Jesus Knew The ABC’S Of Teaching
By: Carol P. Ramsay
As a principal I counseled teachers to teach with authority just as Matthew 7:29 records Jesus’ teaching style. I continue to say that when addressing my secondary education students at Grove City College.
What does it mean to teach with authority? How did Jesus do it?
Jesus knew the ABC’s of teaching. He knew the A, His audience; He knew the B, the behaviors He expected from His audience as a result of His teaching; He knew the C, which encompasses both His content and the conditions under which His audience would need to exhibit the behaviors He taught. And finally, He knew the D, the degree of acceptability He expected from His audience.
Throughout the Gospels are evidences that Jesus knew His audience. He had the same mixture of students any teacher has. He had those who love to learn, as well as those who were slow to comprehend. He had minorities, majorities, multicultural ethnics. He dealt with the handicapped, behavior problems, the hostile. He even had a pushy parent try to persuade Him to give special treatment to her sons. Some of His students sat in the back and snickered, laughed, and mocked Him.
We teachers may wonder what the chitchat is about in the back of the room. We feel slighted because students don’t think what we have to say is important enough to give attention to. Such a reaction is because we are focused on ourselves; we are self-centered; we concentrate on how the students’ behavior affects us.
Jesus was different because He knew His audience. Luke 11:17 tells us He knew their thoughts. Because He acted out of a motivation that subliminated self and was directed toward His ultimate purpose, He did not react to His students’ behavior. He was in control.
Although Jesus’ motivation emanated from a caring attitude toward His listeners, He didn’t back down. When Pharisees murmured and complained in the back of the synagogue (His classroom), He called them out for their behavior. He knew their thoughts and never minced words with them (Matthew 12:25-50).
Jesus knew His audience, so He knew when He had conveyed the lesson to a learner and when it fell on deaf ears. I can almost hear Him ask Philip, “How many times must I explain this concept to you?” (John 14:811). He expressed satisfaction when a student responded correctly. This is apparent in His approval of Peter’s response following the question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:18, NKJV).
He knew the students who tried to negotiate the conditions of their grade or reward. When a follower tried to condition his discipleship by saying, “Let me first go and bury my father,” Jesus reminded him of his primary obligation (Matthew 8:21,22).
Jesus knew individual differences. He knew John responded to touch. He knew those with fiery tempers should be seated up front to keep them out of trouble. Peter, James, and John were held in close rein. They responded well to the nearness of the Lord.
Jesus knew even when He had given His utmost, some would deny and betray Him (John 13:11,38).
Jesus also knew the B of teaching. He knew the behaviors He expected from His students. His lessons were clear and directed toward changing behavior to acceptable and profitable pursuits.
We too must know what we expect of our students as the end result of our teaching; otherwise we will ramble on, and our students will receive nothing. Our lesson planning must reflect purpose, direction, and expectation. The student’s compliance with or fulfillment of that expectation must be observable.
When Jesus taught, He expected observable behaviors from His students. He said, “Go… and teach all nations, baptizing them…. (a dear, observable quantitative behavior) (Matthew 28:19). Furthermore, He taught His students to “love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
“Aha,” you say, “that’s an intangible. That’s not an observable behavior. Love is a feeling.” Wrong. The love Christ expects is so apparent, so tangible that He said this very love will be observable proof to nonbelievers that these students are His disciples. Jesus also taught to expected behaviors when He commanded Peter to “feed my sheep” (John 21:16) and when He told the woman caught in adultery to “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Jesus knew the two C’s of teaching, content and conditions. He the conditions under which His students would need to live and exhibit these behaviors, and He knew the content material He needed to teach.
Knowing the content of the learning one expects to teach is essential. Good teachers don’t stay just a chapter ahead of the class. They know their material. They are informed about new research in the field, and they know the prior body of knowledge. They are well read.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law. By doing that He was in fact reducing the curriculum, the content material, for the Jewish believers. They could forget the minute details of the Law and with simple faith believe on Him and be saved.
Because He was negating the need to conform to the rigors of the old body of knowledge, He could have easily dismissed any personal learning of the Law. But He didn’t. He knew the prior body of knowledge. He was able to teach more effectively by expanding on the material His students had previously learned. He met His students where they were and led them to new knowledge. He gave due respect to the previous scholars who had recorded the Law as well as the chronology of events which brought Israel to the present state. He knew the content of His material and was able to relate current knowledge to verifiable foundations.
Luke 4:17 tells us that He didn’t read haphazardly: “And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written.” He found the exact passage He wished to read. Because Jesus knew His content, because He was well prepared to teach, He could confidently sit among the rabbis and scholars and not be intimidated by their years of study in religious law. Jesus could teach with authority because He knew His content material.
Jesus also knew the conditions under which His students lived the conditions under which they would be expected to exhibit the behaviors He taught. He visited them in their homes. He ate with them.
Though He understood the conditions under which they lived, He never compromised His standards. Instead He offered them strength to overcome those conditions.
Knowing the conditions, He prepared His students. He never sugarcoated the truth. He explained that “because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).
Finally Jesus knew the D of good teaching-the degree of accuracy He expected from His students. He communicated this clearly. Learning must be quantitative. Therefore the teacher will anticipate the level of accuracy or performance which is acceptable. Jesus did. He taught to a degree of acceptable performance and clearly stated His expectations. Jesus said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” Jesus had high expectations for His students. He established ongoing goals: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He expects His students to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Jesus expressed the degree of accuracy He expected.
Jesus taught with authority because He was given authority by the Father. He never abused that authority. Each teacher whether he or she be a pastor, Sunday school teacher, college professor, or public school teacher is given authority by some governing source. He teaches with authority because it is given to him.
Jesus implemented the A, B,C’s and even the D of good teaching. He taught with authority.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE PENTECOSTAL EVANGEL, APRIL 1, 1990, BY CAROL P. RAMSAY, PP. 10-11. THIS MATERIAL MAY BE USED FOR STUDY AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.