I used to be a teacher. Had certification and everything. There are methods to teaching that professionals are taught as they begin what for many is a lifelong career. There are models that come in and out of fashion, curriculum that comes and goes, but the basics are taught year after year, decade after decade.
One of the best teachers ever was Jesus Christ. I was reading this morning and this struck me and so I thought I’d share it.
Scripture says he sat down with his disciples near him on a side of a mountain, where “crowds” had come to hear him, and started teaching with these words. I imagine that those nearest him heard what he said and the words were passed back through the crowds. The first words, then, that people heard, then repeated, were that there was hope. Notice the progression, here.
From Matthew 5:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit – depressed, perhaps? Or just saddened by life. Then those who mourn – who are grieving. Those who are naturally less likely to step forward are next to be given hope. But then… I see that the Lord isn’t just giving hope and but starts giving instruction. Direction, really.
Thirst for what is right, he taught. Be merciful. Keep your heart pure. Bring peace between your brothers.
And then, he warned them:
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
See what he does here? Today, we call these The Beatitudes and make them sound pleasant and reassuring. But that’s not what they are, in their totality. They are reassuring, yes, but this is a list. A list of what is expected of us.
Jesus taught in short sentences that would catch the ears of those who surrounded him, those who would begin repeating this lesson over and over again. In this way, he captured their attention, preparing them for further teaching, but letting him know they he knew who they were, out there on the mountainside listening to him.
It was a good lesson. People still remember it almost two thousand years later. Some people even live like they learned it.