Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Began to Teach

My Bible reading yesterday brought me to John chapter 7 and Jesus’ encounter with the Jews (i.e., Jewish leaders) during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Early in the narrative, Jesus does not openly appear during the Feast and, by verse 11, the Jewish leaders are looking for Him. The following two verses grabbed my attention:

“When the festival was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple complex and began to teach. Then the Jews were amazed and said, ‘How does He know the Scriptures, since He hasn’t been trained?’” (vv. 14-15, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Some observations I made as I read this text included:

(1) Jesus acts based on His schedule, not man’s. The Feast of Tabernacles lasted from the 15th to the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishri (roughly our October) and the Jewish leaders were looking for the Lord. But Jesus refused to follow their desires and remained hidden until the middle of the festival. When the time was right, He appeared. Jesus always acts based on His schedule for He is the sovereign God.

(2) Jesus taught. Yes, at times Jesus healed, at times He helped others with physical needs and so should we. But over and over again in the Gospels, you see the focus of the Lord’s earthly ministry was one of preaching and teaching. He proclaimed to man their spiritual need and God’s spiritual provision, namely, eternal life through the Son. Teaching and preaching the Word of God is still a critical necessity in the 21st century because men, women, and children need to know how serious their spiritual condition is and how wonderful the grace of God’s provision is.

(3) Jesus taught the Scriptures. The Jewish leaders confirmed this fact with their response in verse 15. Jesus spoke the true Word of God. When we preach and teach our message is to be the Word of God and not our opinion. We don’t simply teach what we know others want to hear. Jesus could have done that when He taught in the Temple. He knew what the Jewish leaders believed and He knew He could earn their friendship and assistance by teaching what they taught. But Jesus was not in the Temple that day to earn friendships and popularity with the religious leaders. He was there to teach the Word of God no matter how it affected His listeners. Likewise, we are to teach and preach the Scriptures even if we know some who hear it will be offended.

(4) Jesus taught in such a way as to keep the attention of His audience. While this is not outwardly said in this text, I believe the implication is there. It would seem if Jesus’ teaching did not grab the attention of His audience, the response of the Jewish leaders would have been to ignore Him altogether. Who cares if He knows the Scriptures and teaches them if no one listens to Him. The amazement of the religious leaders at the grasp of Scripture Jesus has implies the listeners that day were, indeed, listening.

(5) The Jews were amazed. As I understand the text, the Jews were not amazed at what He said. They recognized He knew the Scriptures. What amazed them was Jesus had such knowledge of the Scriptures yet had no formal rabbinical training. They had attended such schools and were recognized as scholars. Yet here is one proclaiming the Scriptures without such training. How remarkable is that! Perhaps we should be a little more cautious when our pulpit committees reject individuals simply based on the degrees they have received according to their resumes.

Don’t you wonder what the Lord taught that day? The Scriptures are silent on that so we can only speculate. Could it be He used the festival to explain the passages in the Pentateuch which described the protection God gave His people during their wanderings in the wilderness? Such teaching, of course, would also remind the people of Israel’s sin of disbelief at Kadesh-Barnea which resulted in the 40 years of wandering. Such sin demanded a sacrifice and He would be the perfect, complete sacrifice. Perhaps He used the festival, which marked the completion of the harvest, as an opportunity to teach about the fields which were white unto harvest with souls. Or maybe He used the festival to teach how the peace and prosperity seen in the Feast of Tabernacles foreshadows the peace and prosperity which will come with the Lord’s reign on earth.

May the Lord guide me when I teach and preach in such a way that my message is only the Word of God and that the Holy Spirit would grab the attention of my audience and drive that message straight to the heart!

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