Disciples-How Did Jesus Teach? ~ 20110116 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/16 What did Jesus teach – about the Scriptures? (how did Jesus teach?)
We've been looking at Jesus' final command to his followers before he left the planet, with a view to how we can carry it out.
Jesus commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples of him. We are to pass on information, character and passion that results in a transformed life. We are to have content, character and conviction that is contagious to those around us. We've been looking at what that means. We've looked a little at what some of the content is. We looked at what Jesus taught us about God. We examined some of the things Jesus told us about his Father. We looked at what Jesus taught us about himself. And we looked at what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit. If we are going to be followers of Jesus, we must embrace everything he taught. If we are going to make disciples of all nations, we need to know what to teach them about God.
All Disciples are called to Teach
But we also need to know how to teach. If the primary method of disciple-making is teaching, and if we are all called to be disciple-making disciples, then we all need to be equipped by Jesus to teach. I want you to feel the weight of this. I come over to you this morning during the last song and lean over and whisper in your ear 'I'm feeling really sick and I need to leave. Will you teach God's people this morning?' What are you feeling? What's going through your head? Now some of you might be secretly thinking 'oh, I wish that would happen! I would love to have the opportunity to get up in front...' Those of you who think that way – you scare me. You're probably the ones I would not ask - for that very reason. Most of you however, would probably be thinking 'I'm not feeling too well either. Where's the nearest exit?'. That may not be a very plausible illustration. So lets get more down to earth.
*A member of a religious organization comes to your door wanting to indoctrinate you with their religious beliefs. How do you talk to them?
*A co-worker has been observing your character for the last 10 years and they come to you and say 'okay, you've earned the right to speak. Tell me about this Jesus stuff'. Where do you start?
*A friend from church is facing some painful circumstances and they call you and ask 'why is God letting this happen in my life?' What do you say?
*Or one of your kids comes to you and says 'Dad, I've been talking to some of my friends at school. How can we be so sure that what we believe is right?'. How do you instruct them?
Those are all real examples that I have faced personally, and I expect that you could add to the list of daily opportunities we are all given to teach and to make disciples. In Colossians 3:16, we are instructed to:
Whether we have a specific role that requires teaching or not, we are all called to teach one another. I take the time to say this, because I don't want anyone tuning out at this point saying 'this is about teaching and I'm not a teacher so it doesn't apply to me.' Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple, and teaching is essential to the disciple-making process.
How Did Jesus Teach?
So this morning I want to look at how Jesus taught. My focus today is not on the content of what Jesus taught, but his method of teaching. Now we might be tempted to look at Jesus' use of parables and stories, object lessons and illustrations, probing questions and in your face rebuke and confrontation, and that might be helpful and instructive, but I want to go even deeper than method. I want to try to get behind how he taught. I want to try to get inside his head and his heart and see how he thought that motivated how he taught. Or to ask it another way, what was the foundation of his teaching?
Scripture the final authority in personal moral decisions
To give us some help seeing what was foundational to his life and teaching, we'll start with his private conversation with the devil at the outset of his public ministry. Turn in your bibles with me to Matthew.
Although Jesus was not intending to disciple the devil and make him his follower, this passage has huge implications for teaching. Disciple making is training in making life decisions as well as training in truth and doctrine. In fact the two must be one. Our life choices must flow naturally from the truth we embrace. And we see this in Jesus' personal life as he faced temptation from the devil. He was faced with moral decisions and he made those in light of the written word of God. Three times in this passage, Jesus replies with the phrase 'it is written', and he quotes the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, he articulates our utter dependence on God's words in all of life. “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus based his every life decision on God's word.
Now I may be making an assumption, but I don't think that when he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness he stopped by the local synagogue to grab a Torah scroll. In the moment of temptation he didn't whip out his pocket scroll and start spinning through it to find where it was written. This seems to indicate that he was deeply familiar with the words of scripture, that he had listened intently to God's words read in synagogue each week, that he had studied and meditated on God's words, that he had followed the advice of the Psalmist, when he says:
There are implications we could draw from this passage about memorization and church attendance and personal study, but we will leave that for another time. It is clear from the way our Lord responded to the devil, that he appealed to the written word of God as his final authority in his own moral decision making.
