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THE GREAT TEACHER.
The general character of His doctrine was Divine in its basis, and simple in its form. Teaching was the great business of the life of Christ during the days of His public ministry.
He was sent to teach, and to preach the doctrine of the Kingdom. The speaker in the Book of Job was undoubtedly thinking of the Great Teacher when he asked the question: « Who teacheth like Him."
And He is the Redeemer, of whom the prophet Isaiah was telling when he said: “He would teach us to profit, and would lead us by the way that we should go.” And Nicodemus said of Him: “ That He was a Teacher sent from God.” St. Matthew tells us that “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues.” When Jesus Christ was brought before Pilate, His enemies brought this charge against Him, that He had been “teaching throughout all Jewry."
In St. Luke's Gospel it is said that “the elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching." And St. John, in the seventh chapter, says: “Now, about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.” And the Jews marveled, saying, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?” And Jesus answered them and said: “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me."
And so we now come to look at the life of Christ from this point of view, namely, as a Teacher. When we read in John's Gospel that the chief priests sent some of their officers to take Him prisoner, and bring Him unto them, the officers went, and listened, and then joined the company who were listening to His teaching
The words of the Great Teacher had such an effect upon them that they could not think of touching Him. So they went back to their masters without their prisoner, and said: Never man spake like this man.”
The public ministry of Christ began when He was thirty years of age, and lasted three years. It
was full of lights and shadows. It was diversified with sunshine and gloom. It was lulled into calms, and swept by storms. But out of His words and works have come the blessing of eternal sunshine.
Only a small fractional part of His words were left upon record, but those we have are the embodiment of wisdom and of power. They are transcendent and immortal. They are spirit and they are life.
“ From heaven He came, of heaven He spoke,
Dark clouds of gloomy night He broke,
We here note the perfect originality and independence of His teaching. We have a great many men who are original, in the sense of being originators, within a certain boundary of educated thought. But the originality of Christ is uneducated.
That He draws nothing from the stores of learning can be seen at a glance. The impression we have in reading His instructions justifies to the letter the language of His contemporaries when they say: “This man hath never learned.” There is nothing in any of His allusions or forms of speech that indicates learning. Indeed, there is nothing in Him that belongs to His age or country—no opinion, or task or prejudice.
The attempts that have been made to show that He borrowed from the Persians, or the Essenes, or the Egyptians have all so palpably failed, as not even to require a deliberate
If He is simply a man, as we hear, then He is most certainly a new and singular kind of man, never before heard of; one who visibly is quite as great a miracle in the world as if He were not a man.
We can see for ourselves, in the simple directness and freedom of His teachings, that whatever He advances is for Himself.
Shakespeare, for instance, whom we name as being probably the most creative and original spirit the world has ever produced, one of the class, too, that are called self-made men, is yet tinged in all his works with human learning. His glory is, indeed, that so much of what is great in history and historic character lives and appears in his dramatic creations. Shakespeare is sometimes spoken of as the high-priest of human nature.
But Christ, understanding human nature so as to address it more skilfully than he, never draws from its historic treasures.
He is the High Priest, rather, of the Divine nature, speaking as one that has come out from God, and has nothing to borrow from the world. His teachings are just as full of Divine nature as Shakespeare's was of human nature.
As to His mode of teaching, it was not systematic, and in this example was imitated by His apostles. The language and form in which it was delivered was unsophistical; that is, instead of employing terms of science, He formed His expressions from passing occurrences, and whatever objects happened to be present to His hearers at the time of His addressing them.
Or else He spoke in Parables, or made use of that ancient symbolic language so often adopted by the Jewish prophets, as when He washed His disciples' feet, and sat as a child in the midst of them. As to the matter of His teaching, His discourses aim either at correcting what was perverted, and explaining what