Teaching by the Sea

John 1:35-39; John 13:10-15; Mark 4:1-12; Luke 24:13-35

Today, my thoughts turn to Jesus, the teacher. My daughter is a teacher, I’m married to a retired pre-school teacher, and I teach the random Bible class whenever the opportunity presents itself. I know that lessons do not prepare themselves, nor do they appear out of the ether at the moment class time begins. Yes, the class discussion may go in unexpected directions at times, but to be effective the teacher must be well-prepared.

So many times in the gospels, Jesus is called rabbi. Andrew, Peter, Nathanael, Nicodemus and even Judas all addressed him at one time or another as “Rabbi,” as did Mary in the garden when she mistook him for the gardener on Resurrection Sunday. Son of God. Lord of Lords. King of Kings. Savior of the World. Lamb of God. Rabbi. Teacher.

Teaching in the TempleI’ve been obsessed lately with what occupied Jesus’ mind in his final days. Even as he felt the darkness closing around him, his primary endeavor was teaching his disciples and followers. In his last week in Jerusalem, he devoted himself to teaching. I have recently been enlightened that some scholars believe he remained in Bethany on Wednesday of what we call Holy Week, but Luke reported, “Jesus was teaching daily in the temple courts,” and as I follow the Mark narrative, I can account for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – maybe even Thursday. Granted, it is not entirely certain as the gospels do not follow the same sequence for his activities that week.

Operating from the belief that he did indeed teach in the temple courts each day, I’m left to contemplate his thoughts on Wednesday night as he was falling asleep. What would he teach, what should he teach, on Thursday before heading off to Seder dinner with his disciples? What critically essential message to deliver in his last lecture?

Oh, to know what wisdom he imparted in that session! I’ve often remarked that the greatest Bible lesson in history was the one he delivered to the two despondent disciples as they returned to Emmaus from Jerusalem after his crucifixion (Luke 24:13-35). I’m equally intrigued by what he chose for his last teaching point knowing the cross was just over the next hill.

But my ruminating doesn’t stop there. It backs up a week or so. Turn back a few chapters to Luke 9:51, “It came to pass, when the days were near that he should be taken up, he intently set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He knew his destination was Jerusalem and that his days were drawing to a close. Surely, he had the timing planned out – entering triumphally on Sunday followed by his Thursday night arrest.

This timetable left him four days of teaching in the temple courts. Eight sessions to my thinking as a teacher – a morning session and an afternoon session each day. I assume he had a plan for each session, some of which would be lectures (Hebrew Bible illumination punctuated by parables). And clearly, there were question and answer segments.

I realize I am overreaching a bit, but I imagine that during a good part of the walk from the mountain of Transfiguration to Jerusalem was consumed with lesson planning. There was so much left to impart. What would they retain? What could they retain? What should be taught to the masses and what should be reserved for intimate sessions with his closest disciples?

I know this – he left nothing to chance. I know this – they got the message (if you doubt me, go read Acts).

As I stood at the feet of the Peter statue in Capernaum (see The Power of Peter Musing), I realized the disciples didn’t follow Jesus around to learn and understand. They followed Jesus to learn to be teachers so they could go into the world and share his message. I was convicted that following, learning and understanding was insufficient.

Grateful to the One who taught and those who followed and did likewise,

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