Jesus Christ represents a great deal of titles. These range from the Son of God to the Suffering servant. One title in which I believe Christ hold the definite article is that of teacher (rabbi). The great tragedy of today’s culture, Christianity included, people see Christ as a philosopher more than they do an intellectual instructor or teacher. How can we expect others to know Him when we ourselves do not (1 John 5:13-21)? This is significant because every letter or book we have in scripture regarding Christian living has its foundation in Christ. What makes this brilliant is why we are supposed to live in Christ is not based upon theories or nice ideas but from the very life Christ himself lead. It did not matter the person or situation, Christ set the tone for everyone by His response as well as reactions. In every word Christ was the ultimate Christ educator and he so because He implanted the truth he knew, lived according to that truth, and did so in love. To learn, live, and love was the big picture method of how Christ lived as a teacher and I believe can be clearly seen throughout His time here on Earth.
The first example I would like to use in supporting Christ and his philosophy in teaching comes from John 4 when He meets the woman at the well. As a result of the Pharisees getting steamed over His ministry, He left Judea for Galilee. Verse four is interesting because it tells us he “had” to go through Samaria. This route was, while short, one avoided by the Jews, yet Christ went all the same. Jesus was doing as the father wanted, He did not care that the Samaritan’s were a mixed race, rivaled the religious system and rejected Jewish leadership, He knew there were open hearts there. As Christ was at the well he met a woman. At this point he would have been tired, hungry and thirsty yet He put His needs aside in order to meet hers. This woman had a lot against her. She was Samaritan, women were inferior in that culture, and she was an outcast from her own society. Christ desires the undesirable. He knew her need and heart so He presented himself as living water. We see Christ expose her need, and establish that He could make that need met. I think how He ministered to her is how we should minister to both believing and unbelieving people; He met them where they were at. Christ did not start with deep theological insight nor did he condemn her, but started with Himself and His love. In ministry, there will be no bounds in the needs we encounter.
As Christ did to this woman we must use our theology to love them, and when they are in a position to learn deeper meaning, teach them deeper meaning. Here His theology was validated not in what He said but what He did. In verse 35 Christ then uses the analogy of the harvest. Our ministry is to be harvesters. Sometimes that means planting seeds whereas others it is seeing those seeds come to fruition. What that means though is that we need the tools to effectively do so. Farmers are not using the same tools and techniques they did hundreds or even fifty years ago. While the same basic principles remain, our tools should upgrade as is necessary. Christ knew how and when to use His tools and our goal should be to do likewise.
My second point uses Matthew 23:13-37 as an illustration of Christ teaching the Pharisees. We see Christ in full on confrontation against the Pharisees in the hopes of convincing them of their needs. Unlike the Samarian woman, Jesus takes a more intellectual approach. The Pharisees would have known the Old Testament Law very well. This showed the extent to which they hated Christ as they ignored not their own teaching. Christ comes at them much harder because they were not only leading their selves astray they took others with them. It was the knowledge that they had by which Christ held them accountable. They should have known better. Their teaching was everything opposite Christ was. They selfishly lived a lifestyle of piety, ignorance and hypocrisy. The beautiful thing about Christ was as He attempted to show them their error He maintained composure in both His love and speech. His approach was apologetic. His goal was to lead them to their inconsistencies with the hopes for change. In all His time on Earth He tactfully attempted to teach them, to offer the kingdom, and after rejection after rejection He finally delivered His survey of the religion they created.
The more we elbow around in intellectual circles the more we are going to see people living shallow religious lives. They turn God’s word into a textbook and nothing more. I know people who take great pride in their knowledge of theology and languages, and they are some of the most prideful, unloving, people I have met. They are still believers, but like the Pharisees they miss the mark. They turn Christ and his teaching into everything the Pharisees did with the Law. In these situations all we can do is continue to have discussion, relationship, and simply love them in the hopes that they will change. Sure they may not have converted while He was on Earth, but some eventually did, including the apostle Paul. Christ also exemplifies the importance of knowing what you are talking about. He always had an answer and defense, something He would not have had without studying/living God’s word. Theology is not a bad and will only help us as we minister and teach, just as it did Christ. As ministry goes we should prepare ourselves in both the lives we lead and things we think.
The last look at Christ’s teaching I want to present comes from John 13:1-20. This took place before the Passover as Christ knew His time was up. Jesus takes it upon Himself to wash the feet of the disciples. He uses this to sum up His life’s teaching passing the baton over to them. Again this is not something He had done in theory or by head knowledge, but through relationship and experience. He set the tone for those who followed Him to do the very things He had done. By washing the feet of the disciples Christ signified that through Him they were to now go out and do the very same. And they did! We have record after record of the things they did after Christ died. All the teaching they had received through their time with Christ served as the foundation for their life after Him. When we lead and minister to people someday they will be without us and they will have to put into practice what they accrued form us. Christ taught the disciples not just by the words He spoke, but also by the life He lived. He did not draw a picture on a board of a person washing someone’s feet. He did it firsthand so they would do the same. A good teacher walks the very miles they talk so that when they are gone you we can keep walking.
As Christ spent time on Earth His goal was not to conform to the world but instead transform it (Romans 12:2). He taught with a sense of intelligence and understanding. We should have that same mentality. We may live longer than Christ, we may not, and whatever the case may be we should bring meaning in this age of the meaningless. Our goal as people in ministry, teachers, and even believers should be to teach the truth of Christ in us clearly and effectively. That means if we have to take four years of Bible school or more then we should very well do it. If Christ took thirty years for three should we not be willing to do likewise. More than ever humanity is search for truth so we should learn, know, and live in order to teach the truth in which Christ has given us. May we know Him and make Him known.