The Fifth Title – Teacher

We returned to our family worship after a two week break due to computer issues and work related adjustments.

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

The Fifth Title – Teacher

Home Church Devotional 8/12/2020

So, when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”                                                                    John 13:12-17 (NASB)

Teacher, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is someone or a thing that teaches something, especially a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects. Wikipedia offers this definition of teacher: a teacher is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Informally the role of teacher may be taken on by anyone. What, then, does it mean to teach someone? Again, we turn to Merriam-Webster to find an answer that is broken into five subcategories. To teach, according to Merriam-Webster means to: (1) to cause to know something, (2) to guide the study of, (3) to make known and accepted. (4) to impart the knowledge of, and (5) to conduct instruction regularly.

In the current climate of our country, I saw all five of these happen daily when schools in Indiana and across the country suddenly and unexpectedly closed their doors and moved to an e-learning (online) platform. Being married to a teacher I witnessed my wife “open” her classroom each morning awaiting the arrival of students who wanted to learn, grow and be better prepared for the world of the future. Most days ended in frustration as many of those students did not arrive, make time for school, or simply just did not care. As someone hired to teach the next generation and have them simply quit because it was the easier choice, the frustration and hurt were evident throughout the remainder of the school year.

In today’s passage we find Jesus teaching His disciples with a hands-on approach. In His final Passover Meal, Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room and here He leaves them an example, a teaching, they are to remember and follow. Jesus takes the place of a servant and washes the feet, the very dirty feet, of His disciples. They have called Him Lord and Teacher, and rightly so, for He is, but Jesus is about to drop a bombshell on His disciples. “If I,” Jesus says, “the Lord and Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Each of the twelve disciples entered the upper room expecting to have their feet wash, it was the custom of the home owner to provide a servant for such duty, but none of them were willing to take the place of the absent servant.

Some Jewish teachers had private rooms, though it was the custom of the day to teach openly, in public. Any disciple could ask a question of his teacher, who would then provide reply. There was no official position as a teacher and no salary was given, other than what was received from his disciples,  and most were associated with a sect of the Pharisees. Rabbi, meaning “master” or “great one” is a loose designation of teacher. This title is found only after Jesus began His public ministry. Rabboni, also found in the New Testament, means “My teacher” or “My Master.”

Before we consider Jesus as teacher we must first look at the warning given in James 3:1-2; “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.”                           James 3:1-2 (NASB)

James warns that not many believers should undertake becoming a teacher. Teachers face a stricter judgment from God because they are responsible for telling others how to live and correcting those who go astray. The teacher was responsible for the lives and spiritual growth of all those under him. A teacher must live what he is teaching and if he is not, greater judgment and condemnation will follow. Therefore, a person should only commit their life to teaching if they CANNOT keep from teaching. Teaching is a high calling, ranking behind only the apostles and prophets.

However, a person must not fear their responsibility to teach nor neglect their gift of teaching. If they are called and gifted to teach, they MUST teach! With its great responsibility and potential condemnation, the dignity of the position of teacher is greatly enhanced. Because the main tool for the teacher is speech or the tongue, it is the tongue and its use that will bear the greatest weight upon the teacher’s condemnation. With the tongue we bless, and we curse, and it is where the teacher’s great temptation first attacks, the temptation to misuse the tongue.

With this background in mind, we now consider Jesus as Teacher. As we saw from Meriam-Webster there are five elements or goals associated with teaching; (1) to cause to know something, (2) to guide the study of, (3) to make known and accepted. (4) to impart the knowledge of, and (5) to conduct instruction regularly. In the gospel accounts, we can clearly see how Jesus met and excessed these elements or goals, and in fact, Jesus sets the standard for all who wish to become teachers. With the bar set high we begin to look at the goals of those called to teach.

In order to cause someone to know something, you must first have a grasp of the subject matter yourself. Many times, in the gospel accounts, we read of the crowd being amazed at the teaching of Jesus. The gospel writers always tell us exactly why the crowds are so amazed. Take for example the account of Matthew 7:29 at the end of His Sermon on the Mount. Matthew sums up the rapt attention of the crowds by stating: When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29 (NASB) Jesus had a full understanding of what He was teaching and to the audience He was teaching.

From the outset of His ministry, Jesus was continually teaching His disciples about His death. The disciples were, understandably, confused but Jesus continued to guide their study of the Son of Man. We find one such example in Mark: “For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.’ But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.” Mark 9:31-32 (NASB) We must remember that these are Jewish men who have been taught the Scriptures since the age of twelve or thirteen. Jesus, first, began by teaching with authority to cause His disciples to know and now He guides their study of the Son of Man.

The disciples did not want to accept the fact that Jesus would have to die and return to the Father, but Jesus plainly tells His disciples it is for their benefit that He leave and return to the Father. In John 16 we witness this moment of acceptance from the disciples: “His disciples said, ‘Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.’” John 16:29-30 (NASB) This acceptance comes on the final night of the life of Jesus. For three years He taught His disciples and now, on the night of His betrayal, they accept His teaching.

Jesus also made known to the disciples, the name of the Father and the disciples accepted His teaching on the Father. Later in the same evening, after accepting the plain teaching of Jesus, John records the prayer of Jesus for His disciples. In this prayer we find these statements on the Fathers name: “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” John 17:6-8 (NASB) The Greek word for manifested means made known. Jesus has made known the name of the Father and the disciples have received this teaching; while the Greek word for received also means to accept.

In the above example we also find that Jesus has imparted the knowledge of the Father and the fate of the Son of Man to the disciples. The disciples were part of the frenzy waiting for and expecting a Messiah with political and military strength to free the nation of Israel. But Jesus came to offer spiritual freedom in the Kingdom of God, breaking the chains of bondage in sin, to destroy the fear of death and the grave, which ultimately, destroyed the works of the devil. Jesus has opened the minds of the disciples to the Scriptures in ways they had never imagined possible.

Finally, we find that Jesus was regularly found teaching, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue. One such example is found in Luke: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.” Luke 4:16 (NASB) We know that Jesus continued to teach in the synagogue throughout His earthly ministry because the Pharisees and religious elite had a growing hatred of Jesus. His teaching, teaching with authority, severely undermined their position and authority. Time and again the Pharisees accuse Jesus of false teaching. He meets each challenge head-on and reminds them He has been teaching openly, in the synagogue.

It is plain to see that Jesus sets the bar high when it comes to teaching. His disciples call Him Teacher and rightly so, for He is, and He teaches with authority that comes from the Father. So, here is the challenge for Christians today. Do you call Jesus Teacher? If so, ask yourself if you are fully following His teaching? Does His teaching have authority in your life? Are you following ALL of His teaching, not just the easy to do, go with the flow type teaching? Can the people around you tell that you belong to Jesus because of how you follow His teaching? These are the tough question we must each ask ourselves, for this is how the world will know we are disciples of Christ Jesus.

Amen and Amen.

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