JESUS, THE MASTER TEACHER OF THE AGES
The subject before me entails far more than that with which any man could ever fully deal. However, I do hope to deal with enough of the material involved to make it worth our time to be engaged in this study.
I propose to prove that Jesus is the Master Teacher of the ages. I plan to do this (1) by dealing with His person (who He was/is), (2) by considering some things which He did, and (3) by concentrating on His attitude toward and His handling of the truth (God’s sacred word).
Jesus is the Master Teacher of the Ages Because of Why He Is
The Bible teaches, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with god, and the word was God” (John 1:1). The Word eternally existed. The Word was eternally deity (God). There was never a time when He was not God (a member of the Godhead).
But He became flesh (by being begotten and born in a way which was contrary to the laws of nature). “And the word became flesh . . .” (John 1:14; Matthew 1:18-2:1). He became what He was not before. Thus, He was God-man.
Paul put it this way: “For there is one God, one mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus” (1 timothy 2:5). He grew up as an unknown person (in obscurity), He grew up in relative poverty, He did not attend noted schools. His family was comprised of relatively obscure and unknown people. Yet, even as a baby He came to the serious attention of a political leader. While yet a boy of twelve years of age, by His understanding and His incisive way of questioning, He startled the learned doctors of the law in the synagogue. When He became a man, He fed a multitude of hungry people by miraculously multiplying just a bit of food. Even though He was untrained in medicine, He healed multitudes of people. Not only did He not attend prestigious schools and did not study writing (to any advanced stage), He was vital to the production of the greatest book which has ever been written. Never has there been a university faculty—no matter how respected it might be—which could defeat Him in public controversy. He put all of His challengers to rout.
He could not be killed until He was ready to submit to the aims of human leaders to crucify Him. He was not merely a man; He was (and is) God. He was not merely a teacher; He was the greatest teacher who ever lived. He died (“tasted of death”) for every man (Hebrews 5:8-9). Yet, He arose from the dead on the third day after His death.
He is the one through whom God made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2). The totality of creation was brought into being through Him. He was of such nature that to see Him was to see God.
He died for all men so that, by the grace of God, every sinner would have the opportunity to be saved from his sins (Hebrews 2:9). He offers to all sinners salvation from their sins by the grace of God (Titus 2:11). Yet, each human being must believe, love, and obey Him in order to be saved. He is the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9; Matthew 7:21-27).
He was/is the Logos (the Word), the essence of truth and reason (as well as of being the man, Jesus Christ). Thus any translation of John 1:1 which tends to hide or obscure the emphasis on truth, mind, and reason cannot be satisfactory. No man can do justice to the concept of God if he tends to obliterate the necessary connection between the Godhead and the truth. It must be recalled that Jesus taught, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
No one can be a great teacher if he does not love, know, teach, and live by the sacred truth of God. No teacher was ever better qualified than was Jesus to teach the truth which is the Bible. Later there will be an entire section on this matter.
Jesus was the Master Teacher Because He Never Sinned
It is at least conceivable that a man might both know and teach the truth even though he neither believed it nor lived by it. For example, Demas was a fellow-worker with the apostle Paul. Since this was the case, Demas no doubt both knew the truth and surely, for a time, at lease made a pretense of believing and living by the truth. But the Bible makes clear that Demas forsook Paul because he “loved the present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). No one can love both God and the world at the same time.
Some Things which Jesus Did
There are many things Jesus did with which, because of the lack of space, I will not be able to deal here. But let us note just a few of them.
Jesus was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). No even once did Jesus do what was contradictory of the Father’s will. Jesus went through the experience of suffering (the cross) without sinning and, thus, became the author of eternal salvation to al those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9; 4:15; et al.).
Jesus loved every person (including every sinner of the vilest sort) and died for all men (Hebrews 2:9). No one can be a great teacher without truly loving those whom he would teach.