Every little Word
Because of Jesus' radical new teaching, many thought that he contradicted and discarded the scriptures, but he made it clear that this was not so. He says in Matthew 5:17:
In Jesus' day 'the Law' or 'the Law and the Prophets' were ways of referring to what we now know as the Old Testament. Jesus explicitly states that he does not intend to abolish the Scriptures, but to fulfill them. He points us to the least stroke of a pen and says that it will not pass from the written word until all is accomplished. Jesus tells us that even the smallest parts of the letters that make up the words are significant. Not one part of God's written word is trivial or unimportant. If God bothered to say it and have it written down and preserved for us, then every bit of it deserves our careful attention and study. Jesus tells us there are deep consequences for disregarding God's word, but there is great reward for all who obey it and teach others to do the same.
Scripture the foundation of his own teaching.
Jesus then goes on to base his moral teaching on the precepts of the Old Testament Law, pointing us beyond the external keeping of the letter of the law, to the true goal of transformation of heart and desires. Six times in this passage on issues of anger and insult, lust, divorce, taking oaths, retribution and hatred, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said to those of old... But I say to you...” (Matt.5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43)
So we see that Jesus used the scriptures as the basis for his own moral decisions and as the foundation of his moral teaching. He explicitly says that he did not come to do away with the written word, but rather to bring it to fruition.
Scripture the final authority in controversy with religious leaders
Let's look at how Jesus handled the scriptures when he was in conflict with the religious leaders of his day.
Jesus held up the commandment of God over against the tradition of men. He quotes the scriptures and says 'God commanded... but you say'. He accuses them of making void the word of God for the sake of human tradition and he says their worship is worthless.
Listen to how Jesus talks. Jesus said things like:
Jesus appealed to the scriptures as the final authority in his controversy with the religious leaders of his day.
Scripture is historically reliable
I think it's appropriate to ask a question here. We've seen that Jesus used the Scriptures as his rule for faith and practice. He anchored his own moral decisions and his teaching in the Scripture. He argued from the scriptures with the religious leaders of his day. But did he believe the scriptures? Let me clarify what I mean by the question: Did he view the bible accounts as true history, or as religious myth and fable designed to teach a spiritual truth? Jesus himself spoke sometimes in parables – fictitious stories that he used to communicate a moral or spiritual truth. In what category did Jesus place the Old Testament? Let's look at a few examples.
Jesus refers to the Genesis account of the creation of mankind by God and the first marriage and assumes that it is true and factual (Matt.19:4-6). He refers to the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, (Mat.12:38-41) and to the wisdom of Solomon (Mat.12:41-42). He refers to Noah and the ark and the destruction of the world by the flood (Lk.17:26-27) and to Lot and his wife who turned into a pillar of salt and the fire and sulfur that God rained down in judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Lk.17:28-29, 32) as if they were real people and actual historical accounts. Jesus anchored his arguments on the historical events.
So Jesus took the bible to be true history, he took it as the final authority in religious controversy, as the basis for his teaching and as the compass to guide moral decisions.
Scripture a guide to Jesus' Messianic office
Jesus also claimed the prophetic scriptures must be fulfilled, and that they were fulfilled in him.
Jesus believed himself to be the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures. He took the bible not only as a guide in his moral decisions, but also as a guide in his Messianic role.
Jesus' view of his own teaching
So Jesus believed the stories of the bible to be true and factual, and that it was the final authority in moral and religious issues. But Jesus' bible was what we know as the Old Testament. Can we say anything about what Jesus thought about the New Testament?
We do know what Jesus said about his own teaching, and that he claimed to speak God's words. He claimed that his teaching was absolutely true. He frequently said things like:
Those who heard him were amazed at his teaching.
Jesus even claimed the same kid of Old Testament permanence for his own teaching.
Jesus' view of the New Testament
But Jesus didn't write any books. How do we know that his followers got it right? We know from any honest historian that the four gospels are considered to be accurate and reliable historical documents. But does Jesus have anything to say about what his apostles would write? Jesus told his disciples that they would bear witness because they had been with him.
He promised them supernatural power to be his witnesses, in fact he promised the Holy Spirit to be their constant teacher and to remind them of what he had taught.
So Jesus believed that the Old Testament was reliable and authoritative, and he believed his own teaching was on the same level, and he ensured by the power of the Holy Spirit that his disciples would accurately bear witness of him and speak with his authority.
If we want to be followers of Jesus, we will embrace what he taught us about the bible. We will embrace the bible as true and trustworthy, as the authority for life and faith, and what we speak and teach will be rooted in and saturated by the very words of God. As Paul said to Timothy: