other kind of existence.  Why cannot people believe their Creator, to the effect that the way of Christ is the way of joy and fulfillment? … [So many who indulge in sin] do not realize that in life, as in arithmetic, there is a minus sign as surely as a plus, and that certain experiences do not add to, but subtract from … each new indulgence in forbidden things [usually leaves] us poorer, leaner, emptier, and at length beggared” (Coffman).  “I have come to call sinners, I have come to bring judgment, I have come to give them true life!”  These intentions permeate Jesus’ teachings.  So, praise God that His teachings can turn us around and get us going in the right direction, they can judge the intentions of our hearts and lead us from blindness to light, and they can offer us an abundant, fulfilling, and meaningful life right here is this world!  But there’s more!  Look at a fascinating passage in John 12:46ff: “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  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.  For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  And I know that His command is everlasting life.  Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”  Notice the outrageous claims that Christ is making here as I paraphrase: “I can give you moral excellence and righteousness—light from God, and not the darkness of Satan and this world!  My words and My teachings are to be believed and practiced.  Those very words and teachings will be what measures a person when they stand before My throne of judgment on that final day!  Because, you see, My words are not really My own ideas!  No, these words and teachings are from My Father, the highest authority in existence, who is the Eternal one, and He and they can provide you with life that will endure forever!”  What powerful words—His teachings, if rejected, will bring us everlasting condemnation!  But his teachings, if accepted and practiced, will bring us everlasting life!  How can we so indifferent to Jesus’ teachings when they make so much difference between our eternal destinies?  If you are not a Christian, how can you reject Jesus’ teachings week, after week, after week, knowing full well, what the final consequence will be?  And if you are a lukewarm Christian, how can you fail to practice His teachings day, after day, after day, also knowing full well what the final outcome will be?  My beloved audience, both here and on the air, this is not rocket science.  Allow me to repeat what I said just a few moments ago: if your reject Jesus and disobey His teachings, He’ll reject you, and you’ll be lost eternally.  But if you embrace Jesus and obey His teachings, He’ll embrace you, and you’ll be saved eternally.  It’s that plain and simple, yet so profound and lasting!  Don’t tune it out just because it’s absolute and categorical, especially when the Almighty God’s authority is behind it!  Now look at another passage where Jesus reveals the intentions behind His teachings in John 18:37: “Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  Did you just hear what Jesus said?  I came to bear witness to the truth!  In My teachings, you will find the truth.  Another preacher puts it this way: “Jesus taught without prejudice, ignorance, or politics.  He was not captive of a party spirit.  Jesus literally ‘laid it on the line.’  Competency is the only commodity men follow.  Jesus knew what He was talking about.  He was ‘free’ to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” (Hodge).  But did you catch the last part of Jesus’ statement: “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice”?  The sword of Jesus’ word is piercing at our hearts once again because He’s not offering us any grays: “If you are on the side of truth, you will be listening to My voice, but if you are on the side of deception, you will be listening to another’s voice.  So, which side are you on—are you on the side of truth, of light, and of abundant life or are you on side of deception, of darkness, and of degenerate life?  My teachings’ bear witness to God’s truth!”  “I have come to call sinners, I have come to bring judgment, I have come to give them true life, I have come to enlighten, I have come to bear witness to the truth.”  Now notice one more thing about the intentions of Jesus’ teachings found in Luke 12:40: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Jesus says in essence: “I have come so that you can be ready for when I will come.”  If we listen carefully to Jesus’ teachings, we soon discover that there is more to this world than just what is seen and what is experienced now.  He teaches us about an unseen realm, about an eternal abode, about sinless city where we can know God, Christ, and all the righteous, about a world of eternal joyful service.  Jesus wants you in heaven: “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:3).  His teachings will get to heaven!  Yes, Jesus was an intentional Teacher.

Jesus was also an influential Teacher.  Someone has rightly noted: “The attraction of Jesus’ message, His healing power, and His Person were indeed powerful!  Few other teachers could claim such magnetism over so many people in so many cities, towns, and villages” (Zuck).  Sometimes those crowds were thousands in number, and sometimes they were very few.  Crowds responded to Jesus’ teachings in different ways.  “They were astonished at His teaching” (Matthew 22:33)!  After a Samaritan audience heard Jesus’ teaching, John 4:41 states: “And many more believed because of His own word.”  Sometimes His teachings left the crowd questioning: “Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings” (John 10:19).  Sometimes they praised His teaching, as is stated in Luke 4:15: “And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified [or praised] by all.”  One crowed became angered, as we read just a few verses later in Luke 4:28: “So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.”  His teaching could hit a nerve!  With regards to His disciples, we see how Jesus selected them, and then trained them “by example, by verbal instruction, by His miracles, by personal association, and by involvement” (Zuck).  Certainly, He loved them, and because He did, he sometimes corrected and rebuked them.  Jesus did this on about 15 occasions.  Someone has rightly observed: “The … deficiencies on [the apostles’] part gave Jesus excellent opportunities to teach them.  Failure, however, was never reason for rejection” (Zuck).  How those apostles were profoundly influenced by Jesus teachings: their eyes were opened, their hearts were transformed, and their lives were changed!  Jesus also had His opponents, and they too were deeply influenced by His teachings.  The gospel of John states around 60 times that the Jewish religious leaders were in opposition to Jesus’ teachings (Zuck).  Most of the Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Him and became flagrantly hostile to His teachings.  The chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law sought to and eventually killed Jesus because His teachings threatened their status.  Jesus turned many of His tense encounters with these religious rulers into “teachable moments,” and He never hedged on divine certainties for personal convenience (Zuck).  A few of these religious rulers, like Nicodemus, Crispus, and Saul, were won over eventually by Jesus’ teachings.  What can we conclude? 
“Judging only by His impact on the crowds, the apostles, and His opposition, Jesus was truly a supremely effective teacher” (Zuck)!  Someone else put it this way: “Jesus is the true hero of all time. He made a marvelous impact on His disciples while He was enfleshed on earth, and He continues to influence people positively down through history.  Jesus is the authentic model for mankind” (John Russell).  Has He become the influential Teacher for your life?  Jesus was indeed an influential Teacher.

