Prayer: Our Father in heaven, help us to come to Jesus to learn of You. Open our ears to listen; open our hearts to receive all that He wants to teach us through the Holy Spirit within us. Amen.
John 1:37-38: The two disciples heard [John] speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”
John 3:1-2: There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
As we see from the verses above, rabbi means teacher. It was a term of great respect, even reverence, and one that carried authority. When these two disciples and Nicodemus called Jesus Rabbi, He did not rebuke them or deny that this was Who He was. In fact, later in the narrative of John’s Gospel, Jesus Himself claims this title, saying to His disciples during His last Passover with them, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I, your Lord and Teacher, wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13-14) If He is our Rabbi, our Teacher, what does He teach? What is His field of specialty? By exploring the book of John and then the wider circle of the other three Gospels, we find many answers to those questions.
To Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus said He was explaining “earthly things,” but that He wanted to explain to him “heavenly things.” Reading through that chapter, we, like Nicodemus, are baffled by Jesus’ words; we ponder them long and hard; to us He seems to be speaking of things outside our realm. Yet Jesus calls these “earthly things.” He uses earthly metaphors in both nature and history to open our understanding of spiritual truths; natural phenomena and historical events were simply tangible realities of intangible—yet to Jesus, far more real—truths. Wind presented a stepping stone into the mysterious inner world of the Spirit; the bronze serpent Moses lifted up on a pole for the physical healing of the people was simply a bridge to the much deeper inner healing Jesus would offer through being lifted up on a pole Himself. Did Nicodemus not understand the deadly poison we have within? Did he not realize the grave danger we are in, body, soul, and spirit, because of our sin? Did he not know that we all, the entire human race, are destined for the “second death”? Did he know that God’s promised Messiah would bring deliverance from all this and give life eternal? Do we?
How many more “earthly things,” things of nature that Jesus, the Creator God, made to reveal spiritual truths, does He want to teach us? The Bible is replete with natural metaphors that lead us to spiritual understanding. But as we saw in the lesson about Jesus the Creator, He is not only the Creator of natural things, but also of the unfolding of history. The Bible is also full of historical metaphor, types and anti-types, spiritual lessons galore through the narrative of history. If these are merely “earthly things,” what could He have to teach us of “heavenly things”? Oh, how much more He wants to teach us!
To the woman at the well and to the Samaritan community, Jesus taught the way of salvation: Just ask of Him. How simple. How it catches us off-guard. Only ask? Only Jesus? Will this truly meet the deep inner longings of our hearts? Will it fully answer every question and heal every gaping wound within? But, perhaps the even more compelling question that we are most skeptical about, will it give us a life that is rich and rewarding and lifts us above the longings and the pain of life? The offer Jesus holds out rings with an unequivocal “YES!” He promises to give water that will become within us “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)
At another time, during the very public Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus cried out in the temple area to whoever felt parched on the inside, “Come to ME and drink.” He held out this promise to whoever would believe in Him, “Out of your inmost being will flow rivers of living water!” (John 7:37-38) Did you catch the plural – rivers? Did you hear the life? The bubbling, dancing, flowing, leaping, refreshing, ever-replenishing LIFE? Picture it. Take yourself to a rapidly flowing white-water mountain river; and while you are there, linger a long while in meditation. Ask Jesus to teach you. It’s for you, within. Only. Ask. Jesus.
To the hungry crowd He taught that there was a spiritual hunger, far deeper and far more important than physical hunger, that only He could satisfy. To the woman caught in adultery He taught that God is not a god of condemnation but One of mercy and forgiveness, with the power to transform our lives. To the blind man He taught that life’s difficulties and disappointments and reversals were God’s appointments designed to reveal the glory of God. To Mary and Martha He taught unquestioning trust in the timing and purposes of God and that God’s purposes were far greater than our own.
To the disciples He taught that true life, that which comes from God, is about serving and loving others, about choosing to take the low place in order to exalt those around us. He modeled it by washing His disciples feet, then He called us to be like Him. He gave us the dignity not just of servants to the Highest and Best but elevated us to the status of friends, equals. If this is how He lived, so we also must live. If He was hated and had to suffer, so we also will be hated and called to suffer. This is what Jesus taught.
