Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Luke
Lesson 9: Jesus, the Master Teacher
The congregation that gathered in the synagogue in Jesus' day was made up of humble townsfolk--fishermen, merchants, craftsmen, and laborers and their wives. As they participated in the psalms, the blessings, the prayers, and the reading of the Law and the Prophets, they eagerly awaited the sermon from the Nazarene who had been causing such a stir around Galilee. And they weren't disappointed. "And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power" (Luke 4:32).
They were struck with amazement--thunderstruck in their souls! Jesus' preaching packed a powerful punch!
Why? Because "His word possessed authority" or as Mark had it, "He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). This was always the way Jesus taught. The apostle Matthew confirms this: "And when Jesus finished these sayings [the Sermon on the Mount], the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Matt. 7:28, 29). Their teachers, mostly Pharisees, were in bondage to quotation marks--they loved to quote authorities.
But when Jesus spoke, it was just the opposite. His style was, "You have heard that it was said. ... But I say to you." He taught God's Word, not just about God's Word. His teaching of the Law and the Prophets was clear and simple, as it has been with all true preachers of the Word.
Jesus' teaching was not only clear but convicting because the "Holy Spirit descended on Him" at His baptism (Luke 3:22), and because he was "full of the Holy Spirit" when He returned from the Jordan (Luke 4:1), and because when He began to teach He proclaimed, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me" (Luke 4:18). Jesus' listeners in Capernaum were convicted by His words. The people were shocked, thunderstruck. Jesus' teaching was authoritative because He proclaimed God's Word clearly and with conviction.
Christ's favorite theme was to teach about His Father and ours. "Christ was the greatest teacher the world has ever known. ... He came to reveal the character of the Father, that men might be led to worship Him in spirit and in truth" (Ellen G. White, Lift Him Up, p. 166). Jesus' teaching about His Father is an important idea emphasized in the 1888 message.
Strange to say, hatred and rejection dogged His steps all His life. He protested to His own people, "All I have ever done is to tell you the truth I heard from God, yet you are trying to kill Me." A few minutes later "they picked up stones to throw at Him" (John 8:40, 59, GNB). Finally, their enmity knew no bounds. They could not endure His presence among them, and they yelled, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Imagine! Treating the Son of God like that!
Mankind has spent thousands of years searching for God. They have speculated, guessed, reasoned, imagined, philosophized about Him. But Jesus came to reveal Him. "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). The Chinese have a proverb, "One picture is worth a thousand words." The life and character of Jesus tell us more about God than a thousand philosophers' opinions.
Thus, as Jesus came to reveal God to us, in so doing He revealed another important truth: God has some people who hate Him. Like the truth of agape which took the world by surprise, this was also a new revelation. We humans always have plenty of enemies, but no one had ever before imagined that God has enemies, least of all the people who professed to worship Him!
All heathen religions are based on the idea of God being as elusive as a cure for cancer. People imagined that God is playing hide-and-seek and has withdrawn Himself from human beings. Only special ones are wise or clever enough to discover where He is hiding. Millions go on long journeys to Mecca, Rome, Jerusalem, or other shrines, searching for Him. The ancient Greeks outdid all of us in building magnificent marble temples in which they felt they must seek for God.
Since childhood we have all heard of the Good Shepherd who leaves His "ninety and nine" on that wild stormy night and seeks His one lost sheep "until He find it" (Luke 15:4-6). Its salvation depends entirely on the initiative of the Shepherd. The lost animal knows it's lost, but cannot "arise and go" on its own to find salvation. So, the Lord Jesus Christ "seeks" it. The lost sheep is you and I who are rescued by a love totally outside of us.
And we remember the lost coin, how the lady turns her house upside down until she finds that precious piece of silver. The coin is different from the sheep; it doesn't know it's lost. It represents you and me who were "dead in trespasses and sins [who] walked according to the course of this world, ... fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, ... children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3). But Someone found us, buried in the dust and trash of this dark world, unconscious of our condition.
But how does this common theme of God seeking and finding us work out in practical day-by-day living? Does the idea encourage us to be spiritually lazy, doing nothing?
The Prodigal Son story seems on the superficial surface to contradict God's love seeking us, rather than vice versa. The lost son seems to take the initiative in his own salvation. "I will arise and go," he says to himself, and gets up out of the pigsty and goes--on his own (Luke 15:18). Like cars, he has a self-starter. The Father does not come seeking him, to "find" him. Forever after the boy can congratulate himself: "Yes, I was lost; but I found my way back! I'm saved because I 'sought' and 'found' salvation. I exerted the effort. I forced myself to take step after step. I did it. I'm saved by grace, but I'm also saved by my own obedience."
But wait a moment, Mr. Prodigal Son, Mr. Laodicean, not so fast. This parable illustrates how the Holy Spirit seeks and saves us lost ones. It was He who gave the boy sitting with the pigs the conviction that his Father loved him. The Holy Spirit inspired him with the motivation, because as the Comforter whom Jesus promised to send us, He, not self, convicted the boy of "sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, ... because the prince of this world is condemned" (John 16:7-11).
--Paul E. Penno