Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church, UCC
March 12, 2023
Series this Lent – Who Do You Say That I Am? That was Jesus’ question to his disciples in Matt. 16. As we’ve seen, there’s more than one answer to this question. Last Sunday we looked at Jesus as Friend. Today, Jesus The Teacher.
Here are some passages that illustrate what an amazing teacher Jesus was.
You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. – John 13:13
Jesus was a master teacher and a powerful communicator. He chose his words carefully, sometimes to provoke, sometimes to confront, sometimes to comfort; but always to inspire faith and faithfulness and invite people into a deeper walk with God.
Listen to these beautiful words . . .
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus often used very Picturesque Speech in his teachings. This invited his listeners to use their imaginations. It would also help them remember the teachings. For instance . . .
Don’t worry about the spec in your neighbor’s eye. Worry about the log in your own eye. Deal first with that.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field . . . will he not much more clothe you?
Once Jesus’ listeners heard those teachings, they’d never look at logs, birds, and lilies the same way again!
Jesus occasionally used proverbs and other catchy sayings, which were easily remembered. Such as . . .
Judge not lest you too be judged.
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Jesus also had the ability to end a discussion with a powerful, authoritative statement. Such as . . .
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. (end of discussion!)
The most striking feature of Jesus’ teachings was his use of parables – earthly stories with heavenly truths. Jesus was a master story-teller. Listen to the descriptive words in this parable, as well as the importance of following his teachings.
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.
Jesus was a teacher.
In John 13:13 Jesus says, “You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.”
Of the 90 times Jesus is addressed directly in the Gospels, 60 of those times he is addressed as “teacher,” “rabbi,” or “master,” as in schoolmaster.
The term Rabbi was just coming into existence in Jesus’ day. It denoted a special kind of teacher.
- One whose teaching was marked by spiritual authority – “He spoke as one who had authority.”
- An insightful teacher of the Hebrew scriptures, often wrestling with texts in new ways – “You have heard it said, and eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you turn the other cheek . . . love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
- Ancient Rabbi’s brought new understandings from the texts, new ways of being truly faithful to God.
- Those given the term Rabbi were recognized for their unique insights, combined with timeless wisdom, and spiritual vitality. They were Teachers of Wisdom.
You can understand why Jesus was called, “Rabboni.”
If we’re looking at Jesus as Teacher this morning, it seems to me that it’s reasonable to ask, Do we have an accurate record of his teachings? How firm should our confidence be in the Gospel accounts? Do they present an accurate, reliable record of Jesus’ teachings, or was it just “whisper down the lane” and we can’t be sure of just what he said and taught?
I take a traditional approach on this one. You know that I take a progressive, non-literal approach to a lot of things in the Bible – Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, Jonah & the Whale – I view them as divinely inspired parables; worthy of our attention and study, but parables not to be taken literally. But when it comes to the Gospels I take a high view of scripture, believing them to give us a reliable record of his teachings.
They’re reliable and accurate, but not perfect!
– the genealogy in Matt. contains a mistake or two
– 3 Gospels have the Crucifixion on the day after Passover. John’s Gospel places it on Passover.
I could go on, but there are issues in Gospels, but for me they don’t undermine my trust in the record.
Jesus’ teaching methods were chosen to promote retention.
Picturesque Speech – Ex. “Don’t worry about the spec in your neighbor’s eye. Worry about the log in your own.” If you heard that once, you’d probably remember it.
Proverbial Wisdom/Catchy sayings – “Judge not lest you too be judged.”
Passionate & Powerful Words – “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!”
In addition to these techniques, it’s important to remember that Jesus repeated himself on numerous occasions. Ex. Sermon on the Mount is in Matt. 5-7. Luke 6 gives us much of that same material, but not on a mountaintop, but on a plain – The Sermon on the Plain. Same material, two different settings.
What was Jesus’ profession? – was he a local rabbi at a synagogue or an itinerant rabbi? Itinerant – he travelled from place to place and who went with him? The Disciples were with him every day for 3 years. They would have heard him repeat his teachings time and time again. “If I hear that Good Samaritan story again, I’m gonna loose it!”
In addition to that – he gave them on-the-job training. In Mark 6 Jesus sends the disciples out 2 by 2 to preach, teach, and heal folks of various diseases. In Luke 10 he sends out 72 of his disciples to do the same. Question – what were they teaching? Their own material? No, they were sharing the teachings of Jesus! And then they came back and reported to him how it went – You can imagine them saying, “Lord, I think I messed up the ending to the Prodigal Son story. What did the Older Brother say again?”
Let me wrap this up by having us consider what kind of Teacher Jesus was and is? He’s still our Teacher, right?
- He doesn’t give us all the answers.
He teaches us to think and then figure a lot of things out on our own, which honors our free will and preserves our uniqueness. For example: To understand the Kingdom of God we must become like little children. “I like that. I resonate with that, but can you spell it out for me, Lord. In what ways must I become like a little child?” “That’s for you to figure out, Rich.”
Or, how about, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar. Render unto God what is God’s.” That’s pretty clear, except can we have a few details? How much does Caesar deserve? How much allegiance is too much? What about when Caesar is wrong? What do we do then?
Even though it frustrates me many times, I like that Jesus doesn’t give us all the answers.
- Secondly, Jesus Taught by Example.
He didn’t just tell us to love all people, he went out and did it, while the disciples watched. – Lepers, tax collectors, notorious sinners, Samaritans, etc.
Daily life was Jesus’ classroom. And it still is! Jesus taught the disciples as they went about their daily lives. That’s still one of his primary teaching methods for us.
Life is God’s classroom.
That’s why paying attention to our lives, reflecting on our lives through prayer and scripture is so important.
I hope this message helps you appreciate what an amazing teacher Jesus is and was. We’re privileged to be his students, his disciples!