In the first place Jesus may well be called the Great Teacher, because of the -- GREAT BLESSINGS -- of which he came to tell.
We find some of these spoken of at the opening of his first great sermon to his disciples, called "The Sermon on the Mount." This is the most wonderful sermon that ever was preached. Jesus began it by telling about some of the great blessings he had brought down from heaven for poor sinful creatures such as we are. The sermon begins in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, and the first twelve verses of the chapter are occupied in speaking of these blessings. As soon as he opened his mouth and began to speak a stream of blessings flowed out.
It was a beautiful thought, on this subject, which a boy in Sunday-school once had. The teacher had been talking to his class about the beginning of this sermon on the mount. He had spoken of the sweetness of the words of Jesus, when "He opened his mouth and taught" his disciples. "How pleasant it must have been, my dear boys," said he, "to have seen the blessed Saviour, and to have heard him speak!"
A serious-minded little fellow in the class said, "Teacher, don't you think that when Jesus opened his mouth, and began to speak to his disciples, it must have been like taking the stopper out of a scent bottle?" I cannot tell whether this boy had ever read the words of Solomon or not; but he had just the same idea that was in his mind when he said of this "Great Teacher," "thy name is as ointment poured forth." Cant, i: 3. We perceive the fragrance of this ointment as soon as Jesus opens his mouth and begins to speak. If we had been listening to Jesus when he began this sermon, saying: -- " Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peace-makers" -- and so on till he had spoken of nine different kinds of blessing, we might have thought that he had nothing but blessings of which to tell. It would have seemed as if his mind, and heart, and lips, and hands were all so filled with blessings that he could do nothing else till he had told about these. And the blessings spoken of here are not all the blessings that Jesus brought. They are only specimens of them. The blessings he has obtained for us are innumerable. David says of them, "If I would declare and speak of them they are more than can be numbered." Ps. xl: 5. And these blessings are not only very numerous, but very great. Look at one or two of these blessings that Jesus, the Great Teacher, brings to us. He says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Jesus came to bring comfort to the mourners. Hundreds of years before Christ came the prophet Isaiah had said of him that he would come to "comfort all that mourn." Is. lxi: 2. And to show how complete this blessing would be which he was to bring, Jesus said himself -- "As one whom his mother comforteth -- so will I comfort you." Is. lxvi: 13. A young girl was dying. A friend who came in to see her said:
"I trust you have a good hope."
"No," she answered, distinctly; "I am not hoping -- I am certain. My salvation was finished on the cross. My soul is saved. Heaven is mine. I am going to Jesus."
What a great blessing it is to have comfort like that!
When Jesus was speaking to the woman of Samaria, as he sat by Jacob's well, he compared the blessing of his grace to the water of that well. Pointing to the well at his side, he said: "Whosoever drinketh of this water will thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him, a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." John iv: 13, 14. This is one of the most beautiful illustrations of the blessing Jesus gives that ever was used. It is a great blessing to have a well of clear, cold water in our garden, or near our door. But, only think of having a well of water in our hearts. Then, wherever we go, we carry that well with us. We never have to go away from it. No one can separate between us and the water of this well. Other wells dry up and fail. But this is a well that never dries up, and never fails. This well is deep, and its water is all the time "springing up unto everlasting life." How happy they are in whose breasts Jesus opens this well of water!
Coleridge, the English poet, in writing to a young friend, just before his death, said:
"Health is a great blessing; wealth, gained by honest industry, is a great blessing; it is a great blessing to have kind, faithful, loving friends and relatives, but, the greatest, and best of all blessings is to be a Christian."
One of the most able and learned lawyers that England ever had was John Selden. He was so famous for his learning and knowledge that he is always spoken of as "the learned Selden." On his deathbed he said -- "I have taken much pains to know everything that was worth knowing among men; but with all my reading and all my knowledge, nothing now remains with me to comfort me at the close of life but these precious words of St. Paul: 'This a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;' to this I cling. In this I rest. This gives me peace, and comfort, and enables me to die happy."
