Who Do You Say That I Am: Teacher

“Sermon on the Mount”
Carl Bloch, 19th century

Scripture Passage: Matthew 22: 36-40
“Teacher, which commandment im the law is the greatest?”  He said to him. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a secon is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I don’t think any of us dispute that Jesus was a teacher.  He was steeped in Scripture and rich with story.  Our canon depicts him as one that people literally followed around to hear and then stayed and hung on every word, sometimes, apparently, even forgetting to bring food to eat!  And yet it wasn’t like Jesus was toting around numerous commentaries or dragging a white board around with him.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t need my trusty little Sunday-morning tote bag crammed full of everything that I will need for the morning along with numerous books with little sticky notes in them where I’m supposed to read somewhat profound thoughts.  And think about it, did Jesus EVER ask the Disciples to memorize something?  The notion of Jesus as teacher was, it seems to me, more engaged.  I don’t envision Jesus as a lecturer.  I think he probably wanted to hear what people had to say.  In fact, I think Jesus was craving knowledge himself.  Surely he wasn’t plunked down on this earth, Holy Spirit aside, with a full knowledge of everything that was needed to be known.  I mean, really, how boring!  I don’t think God meant for Jesus to walk this earth to spout knowledge at us; I think that Jesus came to show us what it meant to be a disciple, to be a learner, to be a student.

Ruins of Synogogue
Sepphoris (Tzippori) Israel

So, what do you think Jesus was doing with those famous missing years?  What sort of life did he have between the manger and the Jordan, between birth and baptism?  Perhaps he was learning, perhaps even going through the somewhat arduous training to be a rabbi, to be a teacher, to be an authority on the Torah and what it means for one’s life.  Perhaps this training began early, early in his life.  In fact, one of the capital cities of first-century Galilee was Sepphoris, the “jewel” of Galilee.  Nazareth, which didn’t have much at all (remember, nothing good comes from Nazareth) was just three or four miles away.  And in the ruins of that city, guess what’s there?  This thriving Jewish-Roman city was the site of a rabbinical school.  Can’t you just see young Jesus sitting at the feet of the master teachers soaking in everything he could?  (So much, in fact, that the famous visit to Jerusalem as a child seemed only natural for him to stay behind and hang on every word that the rabbis had to offer.)

Jesus did not come to set us straight or to fill us with knowledge.  Jesus came to show us how to be a disciple, to show us how to thirst for knowledge and understanding, to show us how to thirst for God.  I’m pretty sure that Jesus taught sans lesson plans.  Instead, he engaged with those around him that they might know what it means to thirst for the Divine, to want so badly to know God that they would become a disciple, a learner, a student of the Divine.  William Arthur Ward once said that “the mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; and the great teacher inspires.”  So, Jesus, the master teacher inspired us to be disciples.  Go and be filled…

On this thirty-first day of Lenten observance, be inspired by the master teacher.  Become a learner.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli