This week we look at the way Jesus taught. He didn’t just fill people with theological information, nor did He lay out legalistic rules to be applied mechanically in every situation. Rather, Jesus taught for life-change. The purpose of His teaching was to change the hearts of people toward God and toward each other. Something worth considering this week is — have you received Jesus as your teacher? You may have received Jesus as your Savior, but have you received Jesus as your teacher?
- Today I am receiving Jesus as my Teacher.
- I am committing to learn and apply the teachings of Jesus from the sermon on the mount.
- I will approach the sermon on the mount like I’m learning from the wisest person who has ever lived about how to live life to the fullest.
I want to ask you to consider something today before we go any further in the sermon on the mount. I want you to consider receiving Jesus as your Teacher. You may have received Jesus as your Savior. Have you received Jesus as your Teacher? Because there are many sources we can turn to for wisdom about life: We can turn to the latest self-help books. We can turn to professional counselors. We can turn to conferences and seminars. We can turn to friends and family. We can turn to psychics. Actually, most psychic stores I’m aware of have gone out of business. Which is kind of interesting… you think they would have seen that coming. || If we’re looking for wisdom about life, we should probably go to the wisest person who ever lived, right? Which is why we’re studying the sermon on the mount. But a critical question before we continue in this series is — Have you received Jesus as your Teacher? This series is very exciting to me because it means we’re invited to learn from the greatest teacher who ever lived, to study his teachings and to study his way of life. || Have you received Jesus as your Teacher? || Let me say a word or two about Jesus’ method of teaching because I think this is important. This is important for this entire series because, if you don’t understand how Jesus taught, then you’ll not understand what Jesus taught. If you don’t understand how he teaches, his general method of teaching, you won’t understand what he’s teaching. I think a lot of the things Jesus taught get misunderstood because of his general approach. || Those of you who teach school on a regular basis… what’s the number one question students ask regarding what you’re teaching? You pour your heart out to teach them. You seek to give them truth. And students always ask the same question. Do you know what the question is? “Is this going to be on the final?” All students ask, “Is this going to be on the final? Do I have to know this?” || The general model for teaching in our culture is kind of an information dump. A student is like an empty vessel, and the teacher’s job is to fill them with information. So students just passively sit there and get filled with information, and they want to know, “Is this going to be on the final? Will I have to reproduce it?” Because we don’t want to have to think too much in education. We want lists so that when I master the list, I can spit it back and pass the test. || Well Jesus didn’t teach in lists so that we pass a test. Jesus taught so that our lives would be changed. || He generally teaches against the backdrop of some situation that’s going on around him. Or very commonly Jesus teaches against what might be called “general prevailing assumptions.” || There used to be a section in Newsweek magazine called “Conventional wisdom.” Now, very often what Jesus does is to give a teaching that’s designed to show the falsity of the conventional wisdom of the world as opposed to the Kingdom of God. Very often that’s his method in teaching, and if we miss that, we will miss the point. You see, here’s the thing — and this is just so critical. When Jesus teaches, he’s not giving us laws or rules. He’s telling us what it looks like to live in the Kingdom of God. And “life in the Kingdom of God” is hard to convey because it runs smack into our tendencies to legalize things, to try to manipulate our spirituality: “I want to define my righteousness. I want to prove that I’m a righteous person.” || Jesus says in Matthew 5:38: “You have heard that it was said, And one of the nice things about the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus underlines the little conventional wisdom pieces with this phrase, “you have heard that it was said.” This is the conventional wisdom of the world. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 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. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42) Now, just take this one idea for a moment: “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.” || A friend of mine was telling me about a guy he knows, a very bright guy, who had a relative, a brother-in-law, who was chronically asking for money. Every time he saw him, he was asking for money. It was clear that it was not a helpful thing to keep giving him money. It was just enabling bad behavior. This guy was talking about Jesus’ teaching, and he said, “I know Jesus said, ‘Every time someone asks, you’re supposed to give to them,’ but if we took Jesus seriously, I would always be giving to my brother-in-law whatever he asked for, and I just can’t do that.” || Now, see, this is a very bright guy, but he misunderstood the basic nature of Jesus’ teaching. He believed that fully following Jesus was probably a good thing, but it was just not possible in the real world. Jesus had these beautiful ideas, but if you ever really tried to do them all the time, you’d just go crazy. Now, Jesus is not saying here: “Every time someone asks you for money, whatever the situation, always give them whatever they ask for and more.” He’s not giving a legalistic rule that you apply mechanically in every situation. What he’s saying is: “In our world we tend to think, ‘someone helps you, you help them back. Someone hurts you, you hurt them back.’ That’s conventional wisdom. Well, sometimes we need to do something for someone who can’t do anything back.” || Now, I just want to do a little pop quiz for fun here. Let’s say your brother-in-law is always asking you for money. I’ll run through some possibilities, and then you vote. As someone who is trying to follow Christ, what should you do? Number one — Always give him whatever he wants because Jesus said so. Number two — Don’t give him what he wants, but feel guilty about it. Number three — Move away and change your identity. If he can’t find you, he can’t ask. See, this is a beautiful way of obeying Jesus’ commandment. As long as they can’t find you, they don’t ask you. If they don’t ask, you don’t have to give it to them, right? Now, some people take Jesus’ teachings in this legalistic kind of way, and that’s where they end up; and the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were in those kinds of situations all the time. || Or option number four: Do whatever it takes to cultivate a generous heart, and then give with discretion and discernment. We don’t actually have to vote on this. But do you start to get what Jesus is after with his teaching? || I’ll tell you something about Jesus that you may have never heard expressed quite like this before. Jesus was a really smart guy! He was. He knew what he was talking about. You see, we have to start thinking of him this way, or else we put him in this kind of abstract, unreal category that causes us to think beautiful ideals; but we don’t believe it’s possible to follow him in the real world. || So we just need to reflect on the fact that, among everything else he was, Jesus was also a really smart guy; and he really did think through what he was teaching about. People did not come back to him afterwards and say to him, “Hey, Jesus, you know that ‘shirt and coat’ thing? We tried it. It’s just not realistic. People abuse us when we do it.” And then have Jesus say, “Oh, yeah. You know, you’re right. I should have thought that through a little more.” That didn’t happen. Jesus was a really smart guy. || So if you find yourself thinking, “This teaching is just not possible in this world,” then you need to think it through again. You need to read Jesus on the assumption that he’s a smart guy. We need to think about him that way. || So let me ask you again… Have you received Jesus as your teacher? Because here’s the deal, many people will receive Jesus as Savior, but Jesus not only wants to be our Savior, he wants to be our Teacher. || About a hundred years or so ago… and this is just a moment or two of history, so just stay with me for a moment. A hundred years or so ago a group arose who said that Jesus was really nothing more than a teacher. They said he was a good man. He was a wise teacher, that we should pay attention to his teaching, that it represents the highest ethic and standard of morality and so on, but he’s just a teacher. Okay, so that’s one group. Now, in response to that, another group arose, and this other group said, “No, it’s not true. Jesus is not just a teacher. Jesus is much more than that. Jesus is divine. He’s the son of God. He really lived. He really was crucified. He really rose again. He really ascended and is with the Father today.” And it was a good thing this group was formed. We align ourselves with this group that says, “Jesus is more than a human being. He is the son of God, and he was crucified and resurrected and is fully alive today.” But what I want us to understand is that, in the process of forming this second group, a bad thing happened. The bad thing is that Jesus’ teaching ministry kind of got lost in the shuffle. Jesus’ role as a teacher was tremendously de-emphasized. There was kind of an assumption that Jesus’ only reason for coming was to die on the cross, and all that happened before then was just kind of filler. In fact, some within this group even took chunks of what Jesus taught — the Sermon on the Mount, for example — and said, “It’s not really for today,” and it just kind of got thrown aside. || So in the process of a good thing, which is saying that Jesus is more than human, a bad thing happened, which is that Jesus’ teaching ministry tended to get neglected. || It’s very important that we understand this — during the years of Jesus’ teaching, he was not just treading water or killing time until it was time to go to the cross. The Gospels are very clear about this. From the Gospel of Mark, the first chapter, Mark 1:21-22, this is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. And it’s here that Jesus begins his whole ministry of teaching about the kingdom of God. Jesus’ teaching was central to his ministry. || And an important point to note is that Jesus’ followers trusted him as their Teacher. It wasn’t until after the cross and the resurrection, that they put their trust in him as their Savior. In other words, there is a bond that cannot be severed between Jesus’ role as Teacher and Jesus’ role as Savior. || What happened is people would follow him, and they would discover that he knew what he was talking about, that