Jesus: The Greatest Teacher
Comprehensive Teaching is Clear and Simple
The teaching of Jesus was easy for His hearers to comprehend. It was not filled with mysterious allegories or lengthy rambling lectures. His method and approach were to be distinguished from that of the rabbis of Judaism. Atticus Haygood, “men’s teaching. Vanity or ignorance makes them seek to appear profound when they are only obscure… ‘the common people heard him gladly.’ This could never be said of even the good Socrates, or the great Plato; for the ‘common people’ could not understand them” (26).
For the most part His messages were brief. He knew man’s attention span was short and his memory fleeting. He appealed to everyday normal activities to illustrate His points, such as, birds in mustard trees, sowers in a field, widows giving money at the temple, etc. Jesus wanted His followers to learn. He would ask questions to evaluate their progress, “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’” (Matt. 13:51). His teaching was relevant to the everyday life of His disciples. He would teach them about giving and praying. Although His teachings were often simple. they could still be very profound, such as, the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12). Still, Jesus was often misunderstood. This was most often true of the most learned religious leaders of the day. However, Jesus was still skillful enough to reach their dull hears and hardened hearts “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them” (Mt. 21:45.)
Descriptive Teaching Uses Word Pictures
Jesus asked for a cup of water from a Samaritan woman at a well and turned it into a discussion about the “living water” only He could provide. Jesus could point to some flowers in nature and say, “consider the lilies of the field.” Jesus had three-D PowerPoints. He gave us many memorable picturesque phrases, such as, “be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
Perhaps the best-known examples of Jesus’ word pictures are found in His parables. He was the master storyteller. For example, “The kingdom of heaven is like…a pearl of great price…a sower who went forth to sow…a treasure hidden in a field”, etc. The parables of Jesus comprise more than one-third of His teachings as recorded in the Gospel. “But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples” (Mark 4:34). Although the Son of God did not invent the parable when He came to earth, He certainly mastered the use of them. ”
Our English word for “parable” is a transliteration of the Greek word parabole. This Greek term is a compound word made up of para meaning beside and the verb ballo which means to throw or cast. Therefore, the word parabole means “a throwing alongside.” Jesus would take a story and cast it down alongside of his teaching, so that the two can be compared and contrasted. This would assist the disciple in comprehending His lesson. The term “parable” has been given a very broad definition, such as, a “story with a meaning.”
Why did Jesus use parables? Everyone loves a good story. These capture the attention and cause the mind to visualize.
On the one hand parables were used to reveal truth to the inquiring mind and on the other to conceal it from the narrowminded and self-righteous. When asked why He preached in parables Jesus explained, “because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:11-13).
A parable can cause the hearers to pass judgment on the events of the story, so as to realize that they must make a similar judgment in their own lives. As the story developed, the listener would be drawn in without realizing it. “When the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that He spake of them” (Matthew 21:45). This is why He spoke such parables of the Two Sons and the Wicked Tenants (Mt. 21:23-39; Mk. 12:1-9; Lk. 20:9-16).
Some of the parables were used to fulfill prophecy concerning Jesus and the coming Kingdom. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world’” (Matt. 13:34,35).
Repetitive Teaching Is Memorable
The Greek form of the word “taught” implies that Jesus spoke these things often. He has already taught these things in the past and was teaching them again. It would be of no surprise to find Christ teaching some of these same truths in the future. The Christ would continuously and habitually teach His disciples. Most of teaching and parenting involves repetition, repetition, repetition. This is why several of the teachings of Jesus are repeated even in the same Gospel.
Productive Teaching Indoctrinates
Six times in His sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You have heard that it hath been said, but I say unto you.” Jesus used repetitive phrases not only to boost memory but to indoctrinate His disciples. He put the doctrine or teaching into the people. He even commands His apostles to do the same. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt. 28:19-20)
Objective Teaching Is Internally Applied
Jesus’ teaching did not deal with the eternal existence of man but looked to the real source of sin: the human heart (Matt. 15:10,11,15). He said, “a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). It was not loose laws on weapon possession which led to murder. Jesus looked to the heart of the issue. Murder begins with hating one’s fellow man (Matt. 5:21,22). In the case of adultery, He contends that the lustful look is the actual perpetrator (Matt. 5:27,28). Jesus’ teaching is to affect the heart where man makes his moral decisions and not merely his intellect. After Jesus spoke with two disciples “they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32).
Persuasive Teaching is Convicting
Jesus did not merely teach the truth and leave others alone. He condemned sin and warned the sinner. He taught His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees meaning the pervasive false teaching. He told the apostles to warn men to believe and be baptized or else they would face condemnation (Mark 16:16). He warned that the very words He taught would serve as the standard of judgment in the final day. “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” (Jn. 12:48).
Illustrative Teaching is Transforming
The Bible was not given just for intellectual information but for the soul’s transformation. Jesus began with where the soul of man was – in sin. He moved the sinner with His skillful teaching to a knowledge of the sinner’s condition, the need to accept His invitation, and be transformed into a Christian. Jesus said, “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Jesus took Peter, a “rock”. and made him part of the foundation of the church built upon the prophets and apostles. Jesus took John as “son of thunder” and developed him into the apostle of love. He transformed Zacchaeus into a son of Abraham. He taught His disciples to pray like He did. “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1). In order for Jesus to be able to transform His disciples into Christ-like followers, He first had to illustrate by His example.
Effective Teaching Saves
The primary objective of Christ’s mission was to seek and to save the lost (Matt. 18:11). His teaching was the means of leading men to eternal life. Jesus taught to save, and He saved by teaching. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63). No matter how many times His enemies tried to test, trick or distract Him, He never strayed and went “chasing rabbits.” For only Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him (John 14:6).
Jesus’ ministry was only about three and a half years. During that time, he was able to teach twelve men. These men were so well taught, that when they carried out their mission as apostles, the world was changed forever.
– Daniel R. Vess