The teaching of Jesus astonished people, and his instructional style can serve as a model for all Christ-followers who seek to be better teachers.
What Jesus taught was often tied closely to how he taught. Christian educator Roy Zuck writes: “How [Jesus] gained interest, how he stimulated thinking, involved students, told stories, applied truths, answered questions, dealt with individuals of varying personalities and differing attitudes toward him, motivated and corrected students — these are a few of the many areas where we can learn from his style.”
Using the word “astonished” as an acrostic, here are 10 insights we can learn from the teaching style of Jesus:
A — Authority
Matthew 7:28-29 says, “When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, because he was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.” People were astonished by the authority with which Jesus spoke.
S — Setting/Situation
Jesus often used a specific situation or setting as a backdrop to drive home a point. He used the water from the well to teach the Samaritan woman about living water (John 4:1-26).
T — Truth
Jesus often stressed that he was telling the truth. Found at least 75 times in the King James translation of the Bible is the phrase “verily, verily.” The Greek work is “amen,” which means truly or trustworthy. The double-amen is often translated in the Holman Christian Standard as “I assure you” (Matthew 5:18, 26; 6:2).
O — Objective
Jesus always had an objective when teaching. He never boasted about himself, told stories that lacked purpose or got sidetracked with some lesser point. During his discourse on the bread of life, some Jews grumbled and asked, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (John 6:42). Jesus responded by staying focused on his teaching.
He used nature to illustrate true religion in God’s kingdom. Much of the content of Jesus’ teaching reveals that Jesus had a strategy to enlighten people’s understanding of how things work in the Kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pointed to the “birds of the sky” and the “wildflowers of the field” (Matthew 6:26-28).
I — Illustrations
Jesus’ use of illustrations as a teaching method is unparalleled. His illustrations are easily recalled because he used simple comparisons to convey important spiritual truths. Zuck said, “Jesus’ illustrations added zest to his teaching, making his lectures pleasurable to the ear.”
S — Stories
Jesus told many stories, or parables. David L. Turner, in his commentary on Matthew, said the word “parable” is used to describe a “proverb, an enigma, a riddle, a taunt, a simile, or an allegorical story” that uses a “concrete analogy to illumine or obscure an abstract thought.”
H — Heart
Jesus taught with a compassionate heart, motivated by mercy and love. At least 14 times in the Gospels we are told that Jesus was moved with compassion. Jesus went about the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and when he saw the crowds, “he felt compassion for them because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36).
E — Engaged
Jesus engaged his listeners by asking questions. Josh Hunt, in “Teach Like Jesus,” listed 100 questions that Jesus asked. Zuck has the number at 225. Jesus did not ask random questions, but was intentional and purposeful. For example, Jesus asked Peter, “Why are you sleeping?” (Mark 14:37). Jesus asked the rich young ruler, “Why do you ask me about what is good?” (Matthew 19:16).
D — Divulge
Jesus’ teaching divulged wrong motives, wrong thinking and wrong teaching. He sometimes confronted others or responded to confrontations or challenges. On some occasions, Jesus even rebuked his own disciples. He taught in response to questions about eating with tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-11). Teachers who teach like Jesus will address flawed theology and wrong motives.
Jesus was not an orator or a ruler, but a teacher. At least 45 times in the Gospels, he is called teacher. J.M. Price said Jesus is “our incomparable model, and we shall ever be learning from his methods as well as his messages.” Amen, amen.
— Terry Lanford is pastor of Grassy Pond Baptist Church in Gaffney and received his doctor of ministry degree from North Greenville University in December 2013.