November 20, 2022

Jesus our teacher

Passage: Proverbs 1:2-7, Matthew 13:33-35, Matthew 7:12, 24-29, John 1:38

Did you ever have a special teacher? A favourite teacher? A teacher that changed your life?


Do you have a story to share of how much a teacher influenced you or made a difference in your life.


Personally, I loved school, did well at school. I loved the sports at school, and I loved learning, and I had good friends at school, and I was actually pretty smart having the highest marks in graduating class of my high school.


And part of that is credit to some good teachers. Two good teachers I had were Mrs. Hanlon and Scotty Somerville. I also had my mother for a math teacher, and one year when I had a not-so-good chemistry teacher, my mother pretty much taught the whole chemistry class at home to me. So, I was blessed with some good teachers.

Although full disclosure, my grandmother was a teacher, my mother was a teacher, my one brother was a teacher and my sister-in-law was a teacher, and I have a Bachelor of Education degree and at was a substitute teacher in Yorkton, Saskatchewan to supplement income and to build relationships within the community.


If you go on the internet and google best teacher stories you will come up with some stories of how teachers changed lives.


Julie writes this:

"I came from a very conservative home where I was silenced and my opinion was not valued. In junior high, Mrs. Kings encouraged my questions and my philosophical thoughts about the world. Her impact on my life led me to become a human rights lawyer. Wherever you are Mrs. K, you changed my life and led me to save others just through listening to me and teaching me that I was important."



Bama posted this

       "My high school theatre teacher had one of the biggest impacts. She would help you find what you were good at and enjoyed doing, be it makeup, writing, set design, directing, or any of the many other jobs in theatre besides acting. She never made a single person feel unworthy of being in theatre and treated everyone with respect, no matter how rude or insubordinate they were. She taught so much more than theatre; she taught respect, hard work, inclusion, and happiness."

Isa posted this:

"When I was a kid, I had a horrible time fitting in. I was chubby, weird, overly friendly and affectionate, and didn't belong to any clubs or anything. The only class I remotely liked was music class. My teacher, Miss G, was a wonderful woman who always smiled and loved all of her kids like they were her own. She ran a club called Song & Dance and I desperately wanted to join. She smiled and told me of course, as long as I auditioned. So I did. Now, nine years later, I cannot thank her enough for making that decision. She changed my life that day. She gave me a place to belong and, for the next four years I was with her, taught me to love myself and to shine like the star she saw me as.


The interesting thing as you read these teacher stories is that it is not always about the ability to teach. It is often about acceptance and love and caring and compassion and believing in the student.


Although Christians call Jesus by many names, and titles and refer to him by a number of different images or metaphors such as: the way, the truth, the word, the Christ, the good shepherd and so on…

Of the ninety or so times that Jesus is addressed directly about 60 of them refer to him as teacher of some variation of that. Rabbi or Rabbouni means teacher. He was also called Master. Master meant teacher as in what British children call their male teachers. At least they did when I was a child. Master in the sense of someone who had mastered a subject, Not master in the sense of a slave owner.


So much of Jesus’ action is him teaching…. on a hill, by a lake, at the dinner table, at a wedding. He teaches individuals. He teaches his group of disciples. He teaches large crowds. He teaches friends, strangers, foreigners and even enemies.

Rabbi in Jesus’ day was not a professional clergy like today. Rabbi was an itinerant teacher who was crafting a new approach to Jewish texts, traditions and interpretations, and Jesus was the master of it. Jesus is one of the very first to be called Rabbi in literature and it didn’t become a common thing until after his death.

The disciples followed Jesus not because he was the Messiah, or the Christ, or the Son of God, not even for the promise of life after death. Eternal life did not mean life after death to them. Eternal life, was life in the new aeon or age. It was life after the Messiah came back here on earth. The disciples didn’t believe that Jesus would rise from death. They followed Jesus because he was a Rabbi, a teacher, their Master, and because, according to Simon Peter in John’s gospel, Jesus had the eternal words of life. He had God’s teaching.


Well, what did Jesus teach?


Well, some just automatically think that Jesus taught something completely new and different. And while I think he had a new and different approach; he was a Jewish teacher and I think reinterpreted the Jewish tradition.


And there were actually four major Jewish traditions that you will find if you read the Jewish scriptures, what we call the Old Testament.

The first is covenantal theology where God enters into a relationship with a person or a group of people. Most of covenantal theology is about the promises made to each side. Jews understood their side of the covenant as keeping the law. And therefore, God would look after them and save them and be there for them.

Jesus believed in the Law and in covenant and I think helped re-establish the personal nature of this relationship… calling God, “father,” praying, and showing people, and teaching people that God loved them, and that the covenant was about love.

In fact, Jesus summarized the law one time as loving God and loving your neighbour.



The second tradition or type of teaching in Jewish tradition is priestly theology. An excerpt from Leviticus 20:

I am the Lord your God, and I have set you apart from the other nations. So then, you must make a clear distinction between animals and birds that are ritually clean and those that are not. You shall be holy and belong only to me, because I am the Lord and I am holy.

This understanding or story of God is about a high transcendent other, who is way above humans, and perfect and sinless. God is a God of order and right living. God is about clean living and separating oneself from that which is sinful or unclean or wrong or suspect.

Jesus came and reinterpreted this holiness. Jesus found holiness, or God’s presence, in ordinary things… like birds, and seeds, and trees and bread, and water and fish and sheep, and in words and in sharing and conversation; and…and especially in people. He made holy the unclean, the forgotten, the poor, and different and even sinners.

Holiness was not about being separate and different from others, it was about seeing God in wherever God is, and often in nature and especially in others.


