Greeting: Jesus, we know that you are a teacher sent from God.
Text: 21) They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22) The people were amazed at this teaching because He taught them as One who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23) Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24) "What do You want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God!" 24) "Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" 26) The evil spirit shook the man violently and come out of him with a shriek. 27) The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this?" A new teaching - and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirit and they obey Him." 28) News about Him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Introduction: The verdict was unanimous. After Jesus came to teach in the synagogue of Capernaum, the people were convinced they had witnessed something outstanding. They came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was an amazing teacher, unlike any other.
In the Epiphany season, we consider a number of wonderful qualities of our Savior. This week our focus in on Jesus as the Great Prophet and Master Teacher. In Deuteronomy, God the Father announced that our Messiah would be a great Prophet. He would be like Moses and would proclaim, teach and explain God's life-giving Word with power and precision. Later, Jesus came on the scene as a remarkable Rabbi, a religious teacher who taught people the things they needed to know from God in order to be saved from sin and to live as God's people. As the Risen and Ascended Lord, Jesus continues to serve as the Great Teacher. Through His Word, Jesus still teaches people to know and obey everything He has revealed and commanded. His teaching is just as amazing and needed by us now in 2015 as it ever was. This is a point that we wish to remember.
In addition, we also wish to remember that since Jesus is the Great Teacher, then we are to be His Eager Students. We are the ones He intends to benefit from His instruction. It may not always occur to us that the world is one big classroom, that people are the students and that God is the Instructor. God is always trying to teach us something. He wants us to learn the truth from Him and acquire helpful knowledge for our life. He wants us to learn lessons of understanding, changing, believing, obeying, loving and serving. The circumstances under which we learn change, but the Words of God and His divine goals for us are constant. Every day of our life is an opportunity to learn something that will improve our faith and life.
For our soul's education, the role of the teacher is vital. We have been given the best one there is. For proper learning, the students also plays an important role. You have heard the slogan: "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." That is so true. But even more critical is the truth that "a soul is a terrible thing to waste." Mindful of the fact that we are students in God's world-wide classroom, let's study our teacher for a while so that we may also be impressed and be convinced that Jesus and the Words He teaches are simply amazing.
1. The Ways Jesus' Words Touch Our Hearts
As we examine the style and substance of Jesus' teaching, we must note that one of His outstanding abilities is His knack for speaking Words that touch people's hearts. Jesus always aimed His instruction squarely at the human heart. He spoke out of His concerned, caring, compassionate heart. He strove to connect with the deeply felts needs and hurts of people's souls. He saw the emptiness, the turmoil and the pain of people. He saw them as confused, troubled sheep without a capable, loving shepherd to care for them.
Jesus spoke about the things our hearts need and long for. Jesus spoke about purpose and meaning in life. He spoke about our place in God's plans. He spoke about sin and sorrow, pain and trial, loss and gain, forgiveness and reconciliation, love and hope, peace and joy, death and eternity.
Jesus spoke in ways that our hearts can appreciate. He uses images and illustrations that touch human emotions. He shows us and helps us feel the truth of His message. So He tells us spiritual stories about a searching shepherd and his lost sheep, an anxious woman and her lost coin, a heart-broken father and his wayward son, a brutally beaten man and a compassionate Samaritan, dying, desperate lepers, a hidden treasure, a priceless pearl, an arrogant Pharisee and a humble tax collector, a house built of shifting sands and one build on an immovable rock.
People loved to hear Jesus talk and teach. We do also because He is the amazing Teacher from God, whose words deeply touch our welcoming hearts.
2. The Way Jesus' Words Feed Our Minds
A second aspect that makes Jesus such an amazing teacher is the way His words feed our minds. Jesus does more than engage our interest. He also imparts precious information that helps our life. Jesus teaches us the things we dearly need to know and understand. One of my all-time favorite bumper sticker sayings is: "Ignorance is no excuse. It's the real thing." It's a funny saying, but, at the same time, it's a sad saying because it's all too true. Many lives have been hampered and many lives have been ruined because people just did not know the things they needed to know.
