Teacher. Just what does that word provoke in your mind ? To most people it takes them back to their school days, and the memory of a person they disliked or someone they admired.
Unfortunately for many of us, our memory of a bad teacher at school eclipses the recollection of those many fine, dedicated and caring individuals who did so much to help us. We all remember the boring or abusive teacher; the useless teacher; the inadequate teacher. The overbearing teacher, the one who would belittle us.
As a teacher myself, I can look back with horror at some of the things that were done in the name of education by people whom I would be ashamed to emulate in my own teaching.
But I remember too those who were good; those who had a good heart; those who cared; those who while strict in discipline, were concerned that students should benefit as much as humanly possible from their efforts to prepare them for the rigours of their future life.
The best ones were those who cared; who were firm and fair; who knew how to communicate well; those who loved their subject; those who inspired enthusiasm; those who made their subject interesting to students who might otherwise not take much notice. Those who treated their students with compassion and understanding while yet constraining and stretching them to do their best.
Those qualities remind me of the greatest teacher who ever lived. Jesus Christ.
In chapter 13 and verse 13 of John the Evangelist’s Gospel account we read Jesus saying this to his disciples.
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for I am
You may well wonder where the word Teacher is here. Well, it’s contained in that word Master because the emphasis of the original Greek word is teacher.
At the secondary school I went to it was customary to call the teachers, Masters.
They were masters because they were masters of the subject they taught; and they were masters because they had authority over their students. They were to be heeded for what they knew and understood. And what they knew and understood was to be imparted to us, their students.
We were there to learn from them. They knew their subject; we didn’t. That’s why we were the pupils and they were the masters.
The best teachers of course were engaging. They did not need to rely on their position to remind us of their authority; they could rely on the interest they inspired to capture and keep our attention.
And that is always the best way. The best teacher inspires and engages the students interest and desire. They make their subject interesting, and they are usually themselves interesting. The former perhaps arises from the latter.
And how true that was of Jesus Christ.
He never obliged any one to listen to him. He never obliged any one to follow him. He engaged their interest; he challenged them; he said things which opened their minds to wonderful truths about God and about ourselves. He was the ultimate teacher – one who cared; who communicated; who engaged; who won people over to an understanding and knowledge of what he wanted to teach.
And it all came from who he was. He manifest the things he taught; he actually lived them out. He asked no-one to do anything he did not himself understand or which he himself could not do.
He was an expert on his subject, and a true expert. He lived it. He experienced it. He taught it out of the reality of his own knowledge and understanding. He was utterly sincere and capable because he was real.
The Son of God who condescended to take human form and to live within human limitations in order to teach us the way to God and the way we should be.
People listened because they were fascinated. People listened because he was fresh and alive and real. People listened because he encapsulated fundamental truths in short stories that are recorded in just a few straightforward verses.
They listened because he demonstrated the truth which he taught. Time and again, he performed a miracle, not just for its own sake, but in order to make a very real point. He understood that to cause people to know and understand and to remember, he had to make his point in very simple but also very real ways.
He raised the dead to life; he expanded the loaves and fish to feed 5000 souls; he opened the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf. He caused the lame to walk. And in it all, he was teaching …
He was explaining the point; he was causing people to understand the point; he was enabling people never to forget that point but to remember it for ever more.
And he succeeded in a way which no-one since has been able to surpass. Millions have looked to his teaching, to his example, to his life down the centuries; and millions today still do.
Can anyone else claim such influence ?
I think not !