We would all be dead without it. Consider this. Somewhere along the line, you were taught everything you know and do today.
We all go through a process of learning the bare essentials. The toilet training stage. Learning how to eat and drink. Walk and talk. Then as we walk through life, we begin to understand more complex lessons. Skills like how to read and write. How to tie your shoes. How to cook. How to apologise. How to interact with one another.
Some are still learning those lessons. But truth is, we all are. Anyone who claims to know everything is delusional. The fact that we are in the 21st century, part of society as we know it today, is thanks to our ongoing learning over hundreds of years.
You see, life is a great teacher.
Teaching is part of the fabric of life, and we are students to it
And Jesus claimed to be a great teacher (John 13:13).
Now, Jesus didn’t claim teacher status to get a job down the road. This wasn’t his little spoken resume. No, this Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 16:15). The way to the truth and fullness of life (John 14:6). In light of this, we see something clearly.
When Jesus accepts claims to be a teacher, he claims to have incredible authority. Not just a teacher of maths or science. This is a teacher of life itself. Essential for the forward movement of the world. Essential for the continuation of society. Essential for life.
And importantly, every teacher has students.
In claiming to be a teacher, Jesus invites us to come and learn. To be his students. Therefore, it is essential we assess his credentials. It is essential we understand what sort of a teacher he is. Hence this new 3-part blog series. So get your red pens out.
Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.
CHECKING THE LIST
I’m currently undergoing an education degree. Training to be a teacher. And throughout my first year, we learnt some of the qualities and disciplines required of a good teacher.
In looking back on 2016, I began a summary of the key qualities to a proficient teacher. Just jotted some bullet points on paper. And being a Jesus follower, knowing his claim to be our teacher, I looked at the list and asked myself one question:
How would Jesus stack up to the list?
- A good teacher has proficient knowledge of the content
This is perhaps the most basic requirement of any teacher. A teacher needs to know what they’re teaching. I hardly need to labour on this point any longer. It is such an important part of teaching that the Australian Professional Standards demand it be met.
Significantly, Jesus knew his content like the back of his hand. Even at an early age, it was clear Jesus had proficient knowledge. History records Jesus schooling religious leaders when he was 12 (Luke 2:47). Just think about that for a bit.
A twelvie teaching highly educated men. This is one of the craziest things ever. To put it in some modern day context, it would be like a 12 year old gathering all of the world’s top scientists and disproving evolution. And then later in life, solving the world’s worst cancer once for all (1 Peter 3:18).
This dude knew his content.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan, he responded with scripture (Matt 4:1-11). When Pharisees questioned the motives of Jesus, he responded with scripture (Matt 9:9-12). When Jesus was put to death, he responded with scripture (Matt 27:46).
Whenever Jesus was questioned or under attack, he oozed God’s word. Because he is God’s word. But more on that later.
- A good teacher has a passion for the topic and students
Just knowing the content isn’t enough. All good teachers have a very real sense of passion towards their field. I can testify to this. Because some of the worst classes I have ever been part of were run by bored teachers. No names mentioned.
It’s pretty rare for anyone to love a class if they hate the teacher. You see, when a teacher doesn’t care about the learning outcomes of the students, things don’t go well for both parties. My lecturer absolutely nailed it with this key statement:
“When you step into a school it is no longer about you. It becomes all about the students”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son… (John 3:16)
You see, when Jesus stepped into the world it was because of us.
Try getting your head around this amazing truth. The whole reason Jesus came was due to his passionate commitment for us (Isaiah 9:6-7). To save us from death (Matthew 1:21), to give us life to the full (John 10:10), to teach us the ways of God (Matthew 18:14).
Like any good teacher, Jesus knew his content well. He had a deep seeded understanding of scripture (to say the least). But it was the passion for his students that made heads turn (Luke 12:32). Even when it came at his own expense.
It is the passion Jesus has for us that makes life in his classroom a joy.
- A good teacher conveys the content in relevant, understandable ways
You can have a proficient understanding of the content. You can even have a deep passion for the students to learn. But then you hit a roadblock. How am I going to get this information into their heads? How am I going to engage the students in learning?
My lecturer suggested that “making learning interesting is the key to many problems.”
And really, it’s all about making links with the real world. This is why we are given assignments to research our favourite celebrity. This is why fractions are often synonymous with pizza. These strategies engage us. They meet us where we are.
To take something unknown and complicated, yet present it clearly and in relation to known concepts, is the pinnacle of teaching.
When it comes to teaching so that content can be understood, Jesus is the absolute professional. He consistently and intentionally made links with this world, in order to explain out-of-this-world stuff.
Jesus used analogies with common commodities such as salt and light, to describe pretty deep concepts (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus used culturally relevant stories to explain counter cultural truths (Matthew 13:33, Luke 10:30, Luke 15:11). Jesus even ran practical lessons so we could see his teaching and power firsthand (Matthew 14:13-33).
Jesus meets us where we are, so he can bring us to a place we aren’t. Teaching 101. Even 2000 odd years ago, Jesus understood how we learn best. He is the trailblazer, the trendsetter, to a style of teaching still used in universities and schools today.
And that makes Jesus no ordinary teacher.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will unpack three more bullet points and the teaching credentials of this Jesus.