Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Teaching of Christ

Leslie Basham: Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some of you may be familiar with a video, a DVD now, called Molder of Dreams. It's a story about a teacher named Guy Doud. He was a high school teacher, and he had such a  heart for his students. He was a man who found amazingly innovative and creative ways to motivate his students to learn. He  took personal interest in the students, and had a significant impact on his students as a teacher. Well, in 1986 Guy Doud was invited to the White House where he was honored by President Reagan as the national Teacher of the Year.

Today we want to look at the Man who would have to be honored as the greatest Teacher of all time.

Leslie: Who was the greatest teacher ever? We'll explore that question as Nancy Leigh DeMoss continues in the series "The Incomparable Christ." It's Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Nancy: The incomparable Christ is who we're talking about in this series. Today we want to look at Him as a teacher. There has never been and never will be a teacher like Christ.

In fact, one night, Nicodemus, who was himself a learned and respected teacher, sought Jesus out, and said to Him, “We know that you are a teacher come from God” (John 3:2).

So Nicodemus knew that Jesus was no ordinary teacher. He was no ordinary rabbi. There was no one else like Him indeed, for He had come from God.

The Gospels refer to Jesus as a teacher more than forty times. Jesus was always teaching. He occasionally taught in structured settings, but more often he taught in the context of everyday life and relationships. He was able to naturally weave eternal truth and perspective into everyday moments and conversations. That's what makes a good teacher. He always steered conversations in such a way as to give people God’s point of view on whatever they were talking about.

Jesus was a teacher who—unlike some teachers we may have had at times in the past—His teaching was compelling. It got attention, and from the outset His teaching drew large crowds. As word of mouth spread, people came from great distances just to hear Jesus teach.

Matthew 4 tells us that,

He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, [miles and miles away] and from beyond the Jordan (vv. 23–25).

So here is Jesus teaching up in the northern region of Galilee, but people hear Him, the word travels, and they come from all of these distances to hear this new rabbi teach. Now, the teaching of Jesus not only drew great crowds, but once they got there, His teaching provoked and prompted amazement. You see this all through the Gospels.

Matthew 5:1 says, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying . . .” Now, what follows that verse? Matthew 5 begins the Sermon on the Mount. So Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, this is what Jesus taught to those who came. You get the impression as you study that passage that it started as a smallish gathering—Jesus and His disciples—but then others gathered around. By the end of the Sermon on the Mount, there is a great crowd gathered there on the hillside.

So we come to the end of the sermon on the mount, Matthew 7, and it says, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished” (v. 28). If you have the NIV, it says they were “amazed” at his teaching. That word translated astonished in Greek is ekplesso. The word literally means they were “struck out of themselves.” They were dumbfounded. They were amazed. They were astonished.

That wasn't the only time. Matthew 13:53 says,

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished [ekplesso, dumbfounded], and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (vv. 53–55).

You see, Jesus’ teaching was unlike anything they had ever heard before. He was just a “carpenter’s son.” They didn’t expect a tradesman to have this kind of wisdom. After all, Jesus didn’t have seminary training. He didn't have any advanced degrees. He got His wisdom from God. He was a student of God’s Word. They were not used to hearing teachers who got their wisdom directly from God.

As you continue in that passage, Matthew 13, you come to verse 57 and you realize that the reaction—though amazed—was not always positive. It says, “And they took offense at him.” Isn't it true today that many today take offense at Jesus and reject His teaching? Perhaps they don’t find Him sophisticated enough for modern years. Because Jesus' teaching doesn’t jive with conventional wisdom; it runs counter to our culture.

Look at another instance, Mark 1, where the people were astonished at Jesus' teaching.

And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished [ekplesso, dumbfounded] at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes (vv. 21–22).

Now the scribes in some of your translations are sometimes called “lawyers.” These were men who were experts in the Mosaic law. They spent their lives studying the minute details of the Mosaic law. And then, they taught the law and interpreted it for others. They were experts in the law, the scribes. The people said Jesus taught them as one who had authority, not as the scribes.

Verse 27, “And they were all amazed.” Now here's a different Greek word. It's a word that means “to stupefy and astound.” “So that they questioned among themselves, saying, 'What is this? A new teaching with authority!'"

Jesus' teaching was in many ways a contrast to the teaching they were accustomed to hearing from the scribes and religious teachers and leaders. Let's look at some of the ways that Jesus’ teaching was different. For example, rabbis and scribes and religious teachers often quoted from other rabbis and teachers. They borrowed from human sources. They expounded on tradition. But the word here used of Jesus' speaking is used of Jesus having authority within Himself, not authority derived from others. His message came from His Father. It carried divine authority.

The scribes and teachers of the law often focused on minutiae, the minute details of the law. They strained gnats and swallowed camels, Jesus said (see Matt. 23:24). But Jesus focused on matters of eternal significance. He taught things that really mattered. He kept coming back to the same core message about the Kingdom of God, the King of that Kingdom, and what it meant to be a subject of that Kingdom.