Jesus taught us not only to pray but also how to pray. He taught the meaning of true righteousness, and He modeled it. He opened up the true meaning of the Law and taught it with authority. He explained matters of the heart, and He did not shrink from exposing the hypocrisy within us all. He taught a life of intimate, moment-by-moment communion with God; and He showed us what that looked like, step by step, day by day. He taught about life in the Spirit, and He promised to send Him to live within us, the very same Spirit He Himself possessed within, which enabled Him to live a life fully pleasing and fully obedient to God.
In one of the most comforting passages in all of Scripture, Jesus invites us to come and learn of Him (Matthew 11:28-30). He uses the metaphor of a team of oxen plowing a field together. There is work to be done, but Jesus doesn't sit as some oppressive ruler commanding us to go do whatever it is He wants done. No, He partners with us. Day in, day out, He invites us to walk alongside Him, to learn how He does things, to step in sync with Him. His invitation to come and learn of Him promises to lift the heavy burdens and the weariness of life from our shoulders. Learning from Him shows us a completely different way of relating to others and the world around us; it is a counter-intuitive way of thinking and responding. It is gentle, meek, undefensive, humble, taking the low place instead of grasping for the high place. This is rest for our souls.
He taught not only what to expect when the world was winding down but also how to deal with those particular terrors, giving very practical, focused instructions like, “Take care that no one deceives you;” “See that you are not troubled;” “Endure to the end;” “Pray;” “Watch;” “Be faithful.” He wanted us to know: “See I have told you beforehand.” But He didn’t want us to shrink in fear: When we see all these things, we will know that His coming is near and we are to “lift up our heads for our redemption draws nigh.” (Matthew 24, Luke 21) The hope of the restoration of all things, the final consummation of all things in Christ, will carry us through those troubled times. Even as He faced His own death, He spoke comfort and encouragement, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” And He left us His peace, a peace that the world cannot give. (John 14:1, 27)
On the last night before His death, the subject Jesus spent significant time on with His disciples was the Holy Spirit. Jesus called Him our Comforter, our Helper. This was the same Spirit Who had descended upon Jesus at His baptism. Now He was promising to send Him to indwell each one of us; in this way Christ would be in us and with us forever. Jesus even had the audacity to say that this state of His presence would be better for us than having Him (Jesus) physically present. Now this very same Spirit would provide the same connection with the Father that Jesus had, would guide us as intimately and specifically. He would “guide us into all truth.” He, the Spirit, would “tell us things to come.” He would take from Jesus and declare it to us. The Spirit of Jesus would teach us all the things that Jesus had not been able to. Is this not astounding?! All those “heavenly things” that Nicodemus was not at that time ready for nor could comprehend, all those bewildering enigmas His disciples couldn’t understand or figure out. These things our Rabbi, Jesus, will teach us from within by His Spirit. (John 14-16)
I suppose, as John says at the end of his Gospel, that were we to write all the things that Jesus taught, “even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25) From conception to ascension, His life taught us about God. Jesus wanted us to know God as our Father. This was His mission: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son has declared Him.” (John 1:18) When Philip asked the night before Jesus died, “Lord, show us the Father.” Jesus responded—and you can hear the tinge of sorrowful incredulity in His tone – “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known ME? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?” To Mary, who clung to Him after the resurrection, He said, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” Oh, glorious truth! He paved the way for us to be as connected to God the Father as He Himself was.
Come. Come. Come. Learn of Him. Learn from Him.
Jesus Christ: The Rabbi sent from God to teach us who God is and how to live—His way.
Other Related Scriptures:
Jeremiah 31:33-34: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord, For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
Isaiah 54:13: All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.
John 6:45: “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”
Matthew 11:29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
John 1:18: No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
John 16:12-15: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
John 14:25-26: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
Isaiah 50:4-6: The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away. I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
Psalm 40:6-8: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of Me. I delight to do Your will, O My God, and Your law is within My heart.”
Ephesians 1:17-18a: [I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…
Ephesians 3:17-19: [I pray] that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Luke 24:25-27: The He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded (or explained) to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Song: Lord Jesus Christ, In Thy Dear Name We Come
Talk about the different things Jesus teaches us. Share some specific things He has taught you. Conclude your family time with prayer. Thank God for Jesus being our Rabbi. Pray around the family circle, each one asking God to open his/her ears to hear the voice of Jesus and to open your heart for Jesus to teach you His ways. Ask Him to show you areas of your life that need transformation. Pray for the Holy Spirit of Christ to instruct you throughout the day, to be your personal Teacher and Coach.