William Wilberforce was another of the great and good men who have been a blessing and an honor to England. When he was on his deathbed, he said to a dear friend:
"Come, let us talk of heaven. Do not weep for me. I am very happy. But I never knew what happiness was till I found Christ as my Saviour. Read the Bible. Let no other book take its place. Through all my trials and perplexities, it has been my comfort. And now it comforts me, and makes me happy."
Here we see "this well of water springing up unto everlasting life." And Jesus, who came to tell us of this water, and to open up this well in our breasts, may well be called, "the Great Teacher," because of the great blessings -- of which he tells.
In the second place Jesus may be called "the Great Teacher" because of the -- GREAT SIMPLICITY -- of his teachings.
I do not mean to say that we can understand every thing that Jesus taught. This is not so. He had some things to speak about that are not simple. He said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." John xvi: 12. This means that there are some things about God, and heaven, of which he wished to tell them, but they were too hard for them to understand, although they were full-grown men. And so he did not tell them of these things. But even among the things that Jesus did tell about, there are some which the wisest and most learned men in the world have never been able to understand or explain. Some one has compared the Bible to a river, in which there are some places deep enough for an elephant or a giant to swim in; and other places where the water is shallow enough for a child to wade in. And it is just so with the teachings of Jesus. Some of the most important lessons he taught are so plain and simple that very young people can understand them.
We have a good illustration of this in that sweet invitation which Jesus gave when he said, -- "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. xi: 28. Very young people know what it is to feel tired and weary from walking, or working too much, or from carrying a heavy burden. And, when they are too tired to do anything else, they know what it is to go to their dear mother and throw themselves into her arms, and find rest there. And, in just the same way, Jesus invites us to come to him when we are tired, or troubled, that our souls may find rest in him. We come to Jesus, when we pray to him; when we tell him all about our troubles; when we ask him to help us; and when we trust in his promises.
"Was there ever gentlest shepherd
"There's a wideness in God's mercy,
"There is no place where earth's sorrows
"There is plentiful redemption
"If our love were but more simple,
The prophet Isaiah foretold that when Jesus came, he would teach his doctrines to children just weaned. Chap. xxviii: 9. This shows us that his teaching was to be marked by great plainness and simplicity. And this was just the way in which he did teach when he uttered those loving words: -- "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God." Mark x: 14. None of the other famous teachers known to the world ever took such interest in children as Jesus did. And none of them ever taught with such great simplicity. What multitudes of young people have been led to love and serve Jesus by thinking of the sweet words he spoke about children!
"The Child's Gospel." A little girl sat still in church listening to the minister. She could not understand what he was saying till he quoted these words of Jesus about the children. But she understood them. She felt that they were words spoken for her. They made her feel very happy. And when she went home she threw her arms around her mother's neck, who had been kept at home by sickness, and said, "O, mother, I have heard the child's gospel to-day."
"It's For Me." Little Carrie was a heathen child, about ten years old. After she had been going to the Mission School for some time, her teacher noticed, one day, that she looked sad.
"Carrie, my dear," she said, "why do you look so sad to-day?"
"Because I am thinking."
"And what are you thinking about?"
"O, teacher, I don't know whether Jesus loves me, or not."
"Carrie, what did Jesus say about little children coming to him when he was on earth?"
In a moment the sweet words she had learned in the school were on her lips -- "Suffer the little children to come unto me, &c."
"Well, Carrie, for whom did Jesus speak these words?" At once she clapped her hands and exclaimed: "It's not for you, teacher, is it? for you are not a child. No: it's for me! it's for me!"
And so this dear child was drawn to Jesus by the power of his love. And thus, through all the hundreds of years that have passed away since "Jesus was here among men," these same simple words have been drawing the little ones to him.
And so, because of the great simplicity which marked his teaching, Jesus must truly be called -- the Great Teacher.
But in the third place there was -- GREAT TENDERNESS -- in Jesus, and this was another thing that helped to make him the Great Teacher.
