Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Jesus Our Teacher

Jesus Teaching

by Dennis Pollock

When I was a scrawny little six year old boy I entered the first grade and met the lady who would introduce me to the world of reading – my teacher, Mrs. Hartzell. Oddly, over a half century later I can still remember her vividly. She was what my mom used to call “pleasingly plump,” with gray hair, a kindly face, and an ability to keep energetic little boys in line while remaining very much likeable. Although I had been in kindergarten the year previously, it was here in first grade that my real learning began. I went into that year innocent and ignorant, and by its end I was still innocent, but not so much ignorant. Over the course of those nine months I became a reader and a writer.

We read through the Dick and Jane books with their brilliant prose, including such notable sentences as “Run, Spot, run!” and “Puff can jump and play.” It seems like utter cornball today, but there was no one to tell me that in those days, and I was fascinated with the pictures and the combinations of words which made up sentences and stories. I began a love affair with reading which has endured to this day. Over my life I couldn’t possibly begin to calculate how many books I have read, and I have even written a couple of books myself, along with writing articles on a weekly basis. Wherever you are, Mrs. Hartzell, thanks for being such a special teacher and positive influence in my childhood.

Teachers are a universal phenomenon. They are found in every culture and in every nation. The reason for this is simple enough – we start out in life ignorant of, well, everything. And if left to ourselves we will pretty much remain this way. We might learn a few things by our own observations and experimentation, but not much. We human beings desperately need people who possess skills, knowledge, and understanding far exceeding our own to instruct us, educate us, and raise us up to a level beyond where we presently are. We need to be taught.

Spiritual Education

If this is true regarding reading, writing, mathematics, and social studies, it is far truer in spiritual things. Our Bibles make is clear that in Christ we are to grow and develop in the knowledge and the ways of God. Peter writes, “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” and later encourages us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul tells us that God has given several types of gifts to men and women, for the building up of the church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Next to the apostles and prophets, the teachers may seem a pretty unimpressive lot, but in truth teachers of the people of God are incredibly important. God says that His people are destroyed “for lack of knowledge,” and it is the teachers who serve to remedy the curse of spiritual ignorance and provide the knowledge which enables the church to both survive and thrive.

When Jesus began His ministry He functioned in each one of the ministry gifts, and that included that of a teacher. In fact, Teacher was the title by which He was most widely known. Jesus functioned in many roles, but it was in the role of Teacher that He was most clearly associated. He was not commonly called “Miracle Worker,” “Counselor,” or “Preacher.” To most of the Israelites He was known as “Teacher.”  The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, demanding, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” One curious man came to Him, asking, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus Himself declared, “Do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ…” And the Jewish leader, Nicodemus, said to Jesus, “We know that You are a teacher come from God.”

Ultimate Teacher

Here was mankind’s great need – a Teacher that has come from God to instruct us about the nature, the expectations, and the love of our great Creator. And Jesus spent His time doing exactly that. He taught in the synagogues, He taught as He walked, He taught in boats, and He taught as He reclined at the table for dinner. When the chief priests sent officers to arrest Jesus, they found Jesus doing what He always did – teaching the people. And somehow they were so fascinated and intrigued by the marvelous truths that came from His mouth, they could not bring themselves to do what they had been assigned to do. They returned without Him. When they were angrily asked why they had failed to bring Jesus back, they could only say, “No man ever spoke like this man!”

As He walked the dusty streets and paths of Israel, Jesus continually spoke of God and His ways to anyone who cared to listen. He even called men to follow Him as His travel companions and become His disciples – students and learners who would carefully listen to His teachings and incorporate these divine principles, instructions, and impromptu lectures into their lives. There were no classrooms, desks, or multiple choice tests – the curriculum was just time with Jesus. Listen, watch, observe, ask questions, discuss, and allow this Teacher come from God to mentor them in divine things.

For a while it didn’t seem to be working very well. The disciples were willing enough, and faithfully followed Jesus wherever He went. But they seemed immature and carnal, and gave little indication of any potential to ever become spiritual giants. They argued about who was the greatest, and constantly seemed to misunderstand their Teacher. And when Jesus was arrested and they faced the supreme test of their allegiance, they failed miserably. The Shepherd was smitten and the sheep were scattered. But after Jesus was raised from the dead, and these disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, those years of sitting at the feet of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known began to pay rich dividends. These common laborers, fishermen, and a tax collector shook the world and began a movement which today encompasses about a third of the world.

