On one occasion, Jesus was praying, and when he had finished praying, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In response to this request, Jesus gave them what is now called ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ followed by a parable and more teaching on prayer. Jesus was a great teacher.
LORD TEACH US
Why do we need to look at how Jesus taught people? There are two reasons:
- So that we may recognize how we can receive his teaching today.
- So that we can teach others, such as parents with children, teachers with students, youth leaders with young people, pastors with congregations, etc.
It is obvious that Christian believers need to be taught, but just how does that teaching happen? How did Jesus teach?
Jesus was like a great baseball pitcher. He didn’t have just one pitch. i.e., one way of teaching people. He used many different ways to teach. He also taught consistently in line with the Scripture of that day, and He used it in His teaching. Consider some of the ways:
JESUS TAUGHT SYSTEMATICALLY
By this, we mean He taught on subjects in some depth. Examples of this are ‘The Sermon on the Mount,’ the teaching He gave to his disciples in His farewell discourse in John’s Gospel, and the instruction on end times in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.
There is a place for systematic teaching for a disciple. That is why we have bible colleges, seminaries, and online courses. In the local churches, this kind of teaching is necessary if people are to grow and mature. Also, it is helpful to read reputable Christian books and listen to good speakers. We can, and we should learn systematically.
JESUS TAUGHT SPONTANEOUSLY
We often call these ‘teaching moments’ when Jesus seized on something that was happening and took the opportunity to teach a lesson. Bob Gass, in one of his daily devotions, describes this method in the following way.
“One of the most effective ways to teach is through ‘teaching moments.’ Jesus did that. When a fig tree didn’t produce fruit, He cursed it and immediately withered it up. That got the disciples’ attention (See Matthew 21:18-22). Then He explained that unless you stay filled with God’s Spirit, you won’t be fruitful in His service. He could have taught the same lesson in the synagogue. But then his listeners would’ve had to imagine a fig tree, and the message would’ve been diluted depending on the ability of the hearer.”
JESUS TAUGHT INTERACTIVELY
They were occasions when Jesus taught as He interacted with people, especially when they asked a question. He would teach them as He answered their inquiries or even their challenges. In Matthew 19, you see Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce in answer to the Pharisees questions, And in Matthew 22, Jesus answers questions about taxes, the resurrection, and the like. This is an excellent way of teaching that can be applied by parents when children ask questions.
JESUS TAUGHT BY EXAMPLE
The disciples observed Jesus when he ministered and learned from the example He gave them. For instance, in Acts 9, Peter was called upon to pray for a woman named Dorcas. If you study the story and compare it to the way Jesus restored a girl to life in Mark 5, you will find they are very similar. Often the example of Jesus doing something inspired His disciples, as in the case of Peter walking on water. He saw Jesus doing it and wanted to do it also.
JESUS TAUGHT THROUGH HIS LIFE AS A WHOLE
One of the most revealing statements about the disciples in the early church is recorded at the time Peter and John were on trial before the Sanhedrin. It is said that when “they perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.” Why? “They realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The three years they had followed Jesus had put a deposit into their lives. Jesus’ life as a whole impacted them, and His life taught them, even when they didn’t necessarily realize it. Why? Because they had been with Jesus and His life was a lesson in itself, even above all, through his death on the cross. We will learn as we stay close to Jesus.
JESUS TAUGHT THROUGH THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE
We will probably all know about how Peter denied His Lord three times when Jesus was on trial. But Jesus was in the midst of the circumstances. He prepared Peter for what was going to happen by telling him in advance what he would do. He also told him He would be praying for him. Then after His resurrection, there’s a memorable meeting between Jesus and Peter on the shores of the lake of Galilee, a follow up to his denial of Jesus. Jesus, through His Spirit, can likewise be at work in the circumstances of our lives, teaching us important lessons that we need to learn.
JESUS TAUGHT WITH STORIES AND VISUAL AIDS
Jesus was a great storyteller, such as the parables of ‘The Prodigal Son,’ ‘The Good Samaritan,’ etc. He also used visual aids or word pictures, especially from nature. For example, ‘The Sower and the Seed’ or ‘Building on the Rock or the Sand.’ Today, we not only tell stories, but we have access to modern forms of communication, such as films, the internet, YouTube, podcasts, etc.
JESUS TAUGHT BY ACTING OUT THE LESSON
At the last supper, Jesus taught the disciples a crucial lesson on servanthood. How did He do this? He taught them by washing their feet, a lesson they would never forget. He instituted the Lord’s Supper not with a handbook on how to do it, but rather by including it in the Passover meal.
JESUS TAUGHT BY APPLICATION
Jesus didn’t just teach them ‘theory.’ He required them to go out and do it likewise, so He sent them out on short term missions trips, to do what they saw Him doing. This year, my grandson Timothy completed three months of discipleship training at Youth with a Mission in Hawaii and then went on outreach in Ukraine. What he and others have learned in their classes could now be applied in a practical way on the mission field, just like the disciples when they were sent out in Matthew 10.
PEOPLE LEARN IN DIFFERENT WAYS
These are some of the ways Jesus taught His disciples. They are also ways in which He still, by His Spirit and in His church, teaches His people today. Remember, Jesus is like a great baseball pitcher. He doesn’t just have one pitch. He has many ways to teach us. Sometimes, more than one at a time.
Some people learn one way, and others learn a different way, but we need to be open to all the ways the Lord can and does teach us. Also, this is how we can teach others. If you are a parent, then you are called upon to teach your children, and you need to recognize that it can happen in more than one way. If you are a leader or teacher in a school, church, or ministry, you, too, need to realize that there are many ways to teach.
Bob Gass, in the devotional previously mentioned, talks about one of the ways that can be effective in teaching others.
“When three drunken high school students crashed the car into a tree, the wrecked car sat in front of the school for several days. Every day, the students had to look at it. That’s called a ‘high impact teaching moment.’ They say timing is everything. That’s certainly true when it comes to learning the important lessons in life, so don’t miss them! If you’re a parent, it’s futile to constantly ‘preach’ at your kids. If you’re a leader, it’s a mistake to keep ‘lecturing’ the people who are answerable to you. Let the experience speak! Then ask for their thoughts, and listen without interjecting. People learn more through discovery in dialogue. That’s why God instructed Joshua to build a monument of 12 stones on the other side of the Jordan after He miraculously parted it’s waters so they could cross over (See Joshua 4:1-9). What he was really saying was, “When your children ask what this monument is all about, use it as a teaching moment about My love and faithfulness.” So look for the teaching moments in life – and use them.”
A FINAL WORD
May we be like those first disciples and have had a desire to learn and grow. To be able to say, ‘Lord, teach us.’ We need to be lifetime learners. We also need to put into obedient action what Jesus teaches us. We should never get to the stage where we think there is nothing more to learn. If you think that way, you are slowly dying spiritually. Set your heart to be a learner and say, “Lord, teach me.”