his teaching could be trusted, so they came to put their trust in him; then after he was crucified and after his resurrection and ascension, it was natural for them to put their trust in him as their Savior. Jesus’ teaching ministry is central to what he came to do. It was central then and it’s central now. || Look at Luke 4:16: He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. (Luke 4:16-17) Now, it says they met together in the synagogue. A synagogue is not like the temple. It was not a place for priests and sacrifices. It was predominantly a place for reading the word of God and instructing the people. Men and women and children would sit on benches against three walls in a synagogue. Against the fourth wall, the wall that faced Jerusalem, there would be a seven-branched candle stand and a reading desk. This was the case for every synagogue in Jerusalem. Each synagogue would have a prayer leader, called a Chazzan, and he would pray to God, and the people in response would say, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one.” Great words from the book of Deuteronomy. Then the prayer leader would reach into a chest and pick up a scroll with the words of God from the Old Testament written on it for everyone to see. Then several people would take turns reading sections from the scroll. They would read in Hebrew. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, but in Jesus’ day everyone spoke Aramaic, so they would read a few verses and then pause, and it would be translated into Aramaic. And after the Scripture had been read, they would stop, and they would wait for someone to teach. The synagogues didn’t have one regular person in the role of teacher, so they’d wait for someone to come, maybe someone that volunteered or had been asked. And on this day, that someone was Jesus. Only this is a special day because this is his hometown. Luke tells us he came to Nazareth, and then he says this phrase, “where he had been brought up.” So now picture the little congregation in that synagogue. These are the people he grew up with. In Matthew 13 – Matthew’s account of this story, part of the people’s response to Jesus is: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, Most likely, by this time Joseph had died, but Mary was still with them. and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Jesus had four brothers. Aren’t all his sisters with us? (Matthew 13:55-56) So you have to picture as Jesus is there, his family is among the people in the crowd. He’s probably looking at his mother and his family as he says these words. And around the crowd are his teachers, his neighbors, people he made furniture for when he was working for his dad as a carpenter. Maybe Jesus made the benches that the people were sitting on in the synagogue. There are people in the crowd who knew him from when he was a kid. People he went to school with. People he played Bible trivia with… of course, he always won. So Jesus comes to his hometown and he takes the scrolls, and he reads these beautiful words from Isaiah 61: Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:17-19) Then Luke writes that Jesus sat down. The writers of Scripture mention several times that before Jesus teaches he sat down. He sat down before he preached the Sermon on the Mount. And there’s a significant reason why Luke mentions that Jesus sat down. It’s kind of a technical phrase. It’s what a rabbi would do before a time of formal teaching. The teaching posture for a rabbi was the sitting position. This is Luke’s way of stating that this is Jesus’ profession. Jesus is a teacher. I hope you’re getting this — teaching is a critical role of Jesus’ ministry. It was critical to his ministry in that day, and it’s critical in his ministry to you and me today — he is a teacher. Then Luke says, when he sits down — the people know he’s going to teach — verse 20: The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Luke 4:20) How’s he going to do? Is he nervous? Is he going to do well? They expect him to do what teachers would normally do, to offer some commentary on the passage… Here’s what some rabbis would say. Here’s what others would say. Here’s my advice on how to apply the text. Imagine their shock when Jesus sits down and he says: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) || Good news has come to all human beings, even to the poor and the blind and the prisoners and the oppressed. It’s now possible for people, even people who thought they were untouchables, to live in the kingdom of God. His kingdom has come. At the end of the story we read that the people in Jesus’ hometown were offended. They ran him out of town. But that didn’t stop him. He kept teaching, and he kept teaching, and he’s still teaching. || Now, obviously, Jesus is more than just a teacher. He is the Son of God. He is God himself made flesh, but he is a teacher, and his teaching ministry is crucial. || It’s interesting that the term teacher is used to describe Jesus more than forty times in the Gospels, and another fourteen times he’s called rabbi, which means the same thing. Jesus was a teacher and people came to him by the thousands. Mark 4:1 says: Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it [The posture of a teacher.] out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables. (Mark 4:1-2) So many people gathered, he had to get into a boat just to make room for them all. That’s the kind of teacher he was. On two occasions, listed in the Gospel of Mark, crowds of over 4,000 are so engrossed in his teaching that