Commentators say that if you read the Talmud—where the scribes wrote out their sayings—that it’s often difficult to follow the complex ramblings and reasoning of the religious leaders of that day. But Jesus’ teaching, by contrast, actually made sense. It was orderly. It was to the point. Common people could get it.

Here is another contrast. The sermons of the scribes were often vague and misleading (Matt. 5:21ff). But Jesus was direct, and spoke the pure and simple truth.

The teaching of the scribes was often dry and boring. It was not intended to connect with common people—they were basically talking to themselves. But Jesus’ teaching was engaging. He captured the attention of crowds, including children. Remember there were no nurseries for the little ones. Jesus piqued the interest of His listeners with stories, illustrations, word pictures, and with parables.

His teaching was not stuffy, not formal, and it was not above people’s heads. He didn’t overwhelm and confuse listeners with big words, erudite arguments. He used everyday examples, object lessons. He connected with common men and with the hearts of people. He was a great storyteller.

His teaching was simple enough for little children or people of little education to grasp. Yet it was deep enough to challenge people like Nicodemus, who had studied the Scripture for years.

Here is another contrast. The scribes and other religious leaders were often motivated by greed, by keeping up appearances. They had desire for the praise of men. They wanted other people to say what great teachers they were. They were not motivated, many of them, by genuine love of the people they taught.

Jesus really loved people! He was motivated by compassion. He was concerned for the eternal well-being of his listeners. Remember that passage in Mark 6, where it says, “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” They were wandering, aimless, and helpless and defenseless. So what did He do? His compassion motivated Him. “And he began to teach them many things” (v. 34). He was the great Shepherd. He led His sheep and cared for them by His teaching.

There were other things that made Jesus really great teacher. He knew His students. He knew their hearts. There is no teacher in the human realm who can know the hearts of his students. He spoke not just to their minds, but He spoke words that penetrated, pierced, and changed their hearts.

He not only knew His students, but he knew what His students needed to hear, and that is what He gave to them, regardless of whether that’s what they wanted to hear or not. Regardless of their response, He knew what they really needed, and that is what He gave them.

He spoke words in due season, words that would meet the needs of the listeners. Sometimes those words were hard things to hear. He said, "Don't worry about anything" (see Matt. 6:25). He spoke against, anxiety, greed, hypocrisy, divorce. He talked about people who thought they were serving God, but one day would get to stand before God and God would say, “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of iniquity” (Matt. 7:23).

If you want to be a popular teacher, that’s not exactly the route to go, especially when you're speaking to religious leaders. But Jesus spoke what his listeners needed to hear. Whether they were children, or parents, paralytics or Pharisees, whatever, He spoke what they needed to hear.

Mark 12 says, “And they came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God'" (v. 14). Jesus had no fear of man. He loved God, and was not trying to win popularity contest. He loved people, and He knew to give them what they needed.

He not only knew the students and what they needed to hear, He knew the Scripture. He knew the Old Testament scriptures. He didn’t have a formal seminary training or advanced degrees. He was a student of the Word of God. In fact, the Gospels tell us that He quoted from at least twenty-four Old Testament books. I wonder how many of us could do that without opening our Bible—quote from twenty-four Old Testament books?

Jesus wasn’t teaching to impress people with how much He knew about the Old Testament, but He used the Word to point people to God and His Kingdom, but He helped them understand the Word. He showed them how it connected to their lives and to what God was doing in the world.

Jesus was also a great teacher because of the power of a life message. His life validated His message. He lived what He taught. His life backed up His words and was consistent with everything He taught. There was never a contradiction with what He did and what He said. He said, “blessed are the meek,” and then He said, “I am meek and lowly in spirit.”

He didn’t just talk about prayer, He actually prayed! When He said, “Love your enemies, forgive those who persecute you,” He wasn’t just giving theoretical theology there. He modeled what it was to return good for evil, to forgive your enemies, to love them and to pray for them.

And by the way, those of us who are involved in teaching the Word to others—whether it's a home-schooling mom or perhaps leading a small group or discipleship relationship that you're involved in—there is such power in a life message. It’s one thing for me to just teach the truth through this ministry, but the power comes when I say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I have a life message. Not that it’s perfect, but that I’m honestly seeking to follow Christ in the things that I'm teaching to others. That's where the power comes. There is power in a life message.

Jesus didn’t always just teach to large crowds. Sometimes teachers wonder, How many are in the audience listening to me teach? Jesus spent lots of time focused on teaching a small group of twelve disciples. And then a smaller group yet of three of those disciples who spent a lot of time with Jesus.

What was Jesus doing? Why did He focus on that smaller group? He was training and preparing His disciples to carry on His mission after His death, His resurrection, and His ascension back to heaven. He was intentional about investing in them. His intent was that when He left this earth, they would teach others what He had taught them. Then those that they taught would then teach others, and the baton of Truth would be passed from one generation to the next.

Jesus taught His disciples by spending time with them. They saw how He lived and His character when there were no crowds around, no one to impress. He gave them freedom to ask questions, and then He responded to those questions. He used everyday experiences as teaching moments.

