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The Teacher

Posted by admin in August 19th, 2009
Published in teaching

How Would Jesus Teach?

Many professions or vocations today lack an exact model of how Jesus would work in specific fields. We can see in Scripture that Jesus prepared breakfast for his disciples. However, we don’t know his recipe, if he used marinade, what his filleting technique was, or much about his presentation. (But I bet it was delish). We know that Jesus was a carpenter, but the Bible doesn’t give us a detailed explanation of how he actually built things. Interesting though, Os Guinness reports that a plow bearing Jesus’s and Joseph’s trademark was found still being used near the Sea of Galilee over a hundred years after Jesus’s death. Wow. That’s some good workmanship! But what else would you expect from the Creator of the universe?

But teachers take heart! In the Gospels, Jesus is addressed as “Teacher” more than any other title (Friedeman, 1990). He is considered by a whole bunch of folks from diverse cultures, political thought and world religions as an excellent teacher. For those of us who are his followers, he is THE Teacher.

Scripture has a lot to say about Jesus as a teacher. Matt Friedeman (check out the book reference at the end of this blog) writes, “As Christian educators we would be wise to fix our eyes upon Jesus—teacher par excellence. In him we can find our objectives, the foundation for our methodology, the working stuff of our craft” (p. 13). Preach it Matt brother! Jesus is our role model for teaching.

Friedman goes on to say that the question for teachers who want to teach Christianly (and that’s all teachers who profess Jesus as Lord, right?) is not “What would Jesus do?” but “How would Jesus teach?”

So, How would Jesus teach?

Jesus’s Methods
Jesus used illustrations to bring abstract concepts into concrete understanding. “To penetrate their reality, Jesus’ words had to be simple yet challenging, touching on what they knew and bridging the way to what they needed to learn” (Friedeman, 1990, p. 167). Jesus used language that was familiar to his students and created illustrations from their everyday lives, such as a camel going through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:24). This is particularly significant for cross-cultural classrooms—we must use illustrations and examples that are relevant and familiar to our students in order for them to make connections—all necessary processing for learning to take place.

Jesus’s excellence in teaching is demonstrated in his ability to effectively teach one-on-one or a class of five thousand. Talk about juggling. And we think inclusion is tough. He knew how to adapt lessons for both large and small groups, rich and poor, male and female, educated and uneducated, religious and irreligious, the powerful as well as the disenfranchised. He not only knew his stuff, he knew how to communicate it, apply it and present it to a wide range of learning types. Good teachers have to be able to adapt, flex, and be willing to change things up a bit in order to reach students. Teaching isn’t just conveying information, it is also about helping students “get it.”

He also effectively utilized different learning styles. Tough job and a whole lot of work. At times Jesus would lecture. Some people learn best through lectures. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount—he used lecture. In other lessons he asked questions (can we all say Socratic?) like “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15) or “What do you think?” in the parable of the two sons (Mt. 21:29). He helped students discover embedded concepts and principles when he used real-life scenarios as case studies in his parables like in the Good Samaritan or the sowing of the seed. Jesus not only asked questions of his students, he also welcomed questions from them as well (“Who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29; “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Mt.18:1). He shows us that dialoging is a great tool for teaching.

In addition to these methods, Jesus also taught application. His teaching was never limited to just theory, or concepts, but rather he kept learners interested by providing opportunities for them to apply the principle they had just learned. For example, Jesus sent out his disciples with the following instructions: As you go, proclaim this message, “The kingdom of heaven has come near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff. . . . Be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Mt 10:5-16).

Daily they had witnessed him living out these principles. They heard his teachings and watched as he healed the sick and raised the dead. As the Model Teacher, Jesus equipped his students to go and do likewise—to do not only what he said, but what he modeled.

Jesus used a variety of teaching methods that elicited interest and spoke to the social background, culture and age of his students. He used parables, questions, discussion and object lessons. Challenging, enlightening and influencing learners in a dynamic manner made some uneasy, but it allowed them to reevaluate their lives and how they saw the world while giving them important principles to live by. It’s hard to be a good teacher. It takes a lot of work, but if we don’t teach well, we’ll never teach what is good.

Christian teachers can draw from these pedagogical techniques in their classrooms. Christian educators must ask, “How do we make our disciplines and our teaching relevant and interesting? How do we provide opportunities for students’ application? How can my teaching make a difference in my students’ lives?”

Let me leave you with a story about a good teacher named Glen. He teaches like Jesus taught and he’s having a great impact on students. Hope you enjoy it. Peace.

Glen T., Ph.D., teaches Comparative Religions in Central AsiaI usually accompany a handful of my students (all converted to Christianity from Islam) on a monthly “servant evangelism” outing. We go to a neighborhood and pick up all the garbage lying around. The neighbors are very curious and immediately ask us what we are doing. Initially they think we are crazy. Our simple response is that we are disciples of Jesus and want to clean the neighborhood in a way similar to the way Jesus wants to clean our hearts.

God usually does very wonderful things at this point. For example, one lady said that as soon as we mentioned “Jesus” all the hair on her arms stood up. We then explained that Jesus was present and his Spirit was touching her. We asked her if we could pray for her and she accepted. This kind of interaction during servant evangelism is common.

We usually clean up for an hour and a half and have six to ten of these kinds of interactions with people. One of the newly converted students has been very faithful in this activity, which has impacted her deeply. All the students who participate give testimony to the presence and power of the Spirit of Jesus. It demonstrates to them that Jesus is alive, he is working, and that his power and presence are real.

Reference:
Friedeman, Matt. (1990). The Master Plan of Teaching: Understanding and Applying the Teaching Styles of Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

2 users Responded In This Post

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199. prgjohnson said,
August 20th, 2009 at 8:39 am

I am SO enjoying your blogs, but especially this series on teaching. Keep it up!!! I’m planning to use some of this next week in our staff inservice time before school starts. Yeah, Teri! You’re great!!

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200. admin said,
August 20th, 2009 at 8:52 am

Thanks Leslie! I’ll do a new one right now. 🙂 Love what you’re doing there in Prague with the international school. Keep it up.

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