they went right through lunchtime just mesmerized by him. || And there’s a consistent response to Jesus’ teaching. Matthew 13:54: Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. They were amazed because no one taught like this. We see the same kind of response in John, chapter 7: Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” (John 7:14-15) In those days, the way to become a teacher is you would find a Rabbi and study under him for years until he saw fit to commission you as a teacher. It was like graduate school. They’re saying, “Jesus never went to graduate school. He has no credentials. How did he get so wise?” || In fact, it was Jesus’ teaching that got him into trouble. Mark 11:18: The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. People devoted their lives and risked death to be his students. And not just then — for over two thousand years the message of Jesus has captivated the human race. More books have been written about him than anyone who has ever lived. And in this series, we get the opportunity to be students of the greatest teacher who ever lived. || || What I want to do in the time that we have left is look at why Jesus is such a great teacher. Why do his teachings still profoundly move and shape human beings? Why is he the greatest teacher ever? And my hope in doing this is that you will be moved to say, “I want Jesus to be my teacher.” || I want to look at four reasons Jesus is the greatest teacher who ever lived. And the first reason is this — because of how he taught. There’s a real consistent theme discussed in the New Testament about Jesus’ teaching. Mark 1:22, Mark’s beginning account of Jesus’ teaching, Jesus teaches, and then Mark says: The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. In Matthew 7:28, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29) This is repeated a number of times in the gospels. How did Jesus teach? With authority. This astounded people. Why? Because none of the teachers of the law in that day spoke this way. The other teachers of the law studied and quoted authoritative sources. Their teachings would be like this: “The law says we need to honor the Sabbath,” and then they would say, “There’s a teaching that says we honor the Sabbath by this, and there’s another teaching that says we honor the Sabbath by this.” Those teachers would never give an independent opinion. Jesus got up in front of people and said, “This is how it is.” In fact, Jesus spends much of his time trying to clarify the distorted ideas of so-called religious experts. Jesus would say, “You have heard it said…” – this is conventional wisdom – then what’s the second half of his expression? “But I say to you…” || Jesus taught with authority, and here’s the truth about Jesus — He was right. People realized not long after hearing him teach, he was the smartest guy they had ever heard. Jesus just knew how life works. And people who heard him and started to get it, would say, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime — to learn from Jesus, the smartest man who ever lived, and to build my life around what he says.” And that’s what needs to happen for us as well. || I’m going to be praying throughout this series that Jesus, the teacher, will amaze us, as we listen to the teaching of the most brilliant man who ever lived. || || Alright, another reason Jesus is the greatest teacher who ever lived, and this is so beautiful — because of who he taught. Jesus was the greatest teacher ever because he taught everyone. Here again, he’s distinct from every other teacher of his day. || This point is related to the passage in Isaiah that we read in Luke 4, that Jesus comes to proclaim good news to everyone, including the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed, those who apparently were the least blessed, who apparently were in for bad news, according to the kingdom of this world. || When Jesus gathered together his disciples, they were the most unlikely group of disciples any teacher ever gathered. And the idea of having disciples is not unique to Jesus. All successful rabbis had them, but here’s what was unique — other rabbis would never go out and solicit disciples. That was kind of beneath the dignity of a successful rabbi. Getting high-caliber disciples, to seek them out, was a mark of their status. They would take applications. Jesus went out and recruited. Not only did he go out and recruit, he went out and recruited people that no self-respecting rabbi would recruit — uneducated fishermen and tax collectors, who were considered corrupt traitors. Why would he do that? Because he was expressing the heart of God, who doesn’t stand on his dignity but goes out and searches for the lost sheep and for the prodigal sons. || || So Jesus is the greatest teacher who ever lived because of how he taught, because of who he taught, and the third thing is because of what he taught. Jesus taught about who God is. || One of the things Jesus teaches is there’s a whole new way of relating to God. Mark 14:36, Jesus is praying, and it says he prays: Abba, Father. He calls God “Abba.” It’s an Aramaic word, and it means like “tender Father”. Some people say it means something like “Daddy.” || I remember the first time Lily said dada. Kathy was feeding Lily while I was reading and at one point she asked Lily, “Where’s Daddy?” Lily looked over at me and reached out her little hand and said, “Dada.” We were both amazed. I stood up and started dancing around. I grabbed Lily and hugged her and kissed her and told her how proud I was of her. A