Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”
– John 7:14-15
The teachings of Jesus are some of the most profound moments in all of human history. His ability to teach was unparalleled in our world despite the best efforts of our intellectual giants. As the Messiah, Jesus was more than just a miracle worker, He was our teacher. He came to “seek and save that which is lost,” (Luke 19:10). His devotion to correcting the ignorance of man was noteworthy and life-changing. We must, once again, realize that the impact of His teaching (like His miracles) went beyond the ordinary. His message was of a higher quality than most due to the source of its authority. Jesus wasn’t merely a messenger of God, He was God. He could stand and teach with an inherent authority (see Matthew 7:28-29; 28:18) no one else ever possessed.
Many of His most profound lessons came while Jesus stood before a crowd and preached. Consider the most famous sermon of all – the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. This profound lesson reshaped the world’s thoughts on love, sin, prayer, and even daily life. It has stood the test of time due to its nature, content, and style.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught in several unique ways:
(a) The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) closely resemble Wisdom Literature from the Old Testament (i.e. Proverbs, Psalms).
(b) In Matthew 5:13-6:4, Jesus used correction as a means of instruction. Notice that He did not apologize when He corrected them.
(c) In Matthew 6:5-7:12, He tackled everyday life and the spiritual implications that arise from prayer, fasting, worry, and even covetousness.
(d) In the last part of the sermon (Matthew 7:13-27), He used judgment and the potential failure of those who mean well as a challenge to His listeners. You might say this is His “so what” section.
There were many more moments where Jesus drew a crowd and preached. In those moments He shared with them wisdom, truth, and an appreciation for God’s Word. His teachings on marriage (see Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12), the Judgment (see Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36), and the traditions of men (see Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23) are notable.
While standing before a crowd, Jesus often taught by using parables. There are at least 30 confirmed parables in the Synoptic Gospels. Parables are noticeably absent from the Gospel of John, however. Parables are God’s commentary on the ordinary and proof that lessons exist in the tiniest details of life. They are analogies, allegories, and stories without a proper definition of people, places, or events. They represent all mankind, not just a single person and they can be divided into several different groups of thought:
(a) Some parables are inherently about the Kingdom of Heaven. Consider the Parables of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15) and the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19) as prime examples. These parables are all about the Church (i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven) and its growth from humble beginnings.
(b) Other parables were about loss and redemption. Consider the Parables of Luke 15 (i.e. The Lost Sheep, Coin, and Son) as the prime examples of these lessons.
(c) Some parables focused on love and forgiveness. The greatest example is that of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. These parables presented a harsh reality to a cold and calloused Jewish people – God’s love is for all (not just those you deem worthy).
(d) Other parables were about prayer. Consider the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector from Luke 18:9-14. This public indictment of one considered holy would have been a shock to the system of the Jews. It is pointed and easy to understand, God expects more than what the Pharisee was willing to give.
(e) There were several parables that dealt with the end times, such as the Parable of the Faithful Servant (Matthew 24:42-51; Mark 13:34-37; Luke 12:35-48) and the Parable of the Great Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24).
(f) Finally, there are some parables that don’t fall into a specific category. The Parables of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49) and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27) don’t find a home in the above categories but still represent immense value to God’s children.
We also can not overlook the moments when Jesus taught privately. Great moments in His ministry occurred at these times:
(a) When Nicodemus came to see Him in John 3, Jesus taught him some foundational things that have become beloved in Christianity. John 3:16 has become the most famous of all verses but we shouldn’t overlook the impact of the following verse and those that dealt with the new birth.
(b) As Jesus was traveling with His disciples, He met the woman at a well in Samaria and taught her about “living water” in John 4:1-26.
(c) Consider also the times He was alone with His Apostles. At Gethsemane (see Luke 22) or on the Sea of Galilee (see Mark 4), Jesus used the time alone with them to teach.
(d) We should also consider the times He spent in the temple surrounded by dozens or hundreds to be moments worth mentioning. Luke 2:46-47 tells us He was “sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
There is so much to be said of Jesus the teacher. He is our model and our guide to effective preaching and teaching. He was patient, firm, and practical. He used oration, analogies, and even object lessons to teach a wide assortment of people. He taught those who were educated and those who were common. He never looked past an opportunity to teach and He saw the value in every student. May we learn to be teachers that teach like Jesus.
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.