It was this great tenderness that led him, when he came to be our Teacher and Saviour to take our nature upon him and so become like us. He might have come into our world in the form of a mighty angel, with his face shining like the sun, as he appeared when the disciples saw him on the Mount of Transfiguration. But then we should have been afraid of him. He would not have known how we feel, and could not have felt for us. But instead of this, his tenderness led him to take our nature upon him, that he might be able to put himself in our place, and so to understand just how we feel, and what we need to help and comfort us. This is what the apostle means in Heb. ii: 14, when he says -- "Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." He did this on purpose that he might know, by his own experience, how we are tried and tempted; and so be able to sympathize with us and help us in all our trials.
Here is a little story, very simple, and homely; but yet, one that illustrates very well the point of which we are speaking. It is a story about:
"A Lost Horse Found." A valuable horse was lost, belonging to a farmer in New England. A number of his neighbors turned out to try and find the horse. They searched all through the woods and fields of the surrounding country, but in vain. None of them could find the horse. At last a poor, weak-minded fellow, who was known in that neighborhood as "simple Sam," started to hunt the horse. After awhile he came back, bringing the stray horse with him. The owner of the horse was delighted to see him. He stroked and patted him, and then, turning to the simple-minded man who had found him, he said:
"Well, Sam, how came you to find the horse, when no one else could do it?"
"Wal, you see," said Sam, "I just 'quired whar the horse was seen last; and then I went thar, and sat on a rock; and just axed mysel', if I was a horse, whar would I go, and what would I do? And then I went, and found him." Now, when Sam, in the simplicity of his feeble mind, tried to put himself, as far as he could, in the horse's place, this helped him to find the lost horse, and bring him back to his owner again. And so, to pass from a very little thing to a very great one, when Jesus came down from heaven to seek and to save sinners that were lost, this is just the way in which he acted. He put himself in our place as sinners. As the apostle Paul says: "he who knew no sin, was made sin for us," that he might save us from the dreadful consequences of our sins.
And we see the tenderness of Jesus, not only in taking our nature upon him and becoming man, but in what he did when he lived in this world as a man. "He went about doing good." It was his great tenderness that led him to do this. Suppose that you and I could have walked about with Jesus when he was on earth as the apostles did. Just think for a moment what we should have seen. We should have seen him meeting with blind men and opening their eyes that they might see. We should have seen him meeting with deaf men, and unstopping their ears that they might hear. We should have seen him meeting sick people who were taken with divers diseases and torments and healing them. We should have seen him raising the dead; and casting out devils; and speaking words of comfort and encouragement to those who were sad and sorrowful. If we could have looked into his blessed face, we should have seen tenderness there, beaming from his eyes and speaking from every line of his countenance. If we could have listened to his teaching we should have found tenderness running through all that he said. Just take one of his many parables as a sample of his way of teaching -- the parable of the lost sheep -- and see how full of tenderness it is. The sweet lines of the hymn, about the shepherd seeking his lost sheep, that most of us love to sing, bring out the tenderness of Jesus here very touchingly.
"There were ninety and nine that safely lay
"'Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
"But none of the ransomed ever knew
"'Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
"But all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And all that we know of Jesus as "the good Shepherd," demonstrates his great tenderness for his sheep.
But perhaps there was no act in all the life of our blessed Redeemer that showed his tenderness more than taking the little children in his arms, and putting his hands upon them, and blessing them.
To think of the Son of God, who made this world, and all worlds, and whom all the angels of heaven worship, showing so much interest in the little ones; this proves how full of tenderness his heart was.
"I Like Your Jesus." An English lady who had spent six months in Syria, writes: "Going through the places where the Mohammedans live, you continually hear the girls singing our beautiful hymns in Arabic. The attractive power of Christ's love is felt even by the little ones, as we learned from a dear Moslem child, who, when she repeated the text, 'Suffer the little children,' said, 'I like your Jesus, because he loved little children. Our Mohammed did not love little children.'"
