The four Gospel in the New Testament refers to Jesus as a teacher (Rabbi) 48 times. He is never referred to as a ‘preacher’ although he is mentioned as having preached his message. This article deals with the way and the manner in which Jesus taught his message of his hearers two millennia ago. Jesus taught with authority. It is God’s authority that he taught with. He was full of grace and truth. People came to talk to him and addressed him as ‘Teacher’ or ‘Rabbi’. Matthew 13:54 records people were amazed by his teachings: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed. Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” “Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. When they heard this, they were amazed” (22: 23). Again, we see him described as teaching, “When the crowd heard this, they were astonished at his teaching” (Matthew 22:33). In Luke 20: 1-3 we find that Jesus taught people with authority and also that he had a clear purpose in his teaching. “The Gospel according to John records in Chapter 7 that the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Jesus because what he had said went against their vested interests, but the police of guards were amazed by his unique teaching like of which they never heard before. So, when they came back to their senders and asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” They replied, “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”
Jesus taught with authority. God gave to the ancient Israelites the Ten Commandments through his servant Moses. In course of time their Rabbis made as many as 640 laws to “enable” the people to comply with the Ten Commandments. Jesus’ teaching was unique and spiritually revolutionary and as such it was life changing. Philippians 2: 5-11 we have a narrative of humility in Jesus’ life. He was the supreme example of humility and service. He taught that the way to greatness is humility and real service of selfless love. “The common people were astonished. He was not a scribe. He had no religious credentials, yet he spoke like a king. His sayings were a new Sinai. The Scribes quoted authorities, but he spoke with authority. They loved traditions, and no rabbi won a hearing unless he could prove that his word was based on past wisdom; so the scribes drew stale water from closed cisterns. But the words of Jesus were like a spring, clear, fresh with power to slake the soul’s thirst.”He taught new life through faith in God. His mission focused on the following fundamental principles. He acted as a servant, taught leadership by example. He was the supreme teacher and coach or mentor for people. It is said of him in Matthew 4: 23-24: “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
Jesus always put people first. He said it is people for who was the Sabbath instituted by God, but not that people were created for the Sabbath. Luke 13: 10-17 narrates the story of the healing of a crippled woman on the Sabbath day. The Synagogue leader became indignant at that. He told them, “There are six days for work. So, come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” But, Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath from what Satan bound her?”
Jesus taught people with the use of natural objects and with things that were all familiar to his hearers so that they could easily understand what he was teaching them. Jesus’ hearers were challenged by what he taught. It was a tradition among the Jewish Rabbis not to contract with what they said the teaching of any other. So, it happened that teachings continued to grow more and more in the passage of time. Everyone used to say something different from that said by others. Huge amount of teachings cropped up. There piled up volumes of rabbinical sermons, but they did not carry much value for the spiritual life of the people. Religion became a burden for the people as it were. Someone thus commented on the volumes of Sermons being “the driest, dullest collection of disjointed comments upon every conceivable problem in the history of mankind. In contrast, Jesus’ teaching was new and newer as he preached and taught the people on matters of practical life and is living so that people might live in right relationship with God and with fellow-beings. He emphasised both the vertical and horizontal relationship, with God and with man. When he finished giving his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) the crowds followed him and amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” ( Matthew 7: 28-29). Following this we see it is written that when he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.
Jesus also taught on different important subjects graphically so that the man on the street could easily follow his teachings. He said, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But, everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27). Jesus gave emphasis on the idea of knowledge being incarnated into action, words into deed. Words and work must live side by side. He warned people against merely giving lip-service to ones faith saying, ‘Lord! Lord!’ He taught that people’s faith and personal life must co-inside. One remarkable thing Jesus taught his disciples was that he taught them how to pray to God. In Matthew 6 and Luke 11 have this prayer. He taught them how to love and respect God and also people. This prayer provides the most excellent model for our prayers to God.
Jesus taught what he practiced, he practiced what he taught. For this reason even many atheist called him the greatest spiritual teacher for humankind for all time. He did and said and taught everything with divine authority.
The writer is a Christian Theology teacher and a Church leader