The above words were spoken by the Lord  when he was confronted by men who  had “seen (him), and believed not”, who  murmured against him because of his claims (John  6:36, 41,45). He knew that the Father was actively  involved in drawing men to him: “All that the Father  giveth me shall come to me.” God was initiating  the process of redemption and bringing those  He chose within the ambit of Jesus’ redemption.  Those privileged to be called by God, Jesus would  jealously guard: “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (v37). The Father would initiate  the process; the Son would complete it: “I will raise him up at the last day” (v40). The critical element  was divine education, instruction about the Father:  “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath  learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (v45). Jesus,  in word and deed, was the clearest demonstration  and manifestation of the Father to ever appear among men. The inevitable consequence therefore  of any man instructed in the Father’s ways was for him to be drawn like a magnet to the Son. To be in  unbelief showed ignorance of the Father.

We might pause and contemplate the immensity  of the privilege we enjoy and the concomitant  responsibilities that it brings.

Jesus Christ was the greatest teacher of all time.  Even his detractors could not help but confess  this: “How knoweth this man letters, having never  learned?” and “Never man spake like this man”  (John 7:15,46). How many times do we read of Jesus teaching the people in the Temple and indeed  in all the places visited during his ministry. We  marvel at the parables that flowed one after another  from his mouth, which so encapsulate the pith and essence of the lesson of the moment. He was  devoted to the instruction of disciples and followers, always bringing to the fore in the most poignant  way the truth that would put his hearers on the road  to eternal life. He was the “Saviour of the world”,  and every utterance was calculated to convince his audience of this. Failure to understand who he was in the divine purpose was fatal. Claims that might have seemed preposterous and presumptive  were not, but were true, the miracles giving them sanction and validity.

As the greatest teacher of all time, all others  were and are dwarfed by him: “He that cometh from  above is above all” (John 3:31); “he whom God hath  sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not  the Spirit by measure unto him” (v34).The greatest  speech ever heard among men was spoken on a  mountain overlooking Galilee. When he was set,  “his disciples came unto him”, and “he opened his  mouth, and taught them.” It is commonly known as  the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ Gracious words were  heard as he pronounced blessings upon “the poor  in spirit … they that mourn … the meek … they  which hunger and thirst after righteousness … the  merciful … the pure in heart … the peacemakers …  they which are persecuted for righteousness sake”  (Matt 5:1–12).

He continued to analyse the nature of sin,  teaching that it had its origin in thoughts. Words  and deeds result from thoughts in the heart. If the  victory over sin is to be won then the thoughts  preceding it have to be vetted and purified. Herein  lies the key to his own sinlessness. “Ye have heard  that it was said … Thou shalt not kill … But I say  unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother  without a cause …”

By the time he had completed this groundbreaking  discourse, his hearers “were astonished  at his doctrine”. It was not just the incontrovertible  truth that lay behind his words, but the power and  authority of his utterances. The contrast with the  lame words of the scribes, given to citing from  those preceding them, could not be dismissed from  the minds of his hearers: “For he taught them as  one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt  7:28–29).

Teaching and the Levites

The tribe of Levi obtained the priesthood, which  had initially been allocated to the firstborn. This privilege was granted them because they remained  true to God when Israel worshipped the golden  calf at the foot of Sinai, when Moses and Joshua  received the ten commandments (Num 3:45). They  were entrusted with the sacred task of educating  the nation in God’s ways: “They shall teach Jacob  thy judgments, and Israel thy law” (Deut 33:10).

When faced with insuperable odds Jehoshaphat  saw the need for petition and praise by the Levites  (2 Chron 20:14,19). The great reforming kings of  Judah, Hezekiah and Josiah, both saw the need for the  Levites to perform their appointed roles of teaching  and service (2 Chron 29:4–11; 35:3). So also did Ezra  when he instituted reforms in the wayward remnant  that had returned (Neh 8:9). Besides the prophets  whom God raised up it was their responsibility to  learn, know and teach the law of their God: “For the  priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should  seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of  Yahweh of hosts” (Mal 2:7).

Relevance to us

Education in God’s ways is essential. As disciples  of the Lord Jesus Christ we must learn about him.  How can we teach others if we have not ourselves  been instructed, “taught of God”. Every follower of  the Lord needs to spend time in the Bible. Our daily  readings coupled with earnest prayer help us to keep  worldly thoughts at bay and hence to purge our  ways. In other gracious words of our Lord he says,  “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy  laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon  you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in  heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt  11:28–29). Here the invitation to come is coupled  with “learning” of him. There is a transformation  of the mind resulting from this learning that no  other learning can give. We all know we need and  want the rest that only he can give, but sometimes  we do not avail ourselves of the means of attaining  it. This world abounds with distractions that can  take our focus off “the mark for the prize of the  high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14).  It is a strange thing that it can take us a lifetime  in the Truth to reach the conclusion that nothing,  absolutely nothing in this world compares with the  promise of life and peace held out by our Lord to  the faithful. All the world’s prizes are hollow and  have no substance.

We need to set aside time to meditate upon  the record of the life of our Lord if we are going  to learn of him, and also if we are going to teach  others: “And the things that thou hast heard of me  among many witnesses, the same commit thou to  faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”  (2 Tim 2:2). We all have the responsibility to grow  in understanding and to apply ourselves to this  matter of learning and teaching, whether mothers,  fathers, grandparents, whether ‘lecturers’, exhorters  or Sunday School teachers or youth group leaders.  There is no substitute for time spent reading your  Bible and thinking about its message.

The day is soon to dawn when the Lord will  be in the earth. We will, if found worthy, be given  rewards of power and authority in that day. As kings  and priests we shall bring light and understanding  to humbled and ignorant survivors.

Our Lord’s ear was attuned daily to the Word  of God. There was careful listening, heeding and  attention to what he heard (Isa 50:4). This was the  key to his knowledge, understanding, ministry and  perfection. Though cast in different roles to him,  the principle of attention to the voice of God in His  Word remains the same.

Why would we choose to read fiction,  newspapers and gossip magazines, the emanations  of the dark minds of men, instead of the Holy and  inspired Scriptures? Is reading the Bible a lost  art? Is it as prevalent in our community today as  yesterday? Have busy lives displaced family Bible  reading? Remember, our values will become those  of our children. The Apostle Paul’s words are as  relevant today as when Timothy first read them,  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a  workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly  dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

Further reading about the greatest teacher

  • Nazareth Revisited, Robert Roberts
  • The Teaching of the Master, Mark: The Gospel of the Son of God, L G Sargent
  • A Life of Jesus, Melva Purkis
  • Gospel of John; Parables of Messiah, John Carter
  • Jesus Healer and Teacher, W F Barling