And if we all try to imitate the tenderness of Jesus, then, though we may have no money to give, and no great thing to do, yet by being tender, and gentle, and loving, as Jesus was, we shall be able to do good wherever we are.
"Doing Good by Sympathy." A Christian mother used to ask her children every night if they had done any good during the day. One night in answer to this question, her little daughter said: "At school this morning I found little Annie G -- -- , who had been absent for some time, crying very hard. I asked her what was the matter? Then she cried more, so that I could not help putting my head on her neck, and crying with her. Her sobs grew less, and presently she told of her little baby brother, whom she loved so much; how sick he had been; and how much pain he had suffered, till he died and was buried. Then she hid her face in her book, and cried, as if her heart would break. I could not help putting my face on the other page of the book, and crying, too, as hard as she did. After awhile she kissed me, and told me I had done her good. But, mother, I don't know how I did her good; for I only cried with her!"
Now this little girl was showing the tenderness of Jesus, the Great Teacher. Nothing in the world could have done that poor sorrowing child so much good as to have some one cry with her. Sometimes tears of tenderness are worth more than diamonds. And this is why the Bible tells us to "weep with them that weep." Rom. xii: 15. Jesus did this in the tenderness of his loving heart. And this was one of the things that made him the Great Teacher.
But then there was -- GREAT KNOWLEDGE -- in Jesus; and this was another thing that made him great as a teacher.
If we wish to be good teachers, we must study, and try to understand the things we expect to teach. If a young man wishes to be a minister, he must go through college; and then spend three years in the Divinity School, so that he may understand the great truths of the Bible, which he is to teach the people who hear him. But Jesus never went to college, or to a divinity school. And yet he had greater knowledge about all the things of which he spoke than any other teacher ever had. We are told in the book of Job that "He is perfect in knowledge." Job xxxvi: 5. And the apostle Paul tells us that "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col. ii: 3. This is more than can be said of any man, or any angel. If we could take all the knowledge of all the best teachers who ever lived, and give it to one person, it would be as nothing compared to the knowledge which Jesus, "the Great Teacher" had. He knew all about heaven; for that had always been his home before he came into our world. He knew all about God; for, he was "in the bosom of the Father," John i: 18; and, as he tells us himself, had shared his glory with him, "before the world was." John xvii: 5. He knew all about the world we live in, for he made it. John i: 10. He knew all about all other worlds, for he made them, too. John i: 3; Heb. i: 2. He knew all about his disciples and every body else in the world, for he made them all. He saw all they did; he heard all they said; he knew all they thought, or felt. Wise and learned men have been studying, and finding out things for hundreds of years, about geography and natural history -- and astronomy; -- about light, and heat, and electricity -- and steam -- and the telegraph, and many other things. Jesus knew all about these things when he was on earth. He could have told about them, if he had seen fit to do so. But he only told us what it is best for us to know, in order that we might be saved; and kept back all the rest. The things that Jesus did teach us when he was here on earth were wonderful; but it is hardly less wonderful to think of the things that he might have taught us, and yet did not. When we think of the great knowledge of Jesus, as a Teacher, we are not surprised that some of those who heard him "wondered at the gracious words" he spake; or that others asked the question: "Whence hath this man this knowledge, having never learned?"
Some one has written these sweet lines about Christ as -- The Great Teacher:
"From everything our Saviour saw,
But the difference between Jesus, the Great Teacher, and all other teachers is seen, not only in the greater knowledge he has of the things that he teaches, but in this also, that he knows how to make us understand the lessons he teaches. Here is an incident that illustrates how well Jesus can do this. We may call it:
"The Well Instructed Boy." A minister of the gospel was travelling through the wildest part of Ireland. There he met a shepherd's boy, not more than ten or twelve years old. He was poorly clad, with no covering on his head, and no shoes or stockings on his feet; but he looked bright and happy. He had a New Testament in his hand. "Can you read, my boy?" asked the minister.
"To be sure I can."
"And do you understand what you read?"
"Please turn to the third chapter of St. John, and read us a little," said the minister. The boy found the place directly, and in a clear distinct voice, began:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi."
