During His incarnation, Jesus claimed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22, 4:1, 4:18) and teach only what He learned from His Father (John 8:28, 14:24). Consequently, He could easily have been the greatest teacher of all time if that was His priority. But was it? His teaching often seemed to be aimed more at transformation than information.
- His teaching was hard, even for His disciples. For example, He delivered the Sermon on the Mount while standing on a rise in Galilee above a plain filled with thousands. It began with The Beatitudes (Mat 5:3-10) and likely no one on that plain understood their meaning. Even today some teachers insist that the poor are intrinsically more blessed than the rich or those who mourn over the death of a loved one will automatically receive a blessing. (Section 2.3 of Theology Corner under the title, “Faith or Salvation: Which Comes First?”)
- His teaching about maintaining morality, ethics, character, integrity and righteousness, if viewed as stand-alone instruction, is not helpful! If I have not accepted the great gift of salvation, His teaching tantalizes me by erecting a standard I cannot possibly attain. What is the use of showing me an ideal I can never come near? I am happier not knowing it. What is the good of telling me to be pure in heart, do more than my duty or be devoted to God when, on my own, I can do none of these things. I must know Jesus Christ as Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me beyond that of an admirable concept which leads to disappointment and despair. Anyone who says, “I will accept the teaching but not the invitation” will gain little of value.
- Emphasis on the quality of His teaching has allowed the opponents of Jesus to deny His deity while cleverly elevating Him to a place with the appearance of stature. They say, “Jesus was a fine, articulate fellow – perhaps even a prophet of God – who offered lofty principles, sound teaching and great leadership but, just as clearly, Jesus was not God.” The fact that Jesus claimed to be God makes this belief irrational. Jesus was either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. If He was not God, then He was either a liar or a lunatic. Neither a deceitful liar nor a crazy person can be viewed as a great teacher or great moral leader of men (Chapter 9, “The Identity of Jesus,” Christian Handbook of Reason and Insight for Scientists and Technologists).
The solution to this dilemma is that Jesus Christ did not come merely to teach. Instead, He came to transform me into what He teaches I should be. Jesus can mold a born again person into the disposition that ruled His own life; all the standards of God are based on that disposition. The foundation event in the kingdom of God is not a puffed-up decision for Christ; it is a sense of absolute futility and failure in the absence of God. It is a sudden awareness that my heart is black as a lump of coal and I am truly poor in spirit. The knowledge of my own poverty brings me to the gate where Jesus awaits to mold me.