Because of His deity and infinite love for all men, Jesus was the incomparable teacher. There is no record that He ever formally studied pedagogy, yet it is clear that He, being the Son of God, knew more about teaching than any one who has ever lived on Earth. And, even though His direct earthly teaching was completed almost two thousand years ago, no one—not even the most learned “scholars” can ever be compared to Him and His perfect teaching.
Jesus was the Master Teacher Because of His Attitude Toward Handling of the Truth which is the Bible
1. Jesus was the Master Teacher because He spoke with incomparable authority (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus did not try to give validity to His teaching by referring to (“documenting”) various scholarly religious leaders. Rather, He spoke to people as “one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). When Jesus spoke, He did not speak as merely some ordinary man—He spoke as the God-man—the Son of God who has all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 7:28-29). Even the officers said of Him, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).
2. Jesus was the Master Teacher because of His perfect knowledge of the subject matter which He taught. His basic subject matter was (1) God, (2) God’s will, (3) the results of obedience and of disobedience during earthly life, and (4) the results of both obedience and of disobedience at and after the final Judgment.
Jesus kept before His listeners the fact that He had perfect knowledge of God the Father, that He had been with God throughout the eternity which had preceded His birth of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25). As to the will of the Father, Jesus made clear that He never had to “guess”—Jesus knew perfectly the Father’s will (John 6:38; 4:34; 17:3-4; 19:30). (the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets to write infallibly the New Testament (2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus of Nazareth was actually the Son of God teaching the truth of God while He was here on Earth.
3. Jesus was the Master Teacher because He had perfect knowledge of the people whom He taught. There is no record of His ever having studied psychology. Yet, as John’s record states, “. . . he needed not that any should bear witness concerning man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He knew perfectly the thoughts, the longings, the imagined needs, the real needs, the motives, and the goals of every person.
4. Jesus was the Master Teacher because of the clearness and concreteness of His method(s) of teaching. He taught in such fashion as to fit perfectly His lesson to the needs of the person whom He was teaching. He taught new lessons in terms of old ones—that is, in terms of matters with which His auditors were already familiar (John 6:64; 13:11; Matthew 9:4; Mark 2:8; Acts 1:24; Revelation 2:23). This “apperceptive” method involves comprehending a new idea by assimilation with one’s previous knowledge. This method entails five steps: (a) preparation, (b) comparison, (c) presentation, (d) generalization, and (c) application. It may be summed up in this fashion: using something old (already known) to teach something new (not already known).
To do this sort of “down-to-earth” teaching, Jesus used various phases of such pursuits as farming, fishing, building, cooking, buying land (and a number of others) in order to make clear the various points in His spiritual lessons (cf.: Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 13:47-50; 13:33; 44-46; Hebrews 12:1-2, et al.). Jesus adapted this method to the status and needs of the individual person or group which He wished to teach. By doing so, He established a point of contact with the student and wisely opened the way for the lesson which He wished to teach to a particular person who was to be taught.
Also, vital to this method was His use of questions. In one sense, he was seeking to help people to gain real peace of mind (Matthew 5:3-12; Philippians 4:6-7), but on other occasions, He sought to “stir up” (unsettle their “peacefulness” while living in sin). Although He was (is) the “Prince of Peace,” He also said of Himself that He came not to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51-53). Jesus came not only to answer questions (John 8:32) but also to raise them (Matthew 22:45). In one sense, He came to bring peace but in another He came to bring a sword. Thus, Jesus came to start “a fight” among men (Luke 12:51). It is clear that Jesus came not to save men in their problems but to stir them up to find the true answers to the way out of their problems. Jesus did not come to save men from problems but from spiritual indolence. He did not come to make life necessarily “easy” but to help them to see life as capable of being more educative than the way they had viewed it.
Jesus asked questions of His auditors in order to stir them to careful, analytical thinking—to see the problem and truly think about how the problem could be solved. He used questions in order to open the way for the lesson(s) which He wanted men to learn. He was simple and direct in His method. He often threw His auditors into a dilemma by asking questions which forced them to face squarely the problem at hand (Matthew 21:23-27). Not only did He Himself ask questions, He also provoked His class to ask questions.