Jesus was also a motivational Teacher.  How did Jesus make people eager to learn?  First of all, He captured people’s attention by asking to them to listen, by making a startling statement, by making a request, and by calling people by name (Matthew 13:18;  Mark 2:5; John 4:7; Luke 19:5).  Jesus aroused people’s curiosity and perplexity by telling about 40 stories or parables; sometimes the meaning was obvious, but sometimes the listener had to reflects and think.  Sometimes His own disciples asked Him to explain the meaning of these stories.  Jesus engaged people by addressing their needs and their problems (Luke 7:48; 22:25-26).  Jesus held attention by varying His methods of presentation.  Sometime it was discussion, sometimes is was responses to questions, sometimes conversations, sometimes it was logical argumentation, sometimes He used proverbs and gave challenges.  Jesus even combined various methods on occasions.  Jesus’ speeches sparkled with illustrations.  In Matthew’s gospel alone, there are 160 illustrations drawn from nature alone which refer to plants, animals, land masses, and times of day.  Like when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).  Jesus sometimes used visuals or objects as well to hold attention: a coin, fields white unto harvest, the towel and the wash basin, the bread and wine, the stones of the temple.  On several occasions, Jesus also involved the listeners by having them do something (Mark 5:19; Luke 10:1-17).  Someone made this good assessment: “Were people in Jesus’ day interested in what He taught?  Indeed they were!  They were curious, intrigued, even captivated” (Zuck).  In fact, a modern version renders Luke’s words in Luke 19:47ff in this way: “Every day Jesus taught in the Temple.  The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill Him, but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people kept listening to Him, not wanting to miss a single word.”  Now that’s a motivated crowd!  Jesus gained and held attention, and sometimes used hidden meanings, variety, and suspense to tease the mind.  Yes, Jesus was a motivational Teacher!

Lastly, Jesus was an inspirational Teacher.  You know, if you really try to live the Christian life, it’s going to be hard.  In fact, many people find that they are not spiritually robust enough to live life on this new level.  Jesus anticipated this in His own apostles and promised them they would one day have the Holy Spirit to provide them “with all the courage, endurance, and other qualities that they would need [to be faithful]” (Phillips).  And a reading of Paul’s letters “shows plainly enough that this promise was implemented.  Ordinary people were not only ‘converted’ from their previous self-loving attitude, but they received sufficient spiritual vitality to cause no little stir among the [places] in which they lived.  [That Spirit produced in them] those qualities [found in] Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Phillips).  Listen, we are so conditioned to look at life as a closed system that the invasion in our lives by something from the outside is hard to us to grasp!  You know that this is “the great difference that has come to exist between the Christianity of the early days and that of today!  To us, it has become a performance, a keeping of rules, while to the people of those days, it was plainly, an invasion of their lives by a new quality of life [and a new vitality for life] altogether.  [You see] without a power from outside [without the Holy Spirit to guide and to strengthen us], Jesus’ teachings remain beautiful ideas, tantalizing [but not something that we can live out].  With the closed system, we have to say sooner or later: ‘Well, you just can’t change human nature.’  Jesus’ ideals fail for our own spiritual poverty, and then despair takes their place.  But the fact of Christ’s coming is itself a shattering [proof that our closed system thinking is false.  He invaded this planet!]  And what else is Jesus’ continual advice to ‘have faith in God’ but a call to [reject our] closed-system type of thinking?  ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you!’—aren’t these famous words and invitation to reach out [to God, to something beyond our closed-system]?  If we want to cooperate, the Holy Spirit is immediately available [for Peter promised those on Pentecost and to generations afar off: ‘Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38).  Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit’s help is very inspiring, but it doesn’t stop there.  His teachings about peace, about fellowship, about God’s care, about strength, about selfless love, and about His being with us until the very end are inspiring as well!  He was an inspirational Teacher!

Another person puts it this way: “Jesus continues to be the premier example of the effective teacher.  His influence is felt as powerfully today as it was 2000 years ago.  His capacity to touch lives by His teaching and to help people to see and understand spiritual matters serves as the ideal toward which we should strive” (P. G. Downs).  Jesus was indeed an intentional, influential, motivational, and inspirational Teacher.  Trust in Him, embrace Him, follow Him, and this life can be abundant and heaven can be your eternal home!