October 14, 2016

Chapters 8-9 – The Master Teacher & His Methods

In the Teacher sent from God, heaven gave to men its best and greatest.  In Him was found the perfect ideal. To reveal this ideal as the only true standard for attainment; to show what every human being might become; what, through the indwelling of humanity by divinity, all who received Him would become—for this, Christ came to the world. He came to show how on earth they are to practice the principles and to live the life of heaven. The Light appeared when the world’s darkness was deepest.

In the prevailing systems of education, human philosophy had taken the place of divine revelation. Instead of the heaven-given standard of truth, men had accepted a standard of their own devising.  The want of true excellence was supplied by appearance and profession. Semblance took the place of reality.  As they ceased to recognize the Divine, they ceased to regard the human. Truth, honor, integrity, confidence, compassion, were departing from the earth. Relentless greed and absorbing ambition gave birth to universal distrust. The idea of duty, of the obligation of strength to weakness, of human dignity and human rights, was cast aside as a dream or a fable.  Wealth and power, ease and self-indulgence, were sought as the highest good. Physical degeneracy, mental stupor, spiritual death, characterized the age.  Men lost the image of God and received the impress of the demoniacal power by which they were controlled. The whole world was becoming a sink of corruption. There was but one hope for the human race.

Christ came to the world with the accumulated love of eternity. Sweeping away the exactions which had encumbered the law of God, He showed that the law is a law of love, an expression of the Divine Goodness. He showed that in obedience to its principles is involved the happiness of mankind, and with it the stability, the very foundation and framework, of human society. So far from making arbitrary requirements, God’s law is given to men as a hedge, a shield. Whoever accepts its principles is preserved from evil. Fidelity to God involves fidelity to man. Thus the law guards the rights, the individuality, of every human being. It restrains the superior from oppression, and the subordinate from disobedience. It ensures man’s well-being,  Christ came to demonstrate the value of the divine principles by revealing their power for the regeneration of humanity. He came to teach how these principles are to be developed and applied.  His life demonstrated the worthlessness of those things that men regarded as life’s great essentials.

The schools of His time, with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek. His education was gained directly from the Heaven-appointed sources; from useful work, from the study of the Scriptures and of nature, and from the experiences of life—God’s lesson books, full of instruction to all who bring to them the willing hand, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart.  Thus prepared, He went forth to His mission, in every moment of His contact with men exerting upon them an influence to bless, a power to transform, such as the world had never witnessed.

Overarching Principles of a Teacher

He who seeks to transform humanity must himself understand humanity. Only through sympathy, faith, and love can men be reached and uplifted. Here Christ stands revealed as the master teacher; of all that ever dwelt on the earth, He alone has perfect understanding of the human soul.  A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with, every burdened and tempted and struggling one. What He taught, He lived. “I have given you an example,” He said to His disciples; “that ye should do as I have done.”

Wherever there existed a sense of need, there He saw opportunity for uplifting. Souls tempted, defeated, feeling themselves lost, ready to perish, He met, not with denunciation, but with blessing. The beatitudes were His greeting to the whole human family.  From His lips flowed blessings as the gushing forth of a long-sealed fountain.  Every day’s experience was an outpouring of His life. In one way only could such a life be sustained. Jesus lived in dependence upon God and communion with Him.

Jesus did not deal in abstract theories, but in that which is essential to the development of character; that which will enlarge man’s capacity for knowing God, and increase his power to do good. He spoke of those truths that relate to the conduct of life and that unite man with eternity.  In His teaching were embraced the things of time and the things of eternity—things seen, in their relation to things unseen, the passing incidents of common life and the solemn issues of the life to come.  To Him nothing was without purpose. The sports of the child, the toils of the man, life’s pleasures and cares and pains, all were means to the end—the revelation of God for the uplifting of humanity.

In the Teacher sent from God, all true educational work finds its center.  In the presence of such a Teacher, of such opportunity for divine education, what worse than folly is it to seek an education apart from Him—to seek to be wise apart from Wisdom; to be true while rejecting Truth; to seek illumination apart from the Light, and existence without the Life; to turn from the Fountain of living waters, and hew out broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Behold, He is still inviting: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said,” out of him “shall flow rivers of living water.” “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.” John 7:37, 38; 4:14, R.V. [84]

Educational Ideals in Practice: A classroom of 12

The most complete illustration of Christ’s methods as a teacher is found in His training of the twelve first disciples.  To them, above all others, He gave the advantage of His own companionship. Through personal association He impressed Himself upon these chosen colaborers.  Only by such communion—the communion of mind with mind and heart with heart, of the human with the divine—can be communicated that vitalizing energy which it is the work of true education to impart. It is only life that begets life.  In the training of His disciples the Saviour followed the system of education established at the beginning. The Twelve first chosen, with a few others who through ministry to their needs were from time to time connected with them, formed the family of Jesus. They were with Him in the house, at the table, in the closet, in the field. They accompanied Him on His journeys, shared His trials and hardships, and, as much as in them was, entered into His work. Sometimes He taught them as they sat together on the mountainside, sometimes beside the sea, or from the fisherman’s boat, sometimes as they walked by the way.  Whenever He spoke to the multitude, the disciples formed the inner circle.  They had the advantage of three years’ training by the greatest educator this world has ever known.

In order successfully to carry forward the work to which they had been called, these disciples, differing so widely in natural characteristics, in training, and in habits of life, needed to come into unity of feeling, thought, and action. This unity it was Christ’s object to secure. To this end He sought to bring them into unity with Himself.

The history of no one of the disciples better illustrates Christ’s method of training than does the history of Peter.  If the look that Jesus cast upon him after his betrayal had spoken condemnation instead of pity; if in foretelling the sin He had failed of speaking hope, how dense would have been the darkness that encompassed Peter!

Human beings, themselves given to evil, are prone to deal untenderly with the tempted and the erring. They cannot read the heart, they know not its struggle and pain. Of the rebuke that is love, of the blow that wounds to heal, of the warning that speaks hope, they have need to learn.  A miracle of divine tenderness was Peter’s transformation. It is a life lesson to all who seek to follow in the steps of the Master Teacher.  Jesus takes men as they are, with all their faults and weaknesses, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and taught by Him.

So far as Judas himself was concerned, Christ’s work of love had been without avail. But not so as regards his fellow disciples. To them it was a lesson of lifelong influence. Ever would its example of tenderness and long-suffering mold their intercourse with the tempted and the erring. And it had other lessons. The methods Judas desired to introduce into Christ’s work were based upon worldly principles and were controlled by worldly policy. They looked to the securing of worldly recognition and honor—to the obtaining of the kingdom of this world. The working out of these desires in the life of Judas, helped the disciples to understand the antagonism between the principle of self-aggrandizement and Christ’s principle of humility and self-sacrifice—the principle of the spiritual kingdom.

For these disciples the mission of Christ finally accomplished its purpose. Little by little His example and His lessons of self-abnegation molded their characters. His death destroyed their hope of worldly greatness. The fall of Peter, the apostasy of Judas, their own failure in forsaking Christ in His anguish and peril, swept away their self-sufficiency. They saw their own weakness; they saw something of the greatness of the work committed to them; they felt their need of their Master’s guidance at every step.  Higher and higher they extended the hand of faith, with the mighty argument, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34.  By the work of Christ these disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit; under the Spirit’s teaching they received their final preparation and went forth to their lifework.

The presence of the same guide in educational work today will produce the same results as of old. This is the end to which true education tends; this is the work that God designs it to accomplish.