The third tradition was the Wisdom tradition. This is less about the God who intervenes in miraculous ways, but in divinity that is found in nature, in reason and through the things of this world.

Those who think and reflect, and listen, and learn, and serve others, and observe this natural world…. who watch and pay attention to action and consequences, who are careful about their choices...can find God's way.

In this story of God, God is a mystery and there are mysteries in the world that cannot be explained. For instance, suffering happens, it isn't good, but there are no easy answers to it. Wisdom theology is more universal, more available to all, regardless of theology, doctrine or nationality. Wisdom is there for all those who choose to be wise.  And interestingly enough Wisdom is feminine in Jewish theology and puts a feminine take on the divine.


Jesus was a wisdom teacher, and his wisdom was mostly found in the parables which in themselves were little stories, or mysteries that caused one to think and ponder and re-evaluate the way things were. Parables often had strange twists in them. Parables were also not moral stories with one moral as the lesson, they were multi-layered stories that could be interpreted at different levels and sometimes even in different ways.


The fourth tradition is Prophetic theology. This understanding or story of God is found mostly in the stories of the prophets. In the book of Amos, God says: "I hate your festivals and take no delight in your solemn assemblies."

Prophetic theology over and above law and promise, over and above clean living and holiness, over and above wisdom...takes the approach the right actions towards others is what it is all about. Let justice flow like a stream or river.

This is a God who holds wrongdoers to account and especially those who hurt the weak and the innocent, who neglect the poor, widows and refugees.  God sees those who cheat and kill and steal for their own ends and God gets angry about it and there is judgement for those who do wrong.

This is a God of judgement and anger, but strangely enough a God also of mercy and acceptance for those who change their ways. This God invites people to love, to do justice and to have mercy.


Jesus himself, was very interested in justice, and often had his worst criticisms for leadership of the Jews that made the rich, richer and the poor, poorer.

Jesus talked about a level playing field, and brought up the lowly and the poor, and brought down the high and mighty. Jesus talked about equality and that God loved everyone, and that just as Isaiah had prophesied, he had come to fulfill the mandate to set the captives free, to bring good news to the poor, to raise up those crippled by injustice and make us who are deaf and blind to injustice, see injustice and speak about justice.

One could very much argue that the reason he was killed, was because he was stirring up the crowds and the Jewish and Roman authorities didn’t much like someone who talked about and taught, freedom, justice and equality.


So, Jesus was in the Jewish tradition of a teacher. Maybe the first to recognise that was a guy by the name of Matthew who wrote, not the first gospel, because it is believed Mark is the first gospel, but the first gospel in the New Testament.


Maybe it is put first because of its emphasis on Jewish tradition where Jesus is very clearly talked about as a new Moses.

In Matthew’s gospel there is the story of Jesus as a baby, who like Moses is threatened by an infanticide of all the baby boys.

Moses was the law giver and the Saviour of the Jewish nation who led them out of slavery toward the promised land.

Moses’ teaching and leadership is shared in the first five books of the bible which are attributed to him as the author.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives five discourses or speeches on different themes.

Moses goes up the Mountain to receive the law and especially the ten commandments.

Jesus’ most famous sermon is the sermon on the mountain, or the Sermon on the Mount, where he takes the law and reinterprets some of it.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…


Moses has blessings and curses for the people of Israel. Jesus in the sermon on the Mount opens with a series of blessings.

And while Jesus sums up the law and prophets with his commands to love, it isn’t that Jesus doesn’t have commands. He has quite a few of them.

       be reconciled to your brother or sister; do not look at a woman with lust; do not get divorced; do not swear at all; let your yes be yes and your no be no; if someone wants your coat, give him your cloak as well; give to everyone who begs from you; pray in secret; do not store up treasures on earth; you cannot serve God and wealth; do not worry about tomorrow; do not judge; and ask and it will be given to you.


Jesus taught us a lot. Mahatma Gandhi talked about the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus. Let me put some of Gandhi’s  quotes together:

“When I came to the New Testament and the Sermon on the Mount, I began to understand the Christian teaching,”. “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount echoed something I had learnt in childhood and something which seemed to be part of my being and which I felt was being acted [out] in the daily life around me.” [2] “I saw that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for [those] who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that Sermon which has endeared Jesus to me.” [3] “The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught His followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek—I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect [human being].” [4] . . .



I have learned a lot from Jesus, and still learn from Jesus, and I think will always learn from Jesus, but like any good teacher, it is more than his teaching, it is that while teaching us, he loves us, accepts us, includes us, values us, forgives us, understands us, challenges us, champions us…

…and that all becomes a part of the teaching…


Many of us look back to teachers as some of our early heroes, people who cared for us, and sometimes even changed our lives.

Teaching is not easy. I know. I know not only because my family is a lot of teachers, and because my wife worked for many years in the school system as an Educational Assistant, but because I have taught every class from kindergarten to Grade 12 in just about every subject, except maybe teaching a second language. I have taught reading and spelling and math and physics and geography and history. I have taught band class and taught special needs.


Teachers give a lot of themselves and many of them take up a cross in their own way and give their lives in service of their students.


I heard the story one time of a minister who was doing the children’s story and asked the children if they knew where God was.

One little boy said: I know where God is. I’ll go get God.”

He got up, and went and got his Sunday School teacher.

“Here is God.”

That little boy was not wrong.


I hardly know a more God-like thing, to teach little souls how to love, how to care, how to experience God.


One of the profound ways that God works in this world is through the lives of teachers….

…as God did in Jesus, our teacher.                   Amen