Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jesus' Teaching

I have often heard the comment that Jesus was a great teacher - I usually hear it in conjunction with a but...

Jesus was a great teacher, but I don't like Christians very much.

Now, as a point of full disclosure, I believe that the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Bible are one in the same. And I have problems with Jesus merely being a great teacher. Radical teacher, yes. But simply a great teacher, well, that depends.

What makes a great teacher great?

  • Are great teachers great because they are well-known?
  • Are great teachers great because their teachings are well-known?
  • Are great teachers great because their students become well-known?
  • Are great teachers great because they teach something new?
  • Are great teachers great because they teach with authority?
  • Are great teachers great because their students follow their teachings?

I think it's a combination of these things, but one important point for me is the last question I asked: Are great teachers great because their students follow their teachings?

This would go along with the statement: perception is reality. If this is the case, then we Christians really need to watch what we do, don't we? Because we reflect on our teacher. And if we constantly reflect poorly on Jesus, doesn't that make him (by at least one of the criteria) a poor teacher?

I had a German teacher in college who was obsessed(?) with her section receiving the highest grade on our exams. No, she didn't "teach to the test" but she worked really hard to make sure that we knew our stuff so that we would demonstrate our knowledge on the tests. Her section did usually get the highest grades.

Jesus seems to pass this test with regard to his disciples - well, minus Judas Iscariot, probably. All of them had their lives radically changed because of his teaching. Well, his teaching and the fact that after they'd abandoned him as he was crucified, that he came back from the dead.

But does he pass that test with regard to us? That remains to be seen. But the factors by which he will be judged in our lives are as follows:

  • Do we know what he taught?
  • Do we follow what he taught?

If we don't know what he taught, how can we judge how good a teacher he was/is? And if we don't follow what he taught, doesn't it stand to reason that we don't believe his teachings? And if we don't believe his teachings, then aren't we saying he isn't a good teacher?

So, what do you say? Is Jesus a good teacher?

4 comments:

Big Mama said...

Humm, Good thought question--but does that mean that Hitler was a good teacher? His students followed his teaching..or else. Jim Jones? David Koresh? My Pop? You'd better have followed their teachings if you were their "students." Maybe they were. Maybe the criteria is that students WANT to follow their teacher even if they can't always. But you are so right: if you don't know Jesus' teachings, you can't even try to follow them! That's so sad when they are right before us if we only take the time and effort!!

The Thief said...

This is part of the problem with the "good teacher" idea -that it's not clear about what "good" means. Does it simply mean "effective" (in which case Hitler, Jones, Koresh, and your pop could be considered in the category)?

Rev. Dulce said...

Well reasoned argument and an interesting question. I can't really think about it today though, because I don't really like some Christians.

I don't believe that good means effective. To me, good not only reflects the effectiveness of Jesus but also the philosophy/lifestyle that he was imparting.

The Thief said...

To me, good not only reflects the effectiveness of Jesus but also the philosophy/lifestyle that he was imparting.

I agree wholeheartedly with this. Which has huge implications for those of us who claim to follow his teachings!