"What does Rabbi mean?"
"It means a master."
"Right; go on."
"We know thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
"What is a miracle?"
"It is a great wonder. 'Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee.'"
"What does verily mean?"
"It means 'indeed.' 'Except a man be born again.'"
"What does that mean?"
"It means a great change, a change of heart."
"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"And what is that kingdom?"
He paused a moment, and with a very serious, thoughtful look, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, "It is something here;" and then, raising his eyes to heaven, added, "and something up yonder." This poor boy had been taking lessons from "the Great Teacher," and he had taught him some of the most important things that we can ever learn. Jesus may well be called "the Great Teacher," because of his great knowledge.
But there is one other thing that Jesus has, which helps to make him "the Great Teacher," and that is -- GREAT POWER.
Other teachers can tell us what we ought to learn, and to do, yet they have no power to help us learn, or do what they teach. But Jesus has this power. Let us take a single illustration from many of the same kind that occurred while he was on earth. One day he was going about teaching in the streets of Jerusalem. As he went on, he passed by the office of a man who was gathering taxes for the Roman government. The persons who did this were called publicans. This man, sitting in his office, was named Matthew. He was busily engaged in receiving the taxes of the people. It was a very profitable business. The men engaged in it generally made a great deal of money. Jesus stopped before the window or door of this office. He beckoned to Matthew, and simply spoke these two words: -- "Follow me."
Now, if any other teacher had spoken these words to Matthew, and had tried to make him quit his business and engage in something else, he would have said: "No; I can't leave my office. This is all the means I have of getting a living. The business pays well, and I am not willing to give it up." But when Jesus spoke to him, he did, at once, what he was told to do. We read that "He left all, rose up, and followed him." Matt. ix: 9; Luke v: 28. He became one of the twelve apostles and wrote the gospel which bears his name. But it was the great power which Jesus has over the hearts of men that made Matthew willing to do, at once, what he was told to do.
And the power which Jesus exercised over Matthew, in this case, he still has, and still uses. And when he is pleased to use this power the very worst people feel it, and are made good by it. And Jesus, "the Great Teacher," uses this power sometimes in connection with very simple things. Here is an illustration. We may call it:
"Saved by a Rose." Some time ago, a Christian gentleman was in the habit of visiting one of our prisons. It occurred to him, one day, that it would be a good thing to have a flowering plant in the little yard connected with each cell. He got permission from the officers of the prison to do so. He had a bracket fastened to the wall, in each yard, and a flower pot, with a plant in it, placed on each bracket. One of these prisoners was worse than all the rest. He was the most hardened man that had ever been in that prison. His temper was so violent and obstinate that no one could manage him. The keeper of the prison was afraid of him, and never liked to go near him. He was such a disagreeable-looking man that the name given to him in the prison was "Ugly Greg." A little rose bush was put on the bracket in Ugly Greg's yard, and the effect produced by it is told in these simple lines, which some one has written about it:
"Ugly Greg was the prisoner's name,
"But some one -- blessings on his name!
"'He will smash it in pieces,' the keeper said,
"The soft, green leaves unfolded their tips,
"But, at last they took him away to lie
"The lines which sin and pain had traced,
And the meaning of all this is, not that the rose itself saved this hardened sinner. No; but it led him to think of the lessons of his childhood, when he had been taught about Jesus, "the Rose of Sharon". It led him to think about his sins. It led him to repent of them; to pray to Jesus; to exercise faith in him; and in this way he became a changed man, and was saved. And so, though we speak of him as -- "a man saved by a rose;" yet it was the power of Jesus, "the Great Teacher," exercised through that rose, which led to this blessed change and saved Greg's soul from death.
And thus we have spoken of five things which help to make up the greatness of Jesus as a Teacher. These are -- The Great Blessings -- The Great Simplicity -- The Great Tenderness -- The Great Knowledge -- and the Great Power connected with his teachings. Let us seek the grace that will enable us to learn of him, and then we shall find rest for our souls!