Jesus Christ is an example of everything good and perfect. He shows us how to be meek, humble, and selfless. He portrays love, kindness, and mercy. Sermons have been preached about his office of prophet, priest, and king. However, it is rarely mentioned that he was also a teacher. People who are very conservative and place a large emphasis on preaching insist that Jesus was not a soft-spoken teacher, but a preacher of preachers. People who are very liberal and place the emphasis on Jesus caring for the poor and the widows insist that he was not a teacher teaching absolute truth, but a social reformer. He did many things, and all of them, he did perfectly. One of those was teaching.
Much of Jesus' ministry involved teaching. He taught in many places, to many people, using many methods. His ministry began with teaching, consisted of teaching, and ended with teaching. He had time to teach a group of thousands. He also had the compassion to teach single individuals. He is a perfect example of how to effectively teach.
Jesus’ ministry began with teaching. It is often said that his teaching ministry began in Luke 4. This may be true concerning his public ministry as a grown man. However, eighteen years earlier, Luke gives a glimpse of what was to come. In Luke 2:46-47, the record is given of Jesus in the temple at the age of twelve. Jesus is left at the temple for about three days. His parents find him, not engaged in youthful vices, but conversing with men trained in religious instruction. The miraculous thing is that the young boy is not speechless and gazing at the trained doctors, but the contrary is true. The trained doctors are amazed at the wisdom of one a fraction of their age. In this story, Jesus shows a pattern that would show up throughout his earthly ministry. He hears them (v. 46), he questions them (v. 46), and he answers them (v. 47). The result: the ones being taught are astonished. This would happen the next time Jesus teaches (Luke 4:32).
For the next eighteen years, Jesus increases in wisdom, stature, and favor. He becomes a carpenter and is subject to his parents. He presents himself publicly when he began to be about thirty years old. He is then tested for forty days and afterwards returns into Galilee. His first ministry involved teaching in the synagogues (Luke 4:15).
In the same chapter (4), Luke gives a detailed record of one of Jesus’ teaching services. Jesus first gets the attention of the audience by standing up so all eyes would be directed toward him. He then begins to read the material he wants to present to his listeners. After the material is read, he then gives the book back to the minister and sits down. He then speaks only one sentence after reading his text: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21). The few lines read from Isaiah and the one line explaining its fulfillment is enough to make the crowd fill with wonder. Jesus presents the simple truth in such an authoritative and surprising way that the people ask with wonder, “Is not his Joseph’s son?” His teaching ministry in Galilee leaves the people in the same condition as the doctors in the temple eighteen years earlier, astonished (Luke 4:32).
The record of the next 3½ years contains teaching that remains unparalleled to this day. Throughout the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Jesus teaches all manner of people all manner of subjects. One thing that made him so effective is the fact that common people understood him. He did not teach them with the intent of trying to show his superiority (the resurrection would prove that). He did not teach them using great swelling words that would end up subverting the hearers. He taught them using common language. He spoke in parables that common farmers could understand. He spoke of the seed and the sower, the serpent on the pole, the manna that came from heaven, the living water, and the sheep and the shepherd. When people did not understand him, he did not tell them to study, learn, or simply figure it out. He explained with patience and had compassion on those “ignorant and out of the way” (Hebrews 5:2). He used simple stories, parables, and illustrations. He used tangible objects to relate to his stories, such as birds, flowers, vines, water, and coins. He taught in a way that would leave people for him or against him, but not ignorant. For this reason, “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37).
Not only did Jesus begin and base his ministry on teaching, but he also ended it with the same. The day before his crucifixion he is teaching his disciples the meaning of the Last Supper. He uses a living illustration to explain to them his shed blood and broken body. He could have used anything to teach this, but he chose the simple elements that were already available to the senses of the disciples. After the supper, he then led them down a path that evidently had vines, branches, and trees. He explained to them using a metaphor how the relationship of a vine to a branch is like Christians to the Christ.
After his death, burial, and resurrection, he spent forty days teaching his disciples things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). He spent his last days upon this earth training the disciples for the task they would soon be given. Jesus did not teach the disciples so they could gain knowledge that would remain unshared. He was preparing them for his last command: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Christ did not plan his teaching ministry to fit into a 3½ year curriculum that would end when he ascended. He began a ministry that Christians can have a part in today.