Story of the Bible, Act 6: Jesus' Teaching

Of the 90 times Jesus is directly addressed in the Gospels, 60 of those times he’s called ‘Teacher’.  

It’s a very significant title. As far as we know, Jesus had only the sort of formal education anyone else from his background did; he was a carpenter, rather than someone who’d sat at the feet of a renowned teacher and devoted himself to a lifetime of study.  

However, it’s clear that he was steeped in the Bible through the weekly Sabbath readings in the synagogue. He knew the story of God’s people intimately, and his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures underpinned everything he said – one of the many reasons why Christians can’t ignore the Old Testament.  

However, as a teacher, Jesus’ uniqueness is summed up at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. He wasn't like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority’ (Matthew 7.28–29). In other words, he wasn’t just another interpreter of the Scriptures – unlike preachers then and now, he got everything right.  

So when we hear Jesus’ teaching, we know we’re listening to words that are life-changing and profound. At the same time, much of what he says is very accessible – he spoke to ordinary people rather than to philosophers and scholars. His illustrations are taken from fields and homes, not from textbooks. What Pope Gregory the Great said of Scripture is true of the words of Jesus: they are ‘broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim’.  

Jesus teaches us how to live better together; he teaches us about what it means to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; and he teaches us about himself. All of Scripture comes to a point in his death and resurrection; in him, God was acting to redeem his creation.  

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