The teaching styles of Jesus


Jesus of Nazareth was a Master Teacher. His study of Scripture and long hours of prayer, coupled with his reliance on the Holy Spirit, meant that he spoke the words of God in spirit and truth. He knew the God who spoke the Word, and he taught the heart behind the Word. How did Jesus teach? The Gospels record several times that hearers were “astonished” by his teaching. Using the English word astonished as an acrostic, let’s explore some of them.

Authority: Jesus’ teaching was powerful, because he spoke with authority. Luke records the astonishment when he spoke to the impure spirit possessing a man, and it obeyed. He understood that submission to God gave him authority, and when he exercised it, the people saw the results.

Stories: Jesus used parables to clarify biblical truths. A parable is a biblical truth captured and pictured in story form. Jesus used vignettes recognizable to all of his audience — the farmer, the laborer, the priest, the housewife, the debtor—and could elicit emotion with a deft phrase. Jesus paints a picture that evokes many emotions and challenges assumptions, and the hearers enter his world.

Truth: Jesus spoke with authority, because he spoke from Scripture, and from the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He quoted from Deuteronomy most often, but used examples from all three parts of the Hebrew Scriptures — Torah, Prophets and Historical.

Object lessons: When the priests and scribes tried to trap him by asking about paying taxes, Jesus used a coin of the realm to illustrate that the coin, with the image of Caesar, was Caesar’s, but implied that those created in the image of God belong to God.

Nature: Jesus compared the Spirit to water with the Samaritan woman at the well, and assured God’s provision for us by pointing to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.

Insight: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus illustrated that living a life with God involved more than outward obedience, and instead was a heart issue.

Shock: In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the son asks for his inheritance. Jesus’ listeners would have gasped in shock! This was disrespectful, as though the son had said, “I wish you were dead!” The runaway son is met by his father running toward him, and the “good” son is shown to be harsh and unforgiving, raising the question, “Which son is the prodigal?”

Hyperbole: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” This is how serious sin is! But not literally.

Engage: When he was found in the temple at the age of 12, the leaders were amazed at his questions. Jesus engaged his listeners through questions designed to elicit insight. “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” “Why do you ask me what is good?” “Whose image is on the coin?”

Disciple: His students lived, ate and worked with him. They followed his words, his life, ministry, and they learned to be like him.

When Jesus taught, he revealed not only the redemptive fabric of Torah, but also the loving Author who breathed it. His life changed the lives of others. As noted in Acts 10:38 “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

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