The Master’s Manner of Teaching
“Never has another man spoken like this.”—John 7:46.
1. Who is the greatest teacher that has ever been on earth? What things should we learn from him, and with what result?
WHEN he was on earth nineteen hundred years ago they used to call him Master, Lord, Teacher and Instructor. (Matt. 8:19, 21, margin; Luke 5:5; 8:24, 45) This one was Jesus, whose birth at Bethlehem the angels of heaven announced and whom God his heavenly Father sent and anointed with his spirit to preach and teach among men. (Luke 2:4-14; 3:21-23; 4:16-22) Never has there been a greater teacher on earth than Jesus! No imperfect man can surpass his effectiveness in the ministry. As Jesus himself said: “A pupil is not above his teacher, but,” he added, “everyone that is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher.” Jesus the Master Teacher directed his disciples to preach as he preached, and he instructed them to teach as he taught. When we copy Jesus by speaking the word of God and not ideas of our own originality, we show that we are following him. When we employ the same methods of teaching that Jesus did, then we are becoming ‘like our teacher.’ It will then be recognized about us, as it was of the apostles, that we have learned from Jesus.—Luke 6:40; Acts 4:13.
2. (a) What message did Jesus announce, and why appropriately so? (b) What good news is to be preached in our day, and how?
2 The message that Jesus announced was: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” When he sent out his twelve disciples he told them: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” Yes, the kingdom had drawn near in the person of the anointed King himself. Concerning the time of the end, in which we now live, he said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness.” Again it is the message of the Kingdom that Jesus’ followers are to preach, but this time it is the good news that God’s heavenly kingdom is established, that “now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” Jesus made the Kingdom live in the minds of his listeners, and we should learn to do the same. He also knew that there were stumbling blocks that kept some from embracing the good news, and he helped to clear them out of the way. By listening to Jesus we can learn from him how to be effective ministers.—Matt. 4:17; 10:7; 24:14; Rev. 12:10.
3. Why is Jesus’ manner of teaching, though centuries old, of special interest to us today, and what is required if our ministry is to be fruitful?
3 The manner of teaching that Jesus employed is as effective now as it was in the first century. People today are as they were in those days, inquisitive, curious, and they wanted to know why? how? where? Even though times change and world conditions may vary, the basic nature of people remains the same. As it was then, so it is now; people have the same weaknesses, desires and worries, so there is the same need for mercy, comfort, hope and security. We do not have to be able to perform miracles in order to convince others of the truth, but we must have accurate knowledge and the spirit of God in order to bear fruit that is an honor to his name. We must stay close to God and to his organization. Jesus illustrated it in this way: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. . . . Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me.” We must stay close to the Word of God and copy carefully the example of Jesus to be effective in the ministry.—John 15:1, 4.
4, 5. What showed his insight in dealing with people?
4 Jesus knew how people would react under various circumstances, and he used that knowledge in selecting pointed illustrations. Showing why he went to the sinners, those who had been as lost sheep, to teach them, he said: “What woman with ten drachma coins, if she loses one drachma coin, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it she calls the women who are her friends and neighbors together, saying: ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the drachma coin that I lost.’” She searched the whole house to find the one lost coin. Even though she still had nine, she wanted the lost one, and when she found it she rejoiced more over that one than over the nine that she already had, because the lost coin was one of a special set of ten. This set may have been sewed to her marriage headpiece as part of her wedding dowry. So, because of its connections, that lost coin was irreplaceable. Its absence from her headgear because of loss would also arouse suspicion as to her virtue as a married woman. Or, if the set of ten coins was an heirloom, then it would be specially precious, and every coin in the set would be of special value. The set would not be complete without each coin. The loss of even one coin might cast suspicion on any visitor in the house before the loss was discovered. Hence visitors to the house would be concerned over the loss of the coin and would be glad to be proved innocent of theft of any part of the heirloom. So, when the loser of the coin would ransack her house and discover it there and she discharged her obligation to all her visitors of joyfully announcing the find, all her friends and neighbors would rejoice with her, both because of being cleared of suspicion of theft, and because the valued heirloom was restored complete.
5 Is that not true of people today? Let a person lose an original piece of a priceless set that has a lot of sentiment connected with it, or even family virtue and honor, and he is not happy until he finds it and can, with the joy of relief, announce the successful find to his concerned friends and neighbors. So, too, “the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” How clearly Jesus illustrated the point! He understood people, and this showed in the way he spoke.—Luke 15:8, 9; 19:10.
6. Why were his illustrations so effective?
6 His use of illustrations became characteristic of his teaching. Instead of making complicated comparisons, he used everyday matters. He made use of little things to explain the big things, and easy things to make plain the hard things. What woman could not instantly appreciate the illustration of sewing a new patch on an old garment? What man in that agricultural country would not see and identify himself with the story of the man who went out to sow seed that fell on different types of soil? Those were things in everyday life, and when spiritual truths were tied to such events the truths could be visualized and more easily remembered.—Matt. 9:16; 13:3-9, 18-23.
7. (a) Why do illustrations make it easier for people to accept new ideas? (b) How did Jesus make his denunciation of greed and unmercifulness forceful?
7 These illustrations drove home the points so forcefully that no one could argue back. Most people believe what they see more readily than they believe things that they have simply heard. If you use an illustration, it is easier for them to accept what you are teaching, because they can see, or visualize, the truth that is involved. For example, when Jesus spoke against greed and lack of mercy he did not merely say, “It is not nice to be greedy.” No; he told of a man who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. One slave owed him ten thousand talents but could not pay. “Therefore the slave fell down and began to do obeisance to him, saying: ‘Be patient with me and I will pay back everything to you.’ Moved to pity at this, the master of that slave let him off and canceled his debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves that was owing him a hundred denarii; and, grabbing him, he began to choke him, saying: ‘Pay back whatever you owe.’ Therefore his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying: ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back.’ However, he was not willing, but went off and had him thrown into prison.” Can you imagine it? A man forgiven a debt of over ten million dollars turned around and jailed another for failing to pay him seventeen dollars! How could anyone possibly defend such greed and lack of mercy? Jesus made greed and failure to forgive so repugnant that his disciples would sincerely try to root them out of their lives.—Matt. 18:23-35.
8, 9. What kind of person was Jesus, as shown by his speech, and how can we benefit by his example?
8 Jesus was uncompromisingly for the truth; he was dynamic as he attacked pride, self-righteousness and oppressive traditions. A man’s style of speech reveals what kind of person he is, and Jesus’ speech was vigorous. His descriptions were vivid. His listeners heard as Jesus painted word pictures of men with rafters in their eyes trying to pick straws from the eyes of others, herdsmen offering pearls to swine, houses on sand crashing in the storm while those on rock stood, men cutting off hands and plucking out eyes to escape destruction, offenders with huge millstones around their necks being hurled into the sea, camels squeezing through the eyes of sewing needles, and men straining out gnats and swallowing camels. Now just imagine swallowing a camel! Only a dynamic person would ever think of such verbal imagery, because a man talks according to his personality. Christ Jesus was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he was filled with the spirit of God, and he spoke like it. Those who want to be his followers should learn his manner of teaching and follow his example as vigorous, enthusiastic advocates of the Bible truth.
9 His speech reveals him as one who was not shyly restrained or timid, but plain-spoken and effective. Jesus’ thoughts soared above and beyond the power of vocabulary, and at times only highly pictorial language could convey his intensity of feeling to those who listened. The crowds were astonished at his teaching and at the authority of his speech. With conviction he spoke the truth to them in the name of his Father, who had sent him. “And the great crowd was listening to him with pleasure,” we are told.—Mark 12:37.
10. What enabled Jesus to speak to people according to their individual needs?
10 He also had other qualities, softer ones. He was at ease with all kinds of people—young or old, male or female, rich or poor, upright or sinners—and he spoke to each one on a personal basis, in the way that that individual needed to be spoken to. This insight into the needs of others was one of his outstanding characteristics and it greatly influenced his teaching. As stated in John 2:25: “He was in no need to have anyone bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
11, 12. Why did he give the counsel he did to the rich young ruler, but who acted according to such counsel?
11 Appreciating the need of each one, he spoke to them with insight. For example, a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what he had to do to gain life, and Jesus said to keep the commandments of the Mosaic law. “All these I have kept from youth on,” the ruler answered. But had he? Could any imperfect man keep that perfect law? No. Yet Jesus did not waste time contesting that, but said: “There is yet one thing wanting about you: Sell all the things you have and distribute to poor people, and you will have treasure in the heavens; and come be my follower.” The man went away sad. (Luke 18:18-23) He was not happy like Simon Peter, who said for himself and his fellow apostles: “Look! we have left all things and followed you.” (Matt. 19:27) He was not like the wealthy tax collector Zacchaeus, who joyfully received Jesus into his house and entertained him and listened to Jesus’ teaching and then said: “Look! the half of my belongings, Master, I am giving to the poor.”
12 But why did the Master not tell Zacchaeus to give all his belongings to the poor in order to become a disciple and follow Jesus? The reason why not was that Zacchaeus wanted to render justice with the other half of his belongings and thereby show he was a real follower of Jesus. Zacchaeus did not retain the other half of his belongings materialistically but, in the interest of justice, in order to discharge his righteous obligations. Zacchaeus said concerning the use of the other half not distributed to the poor: “And whatever I extorted from anyone by false accusation I am restoring fourfold.” The Mosaic law required a thief who had disposed of a stolen sheep to make compensation with four sheep; but if the stolen property was still alive in his hand, he had to make only double compensation. (Ex. 22:1, 4) Zacchaeus thus showed repentance and not only love for the poor but also justice toward oppressed ones as the fruitage of his repentance. Jesus was pleased with such a disposition of the belongings of Zacchaeus as a natural descendant of faithful Abraham, for Jesus said: “This day salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”—Luke 19:1-10.
13. (a) Why did he tell Martha that she was unwisely “anxious and disturbed about many things,” and is that counsel appropriate for others? (b) How can we develop this quality of teaching that Jesus used so effectively?
13 When Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha he was teaching the truth to Mary while Martha prepared an elaborate meal. Finally Martha complained: “Master, does it not matter to you that my sister has left me alone to attend to things? Tell her, therefore, to join in helping me.” “Martha, Martha,” Jesus said, “you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one. For her part, Mary chose the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42) While a very simple meal would have sufficed, Martha spent too much time on elaborate preparations for her guest, to the neglect of the more important spiritual things, and Jesus made that plain. But he did not go throughout Palestine telling women not to prepare large meals for their guests. Martha’s concern over the details of her work in the home was her personal stumbling stone. Jesus’ counsel fit her need, as well as that of all who are inclined to be like Martha. In other instances of his teaching it is evident that Jesus showed similar insight by making the individual’s personal obstacle stand out and then alerting the person to it. We too should be observant, noting the inclinations and reactions of those we teach, and then taking those things into consideration as we continue to help them.
HE ROUTED COMPLACENCY
14, 15. How did Jesus open his sermon on the mount, and with what effect?
14 Jesus’ famous sermon on the mount would not take more than twenty minutes to give as recorded in Matthew 5:1 to 7:27, but it has lasted for nineteen centuries and has been equaled by no sermon since! He was near Capernaum and the crowds were following him, so he went up into the mountain and sat down to teach those that followed him. What did he say? Was it what the majority would readily accept? Did he say that it is the rich who have no need, or the happy who need no comfort? Did he commend those who are well liked by men? No! Rather, he said startling things:
15 “Happy are you poor, because yours is the kingdom of God. Happy are you who hunger now, because you will be filled. Happy are you who weep now, because you will laugh. Happy are you whenever men hate you, and whenever they exclude you and reproach you and cast your name out as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap, for, look! your reward is great in heaven, for those are the same things their forefathers used to do to the prophets.” It was the spiritually hungry, thirsty, reproached, persecuted, needy and mourning ones he pronounced happy.—Luke 6:20-23.
16. What high standards did he set forth, and what effect would these teachings have on his hearers?
16 Jesus continued: “You heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You must not murder; but whoever commits a murder will be accountable to the court of justice.’ However, I say to you that everyone who continues angry with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice.” (Matt. 5:21, 22) Many people can say, “I have never committed murder. I have kept that law.” But how many can say, “I have never been angry with my brother”? Then Jesus said: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27, 28) Many in his audience might be able to say, “I have never committed adultery,” but how many of them could honestly say that they had never had a thought of lust in their life? Jesus also said: “You heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ However, I say to you: Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” Many men can say they do not go around starting fights, but if someone comes up and provocatively slaps first, how many can hold their temper and their hands and avoid a fight?—Matt. 5:38, 39.
17. Whom should we love, and why? And how may hate be conquered?
17 “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have?” (Matt. 5:43, 44, 46) It is easy to love those who love you, but it is extremely difficult to love those who hate and persecute you. Jehovah is able to love his enemies, and we must copy him if we are to be his children. Why let your conduct be governed by the bad behavior of others? Why hate just because others do? Why get into the vicious cycle of rendering evil for evil? Why lower yourself to the base standards of your enemies? Meeting hate with hate brings trouble, while meeting it with love may end the difficulty. What a blessing it would be if you by your right conduct could win over even your enemy! “Return evil for evil to no one,” Paul said. “But keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Rom. 12:17, 21.
18. In his teaching how did Jesus get right to the bottom of the problem, and how do Christians react to his counsel?
18 In his teaching Jesus got right to the bottom of the problem, routing one’s feeling of self-righteous complacency. He showed that more is involved than merely refraining from deeds of violence and immorality. He pointed out the thoughts that would lead to those wrong acts, and urged other thoughts to cultivate godly desires so that their right deeds would be motivated by love. In that way they would avoid falling into the deadly cycle later described by James when he said: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) Christians take Jesus’ counsel to heart and earnestly endeavor to apply it, but what sinful man can honestly say that he fully measures up to that perfect standard? Who can say that he does not need the long-suffering of Jehovah God and His provision of the Messiah? In Jesus’ day such truths that drew attention to human shortcomings greatly disturbed the religious traditionalists, whose self-righteousness was in the outward keeping of rules and regulations. (Matt. 23:23) Jesus hit hard at complacency in order to bring honest ones to their senses and save them from the snare of pride and self-righteousness.
JESUS PREACHED ACTIVITY
19. What anxieties did Jesus know of, but where did he teach us to fix our attention?
19 His sermon continued: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing?” Then, picking illustrations at hand on the hillside, he told them to observe the birds that ate without sowing and the lilies of the field that were so beautifully clothed without spinning. Man too should learn to look to God and thank Him for the things He provides. “If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith?” Jesus stressed putting spiritual things, the Kingdom and God’s righteousness, first, rather than spending so much time and anxiety on material things.—Matt. 6:25-34.
20. (a) What things did Jesus emphasize, and what evidence can you give? (b) Does that affect our teaching? How?
20 Jesus taught his disciples that activity was important. He placed emphasis more on doing good things than on not doing bad things. If you are doing what is right you cannot be doing what is wrong at the same time. “Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces bad fruit; a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” Merely claiming to be Christian and refraining from wicked deeds is not enough. Instead of laying down a long list of things that his disciples were not to do, Jesus urged them to do the will of God. In the main he dealt with positive action, not negative goodness. He more often condemned people for failure to do good than for the committing of bad. For example, there were the priest and the Levite who went on the other side of the street and left the victim of robbers helpless, the goatlike ones who refrained from doing good to the King’s brothers, and the rich man who did nothing for Lazarus the beggar. Jesus warned his disciples against the wrong way, but he emphasized God’s way. He left the pattern for Christian teachers to follow.—Matt. 7:17, 18, 21.
21. What was the effect of his sermon on his hearers, and what will add illumination to Bible incidents involving him?
21 “Now when Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching; for he was teaching them as a person having authority, and not as their scribes.” How were the scribes teaching? Who were they? What other religious groups functioned in Palestine when Jesus taught there? Knowing something about the religious situation in Palestine at the time of Jesus’ preaching will help us better to understand many incidents recorded in the Bible. (Matt. 7:28, 29) We shall also appreciate more why the listening crowds were astounded at the difference in the Master Jesus’ manner of teaching.