Jesus gives us what our minds need the most. He gives us the truth - the truth that comes from God, the Designer of our lives and the Determiner of our futures. Jesus gives us the truth that meets our spiritual and eternal needs. Jesus did not deal with fiction and fantasy, with make-believe and pretend matter. Jesus taught the real, solid truth by which we can truly live and on which we can safely die. Jesus specialized in revealing the deep secrets of God's ways - ways that are hidden from us by nature, but ways we must know for our deliverance from sin and eternal death.
Consider these truths Jesus teaches. In His Word Jesus teaches us about sin and grace, original sin and His incarnation, condemnation and redemption, justification and conversion, sanctification and glorification, election and resurrection, the inspiration of the Bible and the means of grace, Baptism and Communion, heaven and hell - just to name a few.
Jesus removes spiritual ignorance and imparts divine knowledge. He is the voice of truth. His words are the spiritual lamp for our feet and the spiritual light for our path through a very dark and dangerous world. Contrast, for example, the true words of Jesus in the Bible with a book that gained a lot of popularity about 10 years ago. The title of the book was "A Million Little Pieces." It was written by a man named James Frey. The book claimed to be the real-life memoirs of a 23-year-old man who was both an alcoholic and drug addict who went through a 12-step recovery program and endured many painful experiences. The book was highly promoted by people such as Oprah Winfrey and became a best seller. When people checked into the authenticity of the claims in the book, they discovered that Frey had made up most everything. Critics began to mock "A Million Little Pieces" by calling it "A Million Little Lies." Unlike phony authors and the founders and promoters of other religions, Jesus tells us the truth - only and always. You and I may take that fact for granted, but we should not. There are many who claim to tell you the truth, but they don't. Jesus does. It is simple amazing the way that Jesus feeds our minds with His soul-satisfying truth.
3. The Way Jesus Frees Our Souls
The last thing we want to note in our message about Jesus' teaching is the way His words free our souls. While Jesus was teaching in Capernaum, one of the synagogue members, who was possessed by a demon, cried out to challenge Jesus openly. The evil spirit in the man identified Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus did not tolerate the disruption. He commanded the demon to be quiet and leave the man immediately. The adversarial demon was forced to obey. The people who saw and heard this were shocked and overjoyed.
Jesus' words are true and powerful. They have the ability to set people free from the evils that confine them. Jesus freed the man in Capernaum from the devil's control. In other situations, we find Jesus freeing the woman caught in adultery from her guilt and God's condemnation. We find Jesus setting a man free from paralysis of his body so that he can walk and run and jump again. We find Jesus telling the dead daughter of Jairus: "Little girl, I say to you, 'Wake up.' She does as Jesus sets her free from the power of death.
One day all who are in the grave will hear the voice of God's Son telling them to come out. They will. Jesus' words set people free from the things that defeat and destroy them. Jesus' words release people from the evils that harass and hem them in. Jesus' words are spirit and life. His word declares us forgiven for our sin. He takes away our guilt. He removes the penalty of eternal death. We find ourselves in a state of divine favor and we are no longer afraid to die.
Jesus gives us the amazing invitation: "If you hold to my teaching, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." Jesus gives us the teachings that liberate us. His Words set our souls free.
Close: The only real way to appreciate such a teacher as Jesus is to expend the effort to learn from Him. It is important for each of us to ask ourselves the questions: "Just how well are we learning from Jesus? How much of a chance are we giving Him to teach us? How much good attention are we giving to His words? How hard are we working at hearing what He has to give us? I hope you are taking great advantage of our Savior's life-giving teaching. It may be that we have been lax or careless about being Jesus' student. There is the maxim, for every person who is willing to teach, there are 30 people who are unwilling to be taught." Don't let your sinful nature's disinterest in God's word deprive you of the great education your Savior wants you to have. Don't be discouraged by a late start or shameful feelings or perceived inadequacies. Jesus will help you overcome those things. He has so much to give that we can use. It is simply amazing the way Jesus teaches us with words that touch our hearts, feed our minds and free our souls. Give Him a better chance. Be His devoted student. You will be so glad you did. Amen.