If we wish to be good teachers, we must study, and try to understand the things we expect to teach. If a young man wishes to be a minister, he must go through college; and then spend three years in the Divinity School, so that he may understand the great truths of the Bible, which he is to teach the people who hear him. But Jesus never went to college, or to a divinity school. And yet he had greater knowledge about all the things of which he spoke than any other teacher ever had. We are told in the book of Job that "He is _perfect_ in knowledge." Job x.x.xvi: 5. And the apostle Paul tells us that "in him are hid _all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge_."
Col. ii: 3. This is more than can be said of any man, or any angel.
If we could take all the knowledge of all the best teachers who ever lived, and give it to one person, it would be as nothing compared to the knowledge which Jesus, "the Great Teacher" had. He knew all about heaven; for that had always been his home before he came into our world. He knew all about G.o.d; for, he was "in the bosom of the Father," John i: 18; and, as he tells us himself, had shared his glory with him, "before the world was." John xvii: 5. He knew all about the world we live in, for he made it. John i: 10. He knew all about all other worlds, for he made them, too. John i: 3; Heb. i: 2.
He knew all about his disciples and every body else in the world, for he made them all. He saw all they did; he heard all they said; he knew all they thought, or felt. Wise and learned men have been studying, and finding out things for hundreds of years, about geography and natural history--and astronomy;--about light, and heat, and electricity--and steam--and the telegraph, and many other things.
Jesus knew all about these things when he was on earth. He could have told about them, if he had seen fit to do so. But he only told us what it is best for us to know, in order that we might be saved; and kept back all the rest. The things that Jesus did teach us when he was here on earth were wonderful; but it is hardly less wonderful to think of the things that he might have taught us, and yet did not.
When we think of the great knowledge of Jesus, as a Teacher, we are not surprised that some of those who heard him "wondered at the gracious words" he spake; or that others asked the question: "Whence hath this man this knowledge, having never learned?"
Some one has written these sweet lines about Christ as--_The Great Teacher_:
"From everything our Saviour saw, Lessons of wisdom he could draw; The clouds, the colors in the sky; The gentle breeze that whispers by; The fields all white with waving corn; The lilies that the vale adorn; The reed that trembles in the wind; The tree, where none its fruit could find; The sliding sand, the flinty rock, That bears unmoved the tempest's shock; The thorns that on the earth abound; The tender gra.s.s that clothes the ground; The little birds that fly in air; The sheep that need the shepherd's care; The pearls that deep in ocean lie; The gold that charms the miser's eye; The fruitful and the th.o.r.n.y ground; The piece of silver lost and found; The reaper, with his sheaves returning; The gathered tares prepared for burning; The wandering sheep brought back with joy; The father's welcome for his boy; The wedding-feast, prepared in state; The foolish virgins' cry, 'too late!'-- All from his lips some truth proclaim, Or learn to tell their Maker's name."
But the difference between Jesus, the Great Teacher, and all other teachers is seen, not only in the greater knowledge he has of the things that he teaches, but in this also, that he knows how to make us understand the lessons he teaches. Here is an incident that ill.u.s.trates how well Jesus can do this. We may call it:
"The Well Instructed Boy." A minister of the gospel was travelling through the wildest part of Ireland. There he met a shepherd's boy, not more than ten or twelve years old. He was poorly clad, with no covering on his head, and no shoes or stockings on his feet; but he looked bright and happy. He had a New Testament in his hand. "Can you read, my boy?" asked the minister.
"To be sure I can."
"And do you understand what you read?"
"Please turn to the third chapter of St. John, and read us a little,"
said the minister. The boy found the place directly, and in a clear distinct voice, began:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi."
"What does Rabbi mean?"
"It means a master."
"Right; go on."
"We know thou art a teacher come from G.o.d; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except G.o.d be with him."
"What is a _miracle_?"
"It is a _great wonder_. 'Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee.'"
"What does _verily_ mean?"
"It means 'indeed.' 'Except a man be born again.'"
"What does that mean?"
"It means a great change, a change of heart."
"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of G.o.d."
"And what is that kingdom?"
He paused a moment, and with a very serious, thoughtful look, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, "It is _something here_;" and then, raising his eyes to heaven, added, "_and something up yonder_." This poor boy had been taking lessons from "the Great Teacher," and he had taught him some of the most important things that we can ever learn.
Jesus may well be called "the Great Teacher," because of his great knowledge.
_But there is one other thing that Jesus has, which helps to make him "the Great Teacher," and that is_--GREAT POWER.
Other teachers can tell us what we ought to learn, and to do, yet they have no power to help us learn, or do what they teach. But Jesus _has_ this power. Let us take a single ill.u.s.tration from many of the same kind that occurred while he was on earth. One day he was going about teaching in the streets of Jerusalem. As he went on, he pa.s.sed by the office of a man who was gathering taxes for the Roman government. The persons who did this were called _publicans_. This man, sitting in his office, was named Matthew. He was busily engaged in receiving the taxes of the people. It was a very profitable business. The men engaged in it generally made a great deal of money.
