Have you ever wondered about the enormous influence teachers can have on their students, as well as others? The past is replete with the names of notable teachers who had a profound impact on the course of history. I would like us to consider some of the most influential teachers of all time who contributed to the betterment of society and thus helped shape the world.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, author, and teacherwho is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time. He is most famous for his law of universal gravitation.
Anne Sullivan (1866-1936), born into a poor immigrant family, contracted an eye disease at the age of five that left her blind and without reading or writing skills. At fourteen she entered the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston and, while there, had a series of eye operations that significantly improved her vision. In June 1886, she graduated at age 20 as the valedictorian of her class. She stated, "Fellow-graduates: duty bids us go forth into active life. Let us go cheerfully, hopefully, and earnestly, and set ourselves to find our especial part. When we have found it, willingly and faithfully perform it; for every obstacle we overcome, every success we achieve tends to bring man closer to God and make life more as He would have it."
In 1887 she was employed as teacher-governess to seven-year-old deaf-blind Helen Keller. Undoubtedly, the partial blindness of Sullivan gave her insight (in the fullest meaning of the word) into the little girl’s closed-off world. Anne became Helen’s lifelong companion and friend. Helen became the first deaf-blind person to graduate from college. She is remembered as an author, political activist, and lecturer. Through her many speeches and appearances, she brought inspiration and encouragement to millions of people. “Anne's success with Helen remains an extraordinary and remarkable story. Anne believed that the key to reaching Helen was to teach her obedience and love. [Anne] saw the need to discipline, but not crush, the spirit of her young charge.” http://www.afb.org/info/about-us/helen-keller/biography-and-chronology/biography/1235.
Because of the very special nature of the relationship of the mother to her child, the mother's influence helps shape the mind and character of the child. “It was Jochebed, the Hebrew mother, who, strong in faith, was ‘not afraid of the king's commandment’ (Hebrews 11:23), of whom was born Moses, the deliverer of Israel. It was Hannah, the woman of prayer and self-sacrifice and heavenly inspiration, who gave birth to Samuel, the heaven-instructed child, the incorruptible judge, the founder of Israel's sacred schools. It was Elizabeth, the kinswoman and kindred spirit of Mary of Nazareth, who was the mother of the Saviour's herald.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 372.
The responsibilities and the opportunities that a mother has are priceless. “There is a God above, and the light and glory from His throne rests upon the faithful mother as she tries to educate her children to resist the influence of evil. No other work can equal hers in importance. She has not, like the artist, to paint a form of beauty upon canvas, nor, like the sculptor, to chisel it from marble. She has not, like the author, to embody a noble thought in words of power, nor, like the musician, to express a beautiful sentiment in melody. It is hers, with the help of God, to develop in a human soul the likeness of the divine.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 377.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
How do you raise a son whom you believe to be the Messiah? That would be hard enough. But how can she understand that she is raising the Son of God Himself? A boy, who, when He calls God His Father, means it literally? Mary cannot take all this in. She treasured these moments and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:51).
“The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother's knee.” The Desire of Ages, p. 70 (emphasis added).
“As a little child He was daily at His mother's knee, taught from the scrolls of the prophets.” Education, p. 185.
God chose Mary for what could arguably be the most important job in history—bringing our Savior Jesus Christ into the world. Jesus’ Messiahship would cause her joy as well as deep sorrow and anguish. She was a devoted mother to Him and is a woman admired for her bravery and her faithful love to God.
Jochebed, the Mother of Moses
Jochebed showed tremendous faith in God. She is one of the bravest mothers in the Bible. She was not afraid of the king’s commandment, and the son that was born to her became the deliverer of Israel. Though ordered by the Pharaoh to murder her baby boy at birth, she hid him away for three months—as long as she could. Then she made a small boatfor him, placed him into it, and put the boat into the river. God directed the small ark and baby Moses to the Pharaoh’s daughter. The ruler’s daughter took up baby Moses as her own child but hired Jochebed to nurse the baby. Jochebed taught Moses many things in the time he was with her.
The pen of inspiration records that “Jochebed was a woman and a slave. Her lot in life was humble, her burden heavy. But through no other woman, save Mary of Nazareth, has the world received greater blessing. Knowing that her child [Moses] must soon pass beyond her care, to the guardianship of those who knew not God, she the more earnestly endeavored to link his soul with heaven.