little while later Kathy pointed at me and asked Lily again, “Who’s that?” And Lily said, “Dada.” It was probably one of the most precious moments of my life. Then later that night Kathy asked Lily: What toy do you want to play with? She said “Dada.” What do you want to eat? “Dada.” Who pooped their pants? “Dada.” Everything was dada! || In all of the Bible, there’s no record of anyone using Abba — Daddy — to address God before Jesus. He opens up the possibility of intimacy with God deeper than anyone thought possible. He also taught his followers that they too could call God “Abba.” He taught them that that’s who God is. And Jesus is just teaching here — he’s saying, “This is the way things are. This is who God is.” || || Alright, last thing… Jesus was the greatest teacher ever because His life backed up His teaching. He’s an incredible teacher because of how he taught – with authority. Because of who he taught – everyone. Because of what he taught – the truth about who God is. And, fourth, because of how he lived – because his life backed up his teaching. || Parents often have a saying, my parents used it on me – “Do as I say, not as I do.” How many of you use that one? Look at Matthew 23:2-3: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They sit in the place of authority, so do what they tell you to do. Submit to their authority. But don’t do what they do, for they don’t practice what they preach. || Jesus’ disciples watched him when he wasn’t in front of everyone, when he wasn’t preaching his sermons. They watched him live what he taught. His life was simply nothing other than his teaching lived out. They watched him every day, year after year. He never lied. He never lusted. He never gossiped. He was never greedy. He was never bitter. He was completely pure. He was incapable of arrogance. He was incapable of self-righteousness. Can you imagine someone who is perfectly righteous, perfectly loving and perfectly joyful? || Can you imagine someone who’s always right about everything, but you actually want to be around him? I know people who think they’re right about everything. I don’t want to be around people like that. It’s kind of a self-righteousness that’s repulsive. Well, Jesus was right about everything, but people were drawn to him. That’s what an amazing person Jesus is. || Imagine that combination of virtue, and avoidance of sin, and humility — a kind of guy that prostitutes and tax collectors felt like they could just walk right up to. || So often in religious circles, when people are trying real hard to pursue spirituality, they become kind of unapproachable, like the Rabbis in Jesus’ day… but in Jesus we see perfect spirituality. He’s the most approachable person who ever lived. He was the most fully alive person his disciples had ever seen. Talk to someone who has had a near-death experience and is suddenly restored to life, and that person will be overwhelmed for a few days about how good it is to be alive… what a gift life is. Jesus is like that all the time… every time he wakes up, he’s just seized with gratitude at the miracle of life. || Little children are brought to him, and he holds them and loves them and blesses them. He says, “Of such are the kingdom of God.” He never gets jaded or cynical. || He goes into the temple and there’s corruption. Those who should have been teaching people God’s goodness are trying to exploit them. And this has been going on a long time. No one is shocked by it anymore… but Jesus was. He gets a whip and he drives them out. He’s just completely alive. Power just flows through him, and all of his miraculous works are evidence of his authority… that he knows what he’s doing. || Dallas Willard put it like this: At the literally mundane level Jesus knew how to transform the molecular structure of water to make it wine, that knowledge also allowed him to take a few pieces of bread and some little fish and feed thousands of people. He could create matter from the energy that he knew how to access from the heavens right where he was. He knew how to transform the tissues of the human body from sickness to health and from death of life. He knew how to suspend gravity, interrupt weather patterns, eliminate unfruitful trees without saw or ax. He only needed a word. In the ethical domain he had an understanding of life that has influenced world thought more than any other. Death was not something imposed on him by others, he explained to his followers in a moment of crisis that he could at any time call on 72,000 angels to do whatever he wanted… he plainly said, “nobody takes my life, I lay it down by choice.” All these things show Jesus cognitive and practical mastery of every phase of reality: physical, moral and spiritual. Saying Jesus is Lord can mean little in practice for anyone who has to hesitate in saying Jesus is smart. He is not just nice, he is brilliant, he is the smartest man who has ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of human history while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it. He always has the best information on everything and certainly on the things that matter most in the human life. || Jesus came to the synagogue two thousand years ago and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And they took offense to that. And they ran him off. And they refused his offer. We can’t do that here, not in this series. We have the opportunity to learn from the Son of God, the smartest man who ever lived. Alright, let me pray for you. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA