“And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying…” Matthew 5:2
Now Jesus has called Peter, Andrew, James, and John. “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they leave everything behind and follow Him. So, as they are following Him, what is the first thing He does? “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23)
I need to understand the way You, Jesus, teach. Because I think that the very fact that You set the example of opening Your mouth and teaching is, in itself, a model for your expectation for Your followers. And, first things first, unless I understand Your teaching first, well, how could I ever be Your follower?
Your teaching is important; it’s pivotal. Here, it’s the Greek word “edidasken.” The form that’s specifically used implies that this teaching is an on-going action. It’s not that You taught and were done with it. You opened Your mouth and teaching ensued and has not been completed because Your teaching continues. Your teaching continues over the course of time and over as long as it takes to be fully taught. So we can be confident of this very thing, that He which has a begun a good work in us will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ! (Philippians 1:6)
Now this idea of teaching isn’t just like going to Bible School and that kind of on-going action. It’s better seen in the Hebrew idea of teaching, through the word “lamad”. Now teaching isn’t just an on-going action; it’s all about change. Jesus taught with one goal in mind, the same general goal the rabbis had- “to bring about a change in life, a difference in behavior, a new perspective that results in observable adjustment.” (Skip Moen) So what was the goal? Making a difference in my living. Specifically setting me apart from the world and setting me apart unto God.
Setting me apart from the world and setting me apart unto God is a continual process that takes learning and acting upon that learning over a long course of time. Let’s go back in time. Let’s go back to Moses in the wilderness. “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1) The Hebrew idea of listening was always accompanied by doing. And here Moses was instructing the people to follow God, follow His teachings, follow His words, continually. Listen. Do. And with the listening combined by doing would come life.
Now that word life is the same Hebrew word, “chayah”, that is used when God put His Spirit, His breath, into man and he became a being filled with “life”. It’s the same way that God’s word “becomes” in the prophets. God becomes in man and when He does, only then is man alive. Do you know something special about God’s personal name, expressed by the tetragram YHWH? That same verb chayah lies at it’s core. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He “makes tangible what He is.” Listen to this from John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” God’s life is, was, and always will be continually represented in Jesus. I can see Jesus and know what and who Life looks like and acts like and is. And when I wrap this all up together in my little mind, I see that He equips me in the same way as Adam and the prophets to be a vehicle for revealing the glory and wonder and reality of His life, His chayah. This is what God has been teaching from the beginning of creation. This is what Jesus was teaching and continues to teach. This is being alive. This is God’s intended purpose for me. And when I learn this, I am to teach it to others.
I must teach it to others because just as the Father sent Jesus, so He is sending me. Jesus calls me to Him just like He did Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I can only learn as I continually follow in His footsteps, as I continually stay learning and listening and doing. There has to be a transformation in my behavior or I have learned nothing. Head knowledge is not enough. Classroom instruction alone doesn’t cut it. I’m called to attach myself to Jesus’ way of life, to Your way of life, Lord, and live it out. What goes in must be lived out. Only then does it move beyond theory or theology and become life.
It’s not about what I know, but all about how I live out what I know. Is my way of living changed to be Your way of living? Is my way of living distinctively different from me and from the world I live in? Is it distinctively different like You? Am I teaching the ways of the nations or the ways of God? Do people and the world look at me and think I’m radical like You? Is Your teaching my life?
So You, Lord, open Your mouth and teach us by preaching the Gospel. You open up the Divine Truth to each of us and show us what it looks like and how we can live in it and how it can live through us. You teach and preach by example. You model everything before us. Yes, You are God. But You experienced fully being fully man at the same time. I can’t explain it, but the truth is You were. And I don’t have to understand something for it to be true. But because You became man, You showed me what Divine living looked like and You called me to it. And the beautiful thing is that You didn’t leave me on my own to do it in my human strength because I would be a total failure.
But so that I could be continually learning under Your living instruction, You sent the Comforter to me. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) What will the Holy Spirit teach me? The will of God through the words of God. That’s Who Jesus was and is and will be and that’s Who He will always point us to. He set the example for knowing and living out God’s words. And I do this in the community of believers. And if I have to, I do this even when the community of believers has been stripped from me. But oh the blessing of a community of believers, to learn together continually with, to be taught by and to teach, to discuss, to debate, to grow, and to be strengthened continually. Oh to live in Your instructions, God! “As it is written” becomes the words of life and the action of my life. Jesus, You showed how every word of God is apllicable and life-necessary. You illuminated life for us. You illuminated God’s standards. They are worth everything to live in. I can apply them to my continual everyday life.
My prayer is that I am teachable, and that there is never a day when I become unteachable. But I want to be taught by You, from You. I want to know Your teaching and truly follow. I don’t care how difficult it is. If you have to bring me through “debate, revelation, insight, memorization, life-changing commitment”, troubles, persecution, experience, whatever, then I want to follow You there. If learning is a life-long process, well, “take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.” When I open my mouth, may I teach not only by the words of God but by the life-giving power that You have placed in me. And may I never stop being continually overwhelmed by You.