He taught them as One having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29). I think of Turner’s magnificent command of the sea on canvas as he came upon the art scene in the 18th century. Nothing had been seen like him before. The swirling sea and light left the viewer in awe of the artist and the art and, even more, in awe of the subject. Something was different and the difference was the appeal. People came, and they come still, to reflect on the fundamentals of Turner’s vocation as an artist and ours as humans in this world of swirling seascapes and skies that seems to merge together in time.
Sometimes teachers and preachers need days of reflection to remember the fundaments of their vocation. For so much of life is a vast swirl of color isn’t it?
What better teacher for teachers than Jesus? In Matthew 7:29 the Lord’s pedagogical approach is contrasted with that of the scribes. What does this mean and what could it mean for teachers today?
First, He TAUGHT.
The Word of God is not for scribal-scholarly arguments, but for practical-everyday living. Jesus brought light and life to darkness and death. We are called by Jesus to go into the world in His name and teach teach whatsoever He commanded. There is no command for retreating to talk shop about obscure things on which we will not agree this side of heaven. He didn’t send a research assistant to do it (although he was always training others to follow in the work of teaching). There is no technology or program that can compensate for the value of one teacher on fire for the mere joy of getting to teach.
Let’s go teach.
Second, He taught THEM.
Jesus was not like the scribes who aimed their teaching at each other and if someone else might catch it so be it. Jesus fashioned his messages for those in front of Him. No human being was beyond the power of salvation, except that one who had forbidden the Holy Spirit unto death, the final blasphemy. Is our message designed to impress knowledge of God upon our hearers or a better estimation of self upon them?
The third devotional lesson on Jesus’ teaching is the big one for this passage:
He taught with AUTHORITY.
The Scribes—religious scholars and interpreters of the first century Jewish rabbinical system—taught with a tenativeness. Why? Because there was always something else to be said, something else to be written. There seemed to be no end to what must have felt like a maddening heap of laws, regulations or interpretations placed by successive generation of scribes upon the common people to keep. Jesus spoke and that was that. His intent was clear. He “meant what He said and said what He meant,” we sometimes put it. He taught in the “active voice,” not the “passive voice.” Jesus Christ said “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not.” He said “It is better than” and “Go.” He said “I forgive thee go and sin no more.” He spoke from the cross, “Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”
We who speak His word, preach His Gospel in His name must speak no less authoritavely. For we do not speak as the world speaks. We proclaim a Redeemer and King who has spoken to us personally with the very voice of God.