By doing this, He provoked His class to try to get themselves into the heart of the problem which was under discussion. This procedure helped to lead them to face the truth without their having their feelings too severely wounded.
Then, after making His point of contact, Jesus would skillfully lead the conversation toward the great spiritual truths which He wanted men to learn and apply (Matthew 21:23-27; 21:38-32; 22:23-33; 22:41-45).
Jesus used many concrete examples. For example, to teach the great lesson of trust, He placed a little child in the midst of some people, saying, in effect, “You be as this little child.”
He vitalized His lessons by explaining them in such fashion as to make them fit the lives, needs, and interests of those whom He sought to influence toward righteousness. His lucid statements held the interest of people. His carefully selected repetitions caused His listeners to retain what He said to them. His illustrations and parables helped them to understand. Charles H. Roberson, Professor Bible at Abilene Christian College, in a Bible class which I studied under his direction, gave a great deal of emphasis to such matters in giving a word picture of Jesus as a teacher. For this, I am indebted to him.
5. Jesus was the Master Teacher because of the overall purpose of His mission into the world. His basic mission was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10; Matthew 1:21; 1 Timothy 1:15). He deal with both earthly and eternal issues. He wanted men to come to know God (John 17:3) and to obey God’s truth (John 8:32).
Thus, it is clear that Jesus was concerned with freeing men from the clutches and the consequences of wrong motives, beliefs, and habits of living and, then, to show them the way to reconciliation with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Since man’s sins had separated him from God, it was Jesus’ great aim to prove (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21) that He was the one mediator between men and God—that is, to make clear that He was the one who could provide man the way of spiritual life (John 14:6).
Jesus is man’s only way back to God. No man can have a higher aim for his life than that which was the aim of Jesus.
6. Jesus was the Master Teacher because H practiced perfectly what He preached. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus that He was “tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus not only taught men to obey God; He Himself also obeyed God. He did so without ever failing even one time (1 Peter 2:20-21; Hebrews 5:8-9). Even His enemies could find no fault in Him (Luke 23:4, 14; CF. Matthew 27:4).
The great mission of Christ into the world was to become the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 2:9), to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). In order to do this, He had to be tempted in all points like as we (men), yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). The only adequate response to this fact is that of recognizing Him to be the Son of God and of lovingly obeying Him (John 14:15).
7. Jesus was the Master Teacher because of the scope of His vision. He gave the awesome marching orders to His disciples to go preach the gospel to every person in the entire world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:6-8). It was/is not His intention that even one person—no matter what his race or nation—should not have the privilege of hearing and obeying the gospel of Christ.
No teacher ever had a broader vision of his audience. No man ever had as clear an insight into the most crucial needs of man as did Jesus. Those basic needs are: to know God, to be strong enough to reject the deceitfulness of sin, to attain unto fellowship with God, to become a child of God, to live a truly righteous life, to love all men (including one’s enemies), to gain peace of mind, and to live day by day in hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 2:13; 3:7).
8. Jesus was the Master Teacher because no other teacher could or can match the moral standard which He set out and upheld. He strongly condemned adultery (Matthew 19:1-10). But He did not end with condemning the overt act of adultery, He even went behind the overt act and condemned the lust which led to the overt act (Matthew 5:28).
Also, He went “behind” the vile crime of murder and condemned the hatred in the heart which led to the overt act of murder.
He plainly declared that “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9; cf. 5:31-32).
Jesus conditioned all right action upon living with faith in and fervent love for God and for neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). No adequate moral standard could avoid having as a constituent element Jesus’ instruction to love one’s neighbor as himself (Mark 12:31; 1 Corinthians 13:1-7).
9. Jesus was the Master Teacher because no one else ever taught a message which had/has as far-reaching effects for the good of mankind as that taught by Jesus. Wherever the gospel has been preached, believed, and obeyed, there has resulted a tremendous benefit to mankind. To understand and appreciate this fact, one needs only to reflect on the tremendous amount of good which has resulted from Jesus’ teaching in regard to the overall welfare of women (1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:23-32). Many men around the world look upon women as somewhat beneath men as to how they should be treated. Jesus implicitly condemned this attitude.
One has only to consider carefully the overall effects of Jesus’ teaching on the home, the community, the state, life, death, responsibility, sin, grace, salvation, the resurrection, the judgment, eternity, eternal life, eternal punishment, et al. to understand the point here being made. Being a faithful Christian (a faithful member of the church for which Jesus died) involves saying the right words, but it also involves much more than mere talking. It involves commitment with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
Jesus’ teachings help men to understand the foolishness of striving for the goods of this world in such fashion as to defeat the gaining of wondrous glories of eternity in Heaven, that land that is fairer than day (Revelation 22).
10. Jesus was/is the Master Teacher of the ages because no other teacher ever loved his students as Jesus loved His. As previously noted, Jesus loved the truth, and He taught all men to love it (John 8:32). He had the message of the Father to tell (He came to be about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49).
But even so, there was also something else which motivated Jesus. (There is a sense in which this matter is really a part of “his Father’s business.”) This “something else” was not the gaining of the favor of mere men (He flaunted that!). It was not for worldly possessions (in one sense, all of the world was already His; in another sense, “He had no where to lay His head” Matthew 8:20). It was not for worldly position (He scorned it!). Such motives may impel ordinary teachers, but did not impel Jesus (He was impelled by His love for the lost sinners of this world). He sorrowed when men rejected the truth—He sorrowed for them, not for Himself (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 23:27-31). He wanted all to be saved (Hebrews 2:9), including even those who crucified Him. Because of that love, even as He hung dying on the cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He died with a cry of love on His lips!
No other teacher ever gave such an inspiring invitation: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). This includes the invitation to rest, to salvation from sin and its sorrows, and, finally, to everlasting life in Heaven with Him.
11. Jesus was the Master Teacher of the ages because He spoke with incomparable authority. No man is authoritative in religious matters. Jesus has been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18-20). The multitudes were astonished at Jesus, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29). Jesus did not try to enforce what He taught by referring to the various religious leaders among the Jews. Rather He claimed authority as the Son of God. When Jesus taught, the words He spoke were not those of a mere man but of the Son of God. He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth.
12. Jesus was the Master Teacher of the ages because He was the absolutely perfect logician—He Himself always drew only such conclusions as were warranted by the evidence, and He demanded that others also draw such conclusions. Some of the instances of such argumentation are found in the following passages: Matthew 4:11; 21:23-27; 22:15-22; 22:23-33; 22:41-45, and many others.
I want to urge one and all to study very, very carefully the life of Jesus while giving special attention to the argumentative (in a good sense) encounters which Jesus had with various people among the sects of the Jews. Study these encounters with a view to learning how Jesus dealt with teachers of false doctrine. Note carefully that, as Jesus deals with Scripture, He demands that men infer what the explicit statements of the Bible imply. I also urge that, after one has done the foregoing, please do take a very close look at 1 Thessalonians 5:21 with a view answering the question, “Just what does one do when he correctly follows the instructions to prove all things and to hold fast to that which is good?” The Bible is comprised of the explicit statements which make up the Old and New Testaments. In order to understand what the Bible teaches on any given matter, one must learn the explicit statements of the Bible which are relevant to the particular problem which is at hand. Having done that, one must then correctly determine what is implied by those explicit statements. This means, quite simply, that one must infer what the explicit statements of the Bible imply. Nothing is authoritatively binding on any man merely because some man inferred it. Whatever it is that is implied by the explicit statements of the Bible are bound on men not because any mere man inferred it, but because God implied it!
May each one of us devote his life to learning and living by the teachings of Jesus, the Master Teacher of the ages!
Thomas B. Warren