Jesus stopped before the window or door of this office. He beckoned to Matthew, and simply spoke these two words:--"_Follow me_."
Now, if any other teacher had spoken these words to Matthew, and had tried to make him quit his business and engage in something else, he would have said: "No; I can't leave my office. This is all the means I have of getting a living. The business pays well, and I am not willing to give it up." But when Jesus spoke to him, he did, at once, what he was told to do. We read that "He left all, rose up, and followed him." Matt. ix: 9; Luke v: 28. He became one of the twelve apostles and wrote the gospel which bears his name. But it was the great power which Jesus has over the hearts of men that made Matthew willing to do, at once, what he was told to do.
And the power which Jesus exercised over Matthew, in this case, he still has, and still uses. And when he is pleased to use this power the very worst people feel it, and are made good by it. And Jesus, "the Great Teacher," uses this power sometimes in connection with very simple things. Here is an ill.u.s.tration. We may call it:
"Saved by a Rose." Some time ago, a Christian gentleman was in the habit of visiting one of our prisons. It occurred to him, one day, that it would be a good thing to have a flowering plant in the little yard connected with each cell. He got permission from the officers of the prison to do so. He had a bracket fastened to the wall, in each yard, and a flower pot, with a plant in it, placed on each bracket.
One of these prisoners was worse than all the rest. He was the most hardened man that had ever been in that prison. His temper was so violent and obstinate that no one could manage him. The keeper of the prison was afraid of him, and never liked to go near him. He was such a disagreeable-looking man that the name given to him in the prison was "Ugly Greg." A little rose bush was put on the bracket in Ugly Greg's yard, and the effect produced by it is told in these simple lines, which some one has written about it:
"Ugly Greg was the prisoner's name, Ugly in face, and in nature the same; Stubborn, sullen, and beetle-browed, The hardest case in a hardened crowd.
The sin-set lines in his face were bent Neither by kindness nor punishment; He hadn't a friend in the prison there, And he grew more ugly and didn't care.
"But some one--blessings on his name!
Had caused to be placed in that house of shame, To relieve the blank of the white-washed wall, Flower-pot brackets, with plants on them all.
Though it seemed but a useless thing to do, Ugly Greg's cell had a flower-pot, too, And as he came back at the work-day's close, He paused, astonished, before a rose.
"'He will smash it in pieces,' the keeper said, But the lines on his face grew soft instead.
Next morning he watered his plant with care, And went to his work with a cheerful air; And, day by day, as the rose-bush grew, Ugly Greg began changing, too.
"The soft, green leaves unfolded their tips, And the foul word died on the prisoner's lips; He talked to the plant, when all alone, As he would to a friend, in a gentle tone; And, day by day, and week by week, As the rose grew taller, so Greg grew meek.
"But, at last they took him away to lie On a hospital bed, for they knew he must die, They placed the rose in the sunny light, Where Greg might watch it, from morn till night, And the green buds grew, from day to day, As the sick man faded fast away.
"The lines which sin and pain had traced, Seemed by the shadowing plant effaced, Till, came at last, the joyful hour, When they knew that the bud must burst its flower.
Greg slept, but still one hand caressed The plant; the other his pale cheek pressed.
The perfumed crimson shed a glow On the old man's hair, as white as snow; The nurse came softly--'Look, Greg!' she said, Ay, the rose had bloomed, but the man was dead."
And the meaning of all this is, not that the rose itself saved this hardened sinner. No; but it led him to think of the lessons of his childhood, when he had been taught about Jesus, "the Rose of Sharon". It led him to think about his sins. It led him to repent of them; to pray to Jesus; to exercise faith in him; and in _this way_ he became a changed man, and was saved. And so, though we speak of him as--"a man saved by a rose;" yet it was the power of Jesus, "the Great Teacher," exercised through that rose, which led to this blessed change and saved Greg's soul from death.
And thus we have spoken of five things which help to make up the greatness of Jesus as a Teacher. These are--The Great Blessings--The Great Simplicity--The Great Tenderness--The Great Knowledge--and the Great Power connected with his teachings. Let us seek the grace that will enable us to learn of him, and then we shall find rest for our souls!
CHRIST TEACHING BY PARABLES
We have spoken of our Saviour as "The Great Teacher," and tried to point out some of the things in his teaching which helped to make him great. And now, it may be well to speak a little of the ill.u.s.trations which he made use of as a Teacher. These are called--_parables_. Our Saviour's parables were ill.u.s.trations. This is what is meant by the Greek word from which we get the word parable. It means something _set down by the side of another_. When we teach a lesson we are setting something before the minds of our scholars. But suppose it is a hard lesson and they do not understand it. Then we use an ill.u.s.tration. This is something set down beside the lesson to make it plain. Then this, whatever it be, is a parable.
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