bits from bob....

Jesus: The Master Teacher

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

According to Luke's gospel (4:14-16), early in his ministry Jesus was in Galilee teaching. What else Jesus may have been doing is not revealed. Luke only notes that Jesus is "in the power of the Spirit," that people throughout the countryside are talking about him, and that everyone is praising him. One can safely say that on this occasion Jesus is a teacher--he is teaching. That this passage immediately follows Luke's account of the temptation suggests a time frame at the very beginning of Jesus' public ministry.

Building on this brief introduction of Jesus' ministry, the first encounter with Jewish leaders in the synagogue at Nazareth is recounted (4:16-30). After Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah, all eyes are upon him as though he is compelled to speak further. What he says is that the passage from Isa. 61:1-2 is being fulfilled even as he speaks. How shall we understand this teaching from Jesus/ What is he saying about his teaching ministry? What is he suggesting about our ministry as we teach the Word of God, or as we are involved in any kind of teaching? What lessons can we learn? What is the power of teaching?

One might initially observe at least the following. When a Christian teacher teaches, there is always some sense in which that teaching is by the power of the Spirit. Whether reference be made to the words we speak, the attitude we bring to the teaching task, or our awareness that God is the one who ultimately gives gifts which enable us to serve, God is at work in our lives as we teach. Also apparent in Jesus' teaching ministry is his calling. Calling may refer to God's demands upon our life, but the idea of calling is often extended to occupational choices (cf. Eph. 4:1-2). The Latin vocatio comes into English as vocation. One might also compare the vocative mood in some languages which is the mood for addressing (calling) others. Other lessons applicable to the task of teaching could also be developed through careful study of the text, e.g. perseverance, the pursuit and power of what is right, and the power of presence.

What Do Teachers Do?
At least five applications may be made from the Isaian passage as it is quoted in Luke 4:18-19. To appreciate the way in which Jesus applies this Old Testament prophecy to his teaching ministry, the text Jesus reads must be kept in view.

Bringing good news to the poor. Teachers who help educate those who are in poverty do indeed share good news. That one can escape one's past, that one need be neither slave nor victim to circumstances is good news. In the public school classroom the truth that educational opportunities are good news is often difficult to communicate. In the Bible school classroom, the "good news" too frequently gets lost in the search for facts and timelines and details. Nonetheless, teaching involves sharing good news that makes a difference in the lives of students.
Teachers with the positive attitude that characterizes Christianity share good news with every student they teach, but that news is especially good news to the poor, even as Jesus was heard most gladly by the poor.

Freeing those who are imprisoned. An apt metaphor for the teaching and learning process is release from prisons. As students learn, they are released from prisons--prisons of self-doubt, small dreams, prejudice, bias, and inability. Teachers who facilitate learning so that the student relishes self-discovery and can avoid the prisons of life has taught well.
An amazing thing observed by many who teach is the large number of persons who are comfortable in the prisons of their lives, whether those prisons are of their own making or are imposed upon them. The frustration teachers develop when working with parents who have no dream for their children to become better and go further or the frustration of attempting to teach persons who have become comfortable in the religious practices and beliefs they have known all their lives and do not desire change is balanced by those students who seize the door of freedom and throw it wide open to breathe the fresh air of knowledge and information and power whereby they live life freely and fully.

Helping the blind see. I have been legally blind for most of my life except for the benefit of corrective lenses. A few years ago, my extreme nearsightedness was corrected by radial keratotomy. Now I can see extremely well (better than most persons of any age) without the need for corrective lenses. While I have not experienced the blackness of total loss of sight, I may understand a little of recovery of sight.
To see what one has not previously seen, to grasp a new insight, to find abundance and joy in the discovery of truth not formerly known is exhilarating. Teachers who teach well provide sight where before only blindness, blurred vision, or imprecise focus were present. Bible class teachers at every age level from pre-school to adult who encourage the discovery of truth by their students rather than presenting "canned" facts are aptly described as bringing "sight for the blind."

Releasing the oppressed. Oppression comes in our society in may ways. The abused are oppressed, the belittled and demeaned are oppressed. Oppression wears political, economic, ethnic, societal, religious, familial, psychological, emotional, and may other faces. Regardless of the source of the oppression, teachers are often instruments in releasing the oppressed. May those who teach look for opportunities to help oppressed persons find a way out of the turmoil and discontent of their lives. May those who teach God's truth in Bible classes recognize the many faces of oppression and serve as change agents in the lives of students.

Proclaiming God's grace. While it may be difficult for us to understand precisely how public school teachers proclaim God's grace, we with faith believe that lives dedicated to and loyal toward Jesus as Lord proclaim God's graciousness toward his human creation. One should perhaps be intrigued by the truth that the Isaian passage proclaims God's grace rather than God's judgment or wrath.

Students enter our classrooms. Students leave our classrooms and ultimately go out into the world. They may learn much, they may learn little. Grades will be attached to their work according to the knowledge gained.

Jesus, the Master Teacher, urges us to grade our own work as teachers by another standard. Did we share good news. Did we help any find freedom? Were any blind persons helped to see? Were any oppressed people encouraged to find a way of release from their oppression? Was the message of God's grace heard?

What happens when we teach? That is the ultimate question.

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Last updated January 24, 2002.