“She endeavored to imbue his mind with the fear of God and the love of truth and justice, and earnestly prayed that he might be preserved from every corrupting influence. She showed him the folly and sin of idolatry, and early taught him to bow down and pray to the living God, who alone could hear him and help him in every emergency.
“She kept the boy as long as she could but was obliged to give him up when he was about twelve years old. From his humble cabin home he was taken to the royal palace, to the daughter of Pharaoh, ‘and he became her son.’ Yet even here he did not lose the impressions received in childhood. The lessons learned at his mother's side could not be forgotten. They were a shield from the pride, the infidelity, and the vice that flourished amid the splendor of the court.” Conflict and Courage, p. 80.
“The whole future life of Moses, the great mission which he fulfilled as the leader of Israel, testifies to the importance of the work of the Christian mother. There is no other work that can equal this.” The Adventist Home, p. 238.
Timothy's Mother and Grandmother
“From a child he had known the Scriptures. The piety that [Timothy] saw in his home life was sound and sensible. The faith of his mother and his grandmother in the sacred oracles was to him a constant reminder of the blessing in doing God's will. The word of God was the rule by which these two godly women had guided Timothy. The spiritual power of the lessons that he had received from them kept him pure in speech and unsullied by the evil influences with which he was surrounded. Thus his home instructors had co-operated with God in preparing him to bear burdens.” The Acts of the Apostles, p. 203.
Christ, the Teacher Sent from God
Inspiration tells us that in the Teacher sent from God, heaven gave to men its best and greatest. Christ was the One chosen to reveal in person to humanity the knowledge of God. Christ came to show how men are to be trained as befits the sons of God, how on earth they are to practice the principles and to live the life of heaven.
No other person’s influence even comes close to the power and influence of the teaching of the Son of God. His teaching has the power to change lives and to transform the world. The Scottish theologian James Stuart said, “The teaching of Jesus has had a power and effect with which the influence of no other teacher can even for a moment be compared.”
Of the 90 times Jesus was addressed directly in the gospels, 60 times he was called Teacher. This was the word the multitudes used. This was how the disciples referred to him. Jesus himself used the term when He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). When he came to Jesus by night, Nicodemus said, “We know that you are a teacher who has come from God” (John 3:2).
When Jesus had finished giving the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew tells us the crowds were so amazed at His teaching because “he taught as one having authority. . . “ (Matthew 7:29).
Consider His last instructions as given to us in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19 KJV, emphasis supplied). His final command was a teaching command.
How successful was Jesus as a teacher? Two thousand years have passed, and today across the world over two billion people bear His name. Christianity has spread from Jerusalem to every corner of the globe. At this very moment thousands of missionaries are fulfilling Jesus’ command to teach all nations. If the success of the students is the measure of the teacher, then no teacher was ever so successful as the one and only Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.
I’d like us to consider the various rhetorical devices and teaching methods used by Jesus that drew an “innumerable multitude” to Him (Luke 12:1). They found in Him the One who is able to meet the needs of all men.
Epigram (a brief, striking statement, such as what Jesus said when beginning His ministry with the good news that “The time has come: the kingdom of God is at hand” [Mark 1:15]). Jesus met with Nicodemus, a respected teacher and member of the Sanhedrin, who would later become a follower of the Savior. Nicodemus had seen the cleansing of the temple and heard Jesus say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, and you have made it into a den of thieves.” Something in Nicodemus recognized that Jesus was right. So Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, and Jesus looked at him and, instead of saying something complicated, said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). That is a pretty striking statement, and Nicodemus was perplexed about what Jesus meant. Jesus certainly caught the leader's attention, didn’t He?
Paradox (an apparent contradiction). In Mark 10:44 we read, “Whoever wants to be first, must become the servant of all.” It does not seem to make sense but is an apparent contradiction. Another example is found in Matthew 20:16, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” The whole function of this rhetorical device is to get the attention of His hearers.
Hyperbole (exaggeration for effect, not intended to be taken literally). Jesus, the Master Teacher, used hyperboles to capture the attention of His hearers and awaken an interest in His teaching. For example, Luke 14:26 reads, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.” If you take that literally, you are in trouble, and you have misunderstood the teaching of Jesus. How do we know that? Even if your mother were your enemy, Jesus said that we ought to love our enemies! He can’t possibly be saying, literally, “Hate your parents!” His statement about hating our father and mother is a hyperbole—an exaggeration for effect.
