"And it came to pass, when Jesus ended these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes" (Matt. vii.28, 29).
"Never man spake like this man" (John vii.46).
On "the great day of the feast" -- the feast of the tabernacles -- in the second year of His ministry, Jesus was performing many miracles, and there was great commotion among the people as to whether He was the Christ. The chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to take Him. But they returned without Him. Then the chief priests and Pharisees said, "Why did you not bring him?" They simply reply, "Never man so spake." These were, doubtless, resolute men who were accustomed to obeying orders. But in this case they did not obey orders, nor even try to do it. Their excuse for not doing so was peculiar. They gave no ordinary or natural circumstances as hindering the execution of orders. They made no plea to exculpate themselves. They simply said, "No man ever spake like this man." How, then, shall we account for this? There was simply an unearthly majesty in the person, the manner and the words of Jesus, that awed them into inaction. The very fact that such men were so unnerved by the presence and words of Jesus, gives us an idea of His majesty as a teacher, and of His power over men. Thus it was that He could cleanse the temple, overturn the tables of the money-changers, drive out the whole crew who were making merchandise of the house of God, and no one resisted. When did the world produce another man whose presence alone awed bold officers of the law into disregard of duty, and the chastised multitude into non-resistance?
Jesus was the world's great teacher, and yet He was never taught. This fact was recognized by those who knew His history. "The Jews therefore marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" Jesus explained it by saying, "My teaching is not mine, but His that sent me." This is the only satisfactory explanation that can be given. That Jesus was a man of unequaled wisdom, surpassing infinitely all the great philosophers of renown, is freely admitted by the best informed of modern skeptics. That the world has been influenced by His teaching infinitely beyond what it has been by that of any other man, is not denied. That the world regards His teaching to-day, after eighteen hundred years from the day of His death as a malefactor and His rest in a borrowed grave, as it has never regarded the teaching of another man, is also an admitted fact. How shall we account for such teaching -- teaching of such accumulating power over ages and generations of men -- when He Himself was untaught? The world can not answer the question except as Jesus answered it: "My teaching is not mine, but His that sent me."
Christ was the only teacher among men who never made a mistake. After nearly two thousand years, during which His teaching has been subjected to the severest scrutiny, He stands without conviction as to a single error. Its ethics, its morals, its righteousness, its philosophy, its wisdom, its accuracy, have stood the test of the most rigid investigation. How can this be accounted for on the hypothesis that Jesus was only a man? The greatest of all other men, with the advantage of the world's best facilities, and under teachers of renown, have furnished the world with teaching full of mistakes and imperfections. If Jesus were only a man, how came it that He was so infinitely superior to all other men? And if thus superior in wisdom, righteousness and purity, how belie Himself in claiming to be infinitely more than a man? It were impossible. The two things are mutually destructive. Jesus furnishes the only explanation: "My teaching is not mine, but His that sent me."
Jesus is the teacher of the science of salvation. Others before Him taught the things pertaining to salvation, but their teaching was all by the Spirit of God, framed with reference to what His was to be.
Others, after Him, taught the way of life, but they taught it as they received it from Him. When He ascended to the Father He sent the Holy Spirit as His advocate. The Spirit imparted to the apostles what He received from Christ. He took the words of the coronated Christ and gave them to the apostles, and they spake as the Spirit gave them utterance (see John xvi.7, 15). It follows, therefore, that the teaching of the apostles is as infallible as that of the Christ, for it is simply His.
It was not the purpose of Jesus to teach the wisdom of this world. He was not of this world, and His teaching was not with reference to this world. He came from another world, and the things pertaining to another world were the ultimatum of His teaching. The way of salvation is purely a matter of revelation. Man knows nothing about it except what God has revealed through Christ. The same is true as to that from which we are saved, and that to which we are saved. We know nothing of God, heaven, hell and eternity, except that which is revealed. All that we know of sin and its remedy we learn from the great Teacher. The nature and the consequences of sin we learn from the same source. The revelation of God is at once the source and limit of our knowledge of sin and righteousness, and their consequences. In the whole scheme of redemption Christ is the central figure; and on it He is the great teacher and supreme authority.
Christ, as a teacher of law and morals, legislates for the heart. Men can take cognizance only of deeds. They can not know the heart. Hence they can judge it only by outward manifestations. But Christ knew what was in man. Hence He could legislate for man's thoughts, as well as his deeds. Hence He says: "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Even the law of the Ten Commandments legislated against adultery only as an outward act, but Christ legislates against the thought. In this respect, as in many others, He is unique as a teacher.
Finally, He taught by His own authority. This was the cause of the astonishment at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. "The multitudes were astonished at His teaching; for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." The scribes taught that which "was said to them of old time," and the traditions of men, but Christ said, "I say unto you." Mark this feature in that discourse. A dozen times does he say, "I say unto you." This was in harmony with that which was predicted of Him as a teacher. "Moses indeed said, A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be, that every soul which shall not hearken to that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people." And in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the great teachers of the past, the divine Father said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." All this recognizes one of the fundamental principles in the Christian religion -- the supreme authority of Christ. The world seems slow to learn that what He said He said by His own authority, whether personally or through the apostles and prophets; that it needs no other support, and that it is the irrepealable law of the kingdom of God. Because we are not under the law, but under grace, many conclude that we have a religious latitude in which we may legislate for ourselves, forgetting that Paul says we are "under law to Christ."
In our supreme ignorance we need a teacher -- an infallible teacher; and that we have in the person of Jesus. In order to become wise unto salvation, we must hear and learn of Him. In believing what He says, and doing what He directs, we have His divine assurance of salvation from sin and a home in heaven.