Jesus: The Greatest Teacher

Part One

Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher. A study of how to teach God’s Word should begin with a careful observation of the teaching style of the Greatest Teacher: Jesus. Nicodemus made a visit to Jesus one night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (Jn. 3:2). This Jewish ruler was just one of many to recognize that Jesus was a great teacher. Many others have concurred with this opinion. Josephus, the Jewish general turned Roman historian and the unbelieving satirist, Celsus claimed as much for Jesus. More recently other men have made similar observations about Jesus’ teaching ability. J.W.G. Ward wrote, “he is not one among the world’s teachers; He is the Teacher, unique in understanding, supreme in sympathy, and unparalleled in power to bless the human soul…” H.B. Grose said, “Jesus is the world’s teacher, unique and ultimate.”

Was Jesus just a great moral teacher? Jesus was not just a great teacher who came from God, He was God. Jesus claimed to be the Christ (Greek for “the anointed” Son of God, see Mark 14:61), to be able to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-11, Luke 7:36-50), and to be the only way to God the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”.(John 14:6). Jesus was fully divine. He was also fully human. There was and will be no other teacher like Him.

This lesson will focus on what made Jesus such a great teacher of God’s Will.

Distinctive Teaching is Appealingly Fresh

After Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). When Jesus opened His mouth and began to speak, it was not as one of the learned Rabbis of the day. He was like the Rabbis who stood up to read scripture and took a seat when giving their explanation. Yet in contrast, He did not speak like the scribes who quoted learned Rabbis and then gave their opinion. These were not a collection of Jewish sayings or proverbs or opinions of the day. Unlike the scribes, He did not parrot the teachers of past rabbis or follow human traditions.

His preaching was radical and revolutionary. “So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:22). The distinctive teaching style of Jesus drew the attention of massive crowds. Yet there was no need for a fancy show or gimmicks to gain and maintain the crowd’s attention. “Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority, He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mk. 1:27)

He did not go to a school for rabbis nor sit at the feet of a great Greek Philosopher. “And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’” (John 7:15), “Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (Jn. 7:40.) This provoked the jealousy the religious leaders and teachers. Pharisees sent officers to take Jesus by force. Those sent to arrest Jesus came back empty handed. The soldiers explained, “Never man spake like this man” (Jn. 7:45,46).

Authoritative Teaching Is Powerful

Jesus spoke as if He had inherent authority. He spoke as if saying “thus saith the Lord.” The multitude was impressed by this fresh and authoritative approach (Matt. 7:29). He did not give just give the views of others but boldly claimed, “But I say to you.” “The common people were astonished. He was not a scribe. He had no religious credentials. Yet he spoke like a king. His sayings were a new Sinai. The scribes quoted authorities; he spoke with authority. They loved tradition, and no rabbi won a hearing unless he could prove that his word was based on past wisdom; so, the scribes drew stale water from closed cisterns. But the words of Jesus were like a spring, clear, fresh, with power to slake the soul’s thirst.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, New Testament Articles, Matthew and Mark, page 335).

The Jews recognized that Jesus needed authority for what Jesus did (Mt. 21:23-27). They asked Him, “By what authority …” He taught and did His works (21:23). The Jews believed that such authority must come from one who has the right to grant it — “Who gave thee this authority?” Jesus recognized that they were trying to trap Him, so he turned the tables on them, and they were trapped. He asked them about the source of John’s authority. “But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” (21:24-26). They then realized that if John’s baptism was authorized by God, they should have been baptized. “And He said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’” (21:27). Jesus’ answer shows that there are only two sources of authority: Heaven (divine), or from man (human).

Jesus’ authority to teach originated with God, His Father “Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jn. 7:16,17). God told Peter at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mt. 17:5).

The Pharisees elevated their traditions to the level of divine authority. But Jesus’ authority was not based upon human traditions (Matt. 15:1) or office (Matt. 23:2-3) or perception (Mark 12:23-40) or human wisdom (1 Cor. 8:8).

Definitive Teaching is Scriptural

Any teacher of the Word of God must have a sound command of the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Scriptures well. Three times He replied to Satan, “It is written” (Matt. 4:1-11). Christ viewed scripture as the sustenance and standard for life. He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). He demonstrated the proper application of scripture. He rebutted Satan’s misapplication of the Word of God. “Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” (Mt. 4:7). Scriptures do not contradict each other, but men contradict them.

Jesus viewed all Scripture as the inspired, infallible Word of God. Old Testament Scripture was historically accurate. He believed the story of creation and Adam and Eve, the great flood of Noah’s day, Jonah being in the belly of the great fish for three days, the healing of the disobedient Israelites by Moses’ brass serpent, the wisdom and riches of Solomon, etc. He considered the Bible totally accurate. “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18).

Jesus mocked the Pharisees’ understanding of the Scriptures more than once by asking them “having you not read?” Condemning the Sadducees’ disbelief in the resurrection Jesus said, “You err, not know the scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). Many religious leaders of today fail to grasp the true meaning of the very scriptures they teach.

Sensitive Teaching Is Compassionate

Jesus was a “people person.” His teaching reached out to all the people especially the average man. What set Him apart from other teachers was His compassion for all. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23), His compassion went beyond mere sympathy for physical suffering. He was a friend of sinners (Matt. 11:19). He saw the masses as an unprotected flock. “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). Mark’s account adds, “so He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34). You can tell a student anything, if they know you care about them and love them. People care little what you know, until they know how much you care.

– Daniel R. Vess

2023-07-16 - Loving One Another
2023-07-30 - Jesus: The Greatest Teacher (Part 2)
Categories: The Forum