Compassionate Teacher

Jesus in synagogueThe Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to a certain area and saw a huge multitude of people. We are told that He “was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” These people had no one to tell them the truth about God. Their lives were messy and unstable, their thinking was hazy and saturated with errors, and their leaders were doing them more harm than good. They were desperately in need of someone to set them on the right course, correct their flawed thinking, and educate them in the ways of God. After telling us that Jesus had compassion on these shepherd-less people, the Bible goes on to say: “So He began to teach them many things.” He did not lay His hands on them and zap them with mega-doses of spiritual power. He did not preach a fiery sermon, pacing back and forth and waving His arms frenetically. He simply taught these people, calmly instructing them in the ways of God. It was their great need, and Jesus was and is all about meeting people’s needs.

It is not any different today. With all our educational facilities, with all our impressive universities, with all our instructors who list Ph.D. after their names, most people still fit precisely into that category so plainly spelled out in the Scriptures – “sheep without a Shepherd.” Without a true Shepherd, that is. There are plenty of would-be shepherds who intone and discuss and opine on all sorts of issues and topics. But it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One which is true understanding (Proverbs 9:10). Of what profit is it to fill our minds with facts and history and current events and political insights, and yet be wholly ignorant of the nature of our Creator and what He expects, yes demands of us! If we are to have any hope of real success in this world, and be considered wise and genuinely insightful, we must have a teacher. We must be instructed by someone who far exceeds our own knowledge, wisdom, and experience in spiritual truth. And that teacher is Jesus!

The Role of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit plays a very prominent role in this educational process. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:25, 26). This may sound a bit contradictory. First Jesus tells us that we have one Teacher, and He is that Teacher. Then He says that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. So who is our Teacher: Jesus or the Holy Spirit? The answer is: “Yes!” Jesus teaches us by the Spirit. They are both totally involved in our education, but because they are one, it is just as proper to say Jesus is our Teacher as it is to declare that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher. Just as Jesus saves by the agency of the Holy Spirit, heals by the Spirit, and revives His church by the Spirit, so He teaches by the Spirit. This precious instruction is for believers only: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Jesus’ Instruments

Today we learn from Jesus first of all, by reading the gospels and drinking in His nature, His words, and His perspectives. But our textbook is not limited to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because “all Scriptures is given by inspiration of God” the Pauline epistles, the books of Moses, the Psalms, the prophetic books, and every other book in the Bible are a means God uses to instruct His children in His ways. If God’s people are destroyed for lack of spiritual knowledge, it must follow that His people are saved, blessed, favored, and enriched by an abundance of that knowledge, and the application of it to their lives.

However it would be a mistake if we saw God’s educational process as being strictly between us and God – with no need for any human interaction. If we take the attitude that our spiritual instruction is “just me and Jesus” we will miss out on much. God has always used ordinary human beings to teach, enlighten, and instruct His people. From Moses to the prophets, to Peter, Paul, and John, and even to present day teachers in the body of Christ, God has called, anointed, and used men and women to instruct His people in the essentials of walking with Him.

In my life I have had numerous mentors who helped me along in the things of God. Many years ago I dreamed that I was a student sitting at a desk in a classroom, and Billy Graham was standing at the front teaching the class. I was impressed that God was encouraging me to study the ministry of Billy Graham and learn about evangelism from him. I spent the next year listening to Billy’s sermons almost every day and watching Billy Graham crusades on television. I read his books and various biographies about him until he became like an old friend. Although I never met Billy, much of what I learned from him became foundational to the African evangelism that I do today.

At one point in my life I was strongly impressed to work for David Reagan and learn from him. I even heard a semi-audible voice as I was waking from sleep telling me, “You will be taught by an older man.” Dave was that “older man,” and the things I learned from him about Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus Christ laid a foundation in my life for the many teachings and writing I have done on that subject. There were several other ministers who became significant influences on me and the ministry the Lord has entrusted to me. In truth all of this fell under the umbrella of the teaching office and ministry of Jesus. Whether through the Bible or a biography or a teaching book, or a mentor, it was Jesus teaching me through His Spirit, using various means of His own choosing.

After receiving Jesus as your Savior, embrace Him as your Teacher. Trust Him to do what He does so well. Nicodemus got it exactly right: He was and is the “Teacher come from God.”

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