Some of you may be familiar with the name Howard Hendricks. “Prof” was the name he was known by during the sixty years that he taught at Dallas Theological Seminary. He retired at the age eighty-two. He was well beloved by a whole generation of students, and many like myself who did not go to his seminary but listened to his messages many times over the years. His teaching and his lectures were never dull, and no prof was more quoted or more quotable.

Prof Hendricks says,

In my formative years in the classroom I learned that my students were desperately seeking the "how" of putting Christian truth into active life, and I determined to risk encounters close enough to allow myself to rub off on them, to be a guide, a facilitator—not to produce smarter sinners, but to lead a man or woman to be more like Jesus Christ. My goal was not merely informative but transformative.

That reminds me of the teaching of Jesus. His teaching was not just dispensing information and filling heads and notebooks. He was teaching to see lives changed. He said, “The words that I speak to you, they are life” (see John 5:24).

By the way, that is my burden through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. That is that people would not just get their heads and their notebooks filled with more content, but that they would be gripped, be arrested, be stopped by the truth, they would respond to it, grapple with it, and their hearts and lives and minds would be changed by the truth; that we would together be transformed by the teaching of Jesus into the likeness of Christ.

As we think about the teaching of Christ, let me just suggest two other takeaways as we consider Christ as a teacher. First of all we need to remember that His teaching is absolute truth. It carries absolute weight and authority. When Christ speaks, God speaks. It's powerful, authoritative, and binding on our lives.

The teaching of Christ is timeless. It never becomes obsolete. Things that were taught in classrooms twenty, thirty, forty years ago, we have found were wrong. New evidence and new studies show that's not the way it is. Christ's teaching never becomes obsolete. It's eternally relevant. It's relevant to every person in every culture in every time period of history. His teaching applies to your life today, to every relationship and every situation you encounter. The challenge is to listen to it, let it transform your life.

One of our staff was saying to me the other day, she has been following along in this series. After she read this chapter on the teaching of Christ out of Oswald Sanders' book The Incomparable Christ, she said, “That chapter made me want to be a master learner. If the author of this book is the master teacher of all time, I am crazy not to read it.” I hope that is what the teaching of Christ does to you.

Just one more thought. We are not just to be recipients of Christ's teaching, but we are to become channels of His teaching—always learning and growing, but always passing on to others. That's not just for people like me who have  a microphone, a platform, a radio program, and write books. That is for people like you. All of us are called like Christ, to be teachers.

Jesus said as he was getting ready to ascend to heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). Jesus says to us as His disciples to teach others what He has taught us.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16). We can do that in everyday life and in everyday contacts and exchanges, in Twitter, Facebook, and email—teaching one another what God has taught us.

“By this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb. 5:12). That’s an evidence of spiritual maturity that you’re reproducing in others what God has taught you through His Word.

Particularly as women do we have this mandate. Older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women . . . that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3–5).

Ladies, you don’t need a formal classroom. You don’t need twenty-two students sitting in chairs looking you in the eyes. You have students.

  • They are people around you.
  • They are your children.
  • They are people in your workplace.
  • They are people that you engage with in a variety of ways through your church and your community.

Look for ways to steer the conversation to the eternal and to heart needs of those around you.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, talking about Jesus as the greatest teacher who ever lived. She’ll be right back to pray. Today’s study on the teaching of Jesus is part of a series called “The Incomparable Christ.”

Do you consider yourself a “teacher?” Jesus was a powerful teacher and He gives us strength to follow His steps.  But teaching? Is that for you?

I’m not going to say God calls everyone to teach in exactly the same way. But even if you don’t stand up in front of a group of women or a class, you can still have an important role in teaching others what you’ve learned. God may want to use you to teach others from His Word.

And Revive Our Hearts would like to help you grow in your effectiveness as a teacher. We’re inviting you to the conference Revive '15: Women Teaching Women.

Nancy will be speaking along with Jen Wilkin. Lauren Chandler will be there to lead worship. Now this training is definitely for formal teachers, like women’s ministry leaders. And it’s also for Sunday school teachers and small group leaders. And it’s for women who teach women one on one.

At Revive '15, you’ll learn how to dive into God’s Word, read it effectively, and understand it. And you’ll also be more equipped to share what you’ve learned with others.

This is an opportunity to be more effective and knowing the Bible and helping other women know it too. Revive '15 is coming to Indianapolis September 25–26. Get more details at ReviveOurHearts.com.

The most talented, smart, capable person who ever lived was also . . . the most humble. We’ll talk about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy ended today’s message on the importance of teaching others what we’ve learned about Jesus. She’ll pray that we can live that out.

Nancy: Father, I pray that as You have taught us, so we would become instruments, conduits, channels of Your teaching into the lives others. Thank you for the teaching of Christ. Thank you Lord for teaching us by your Holy Spirit. I pray that our hearts, this day, would be freshly gripped by the teaching of Your Word, that we would receive it, we would embrace it, we would study it, we would meditate on it, and our lives would be transformed by it. We pray it in Jesus' name, amen.

    Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

    All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.