Parable (a story conveying a deep spiritual truth). Jesus’ primary method of teaching was the use of parables. Many years ago someone said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. There are approximately 40 parables recorded in the gospels (approximately I say, because some that seem to be parables may actually be proverbs [phrases expressing a basic truth that may be applied to common situations]). In Matthew 13:34, we read, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables. He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” That is a hyperbole. Of course, Jesus did not always speak in parables. But this text is saying that parables were so much the way that Jesus did things, that Matthew used a hyperbole and wrote, “He didn’t say anything without using a parable.”
Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?
This Master Teacher, who spoke with authority, chose to use parables as His primary teaching method. Bible scholars believe that Jesus taught in parables for two reasons.
One reason was that Jesus was speaking to a varied audience. There were children and less-educated people, as well as more-educated people. Jesus welcomed everyone, and He wanted everyone whose heart was open to the truth to understand the parable. But He did not want His enemies to take something and immediately use it against Him. Therefore, He taught in parables. That’s what Mark 4:10-12 tells us.
Let us look at His second reason for using parables. Jesus taught in parables so that people would remember His teaching. A story is more easily remembered than abstract teaching. If the story illustrates the truth, then it is well told. A parable connects the truth to everyday life. Because Jesus wanted people to remember His teaching, He told parables.
“Christ had truths to present which the people were unprepared to accept or even to understand. For this reason also He taught them in parables. By connecting His teaching with the scenes of life, experience, or nature, He secured their attention and impressed their hearts. Afterward, as they looked upon the objects that illustrated His lessons, they recalled the words of the divine Teacher. To minds that were open to the Holy Spirit, the significance of the Savior's teaching unfolded more and more. Mysteries grew clear, and that which had been hard to grasp became evident.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 21.
Three Principles for Interpreting Parables
Firstly, each parable illustrates one primary aspect of spiritual truth. The primary truth of the sower parable is that the condition of your heart will affect whether the Word grows or not. Therefore, we want to look for the primary truth, just like we do in the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The primary truth there is that a wise person will build his or her life on Jesus the Rock.
The second principle is that a parable illustrates the truth. The parable is not the truth itself. Therefore, we have to look beyond the story and ask what is the truth that is being conveyed.
Thirdly, the context for the speaking of the parable is very important. Other things that Jesus has been saying at that time may help us to understand the meaning of the parable.
Jesus Christ taught powerfully through His sermons, which touched and transformed peoples’ lives. He was a master communicator. For instance, the classic Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapter 5, was spoken in love and compassion to sinners who were seeking a better way of life. Jesus stated clearly the principles for discipleship and the ways to correct moral behavior. Jesus presented truths that were never heard before. For the sincere listeners, the messages gave hope to the hopeless and spiritual strength to the weak. We repeat, Jesus was the Master Teacher.
Perhaps Christ’s most memorable sermon is the prophecy found in Matthew 24. It was in answer to His disciples’ question, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?“ In His reply, He mingled the descriptions of the impending destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the great day of His coming.
His disciples were spellbound as they heard Jesus listing the signs of the end of the world. In unmistakable language, the Lord spoke of His second coming, giving warning of dangers to precede His second advent. Jesus didn’t waste time preaching a watered-down gospel, but urged His attentive listeners to consider the matter of eternal life or death.
Jesus taught His listeners to understand more fully and to remember His teachings by repeating His ideas over and over. For example, Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection many times.
Some people need to hear gospel truth many times before they comprehend God’s Word, especially the prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation. It cannot be expected that profound truths will be grasped at one hearing. What gets repeated, generally gets remembered better. Dear friends, try to repeat your lessons to your students, and good results will follow.
Jesus Practiced What He Preached
The greatest lessons we teach come from our lives, not from our lips. Jesus lived what He preached. Jesus didn’t only teach others about prayer, but He Himself was on His knees in prayer on a daily basis. Someone once said, “Children learn more from who you are, than from what you teach.” Being a good example has a most powerful and positive impact on others.
In conclusion, Jesus gave His all to teach us the truth. He said, in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus is the Master Teacher . He desires to teach you His way of teaching others and “to make disciples of 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).
I gratefully acknowledge the ideas and inspiration gained from watching a class on the “Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ” taught by Dr. Derek Morris.
by Henry Dering