SNAPSHOTS OF THE SAVIOR
March 6-7, 2004
This past week I was thinking over my academic career and the impact of teachers on my life. I had several teachers that were really, really incredible to me. I think about my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Blaze. She taught me and encouraged me to study and to be creative. I think about my 7th grade teacher, Colonel Robert Kerr. Colonel Kerr taught me discipline. I would have made a better grade in his class, but his breath reeked of nicotine and caffeine, so I kind of stayed away from Colonel Kerr. I think about my P.E. coach, Lee Coty, in Columbia, South Carolina. Coach Coty would always scream at me, “Move those feet! Get the lead out!” Coach Coty had an impact on my life. Dr. Robert Leach, who taught me mathematics at Florida State, was a great teacher and even made math exciting. Dr. Ward S. Gideon, who was my Greek professor at seminary, was an unbelievable teacher.
In fact, if you’re a teacher, would you stand? If you are a teacher in any realm, just stand for a second. Let’s give it up for the teachers here, because teachers are under-appreciated, underpaid and under-rated. Teachers are awesome!
We can all look back on our lives and think about teachers that really made significant marks on our academic careers. Maybe they shaped you and formed you into who you are. I’m in a series called “Passion – Snapshots of the Savior.” We’ve been looking at different snapshots of the person of Christ. We’ve seen that Jesus identified with us and was passionate about doing that. We saw last time that Christ was passionate and is passionate about others, about servanthood. Well today, we’re going to look at an aspect of Christ’s life that most of us overlook. Most of us don’t even think about it. In fact, if we have a photo album of the person of Christ in our minds, we usually don’t have this picture. This picture of Jesus is conspicuously absent. The snapshot I’m talking about is the photograph of Jesus, the teacher.
Yes, Christ came to save us; we know that. He came to instruct. But also Jesus Christ of Nazareth came to teach us how to live. He was the quintessential communicator. And again, so often we overlook it, we don’t think about it, we miss the genius of Christ’s teaching.
Jesus only had 36 months to teach. Three years—that was it. He knew he had to communicate the essence of his being during that small window of time, and he did it. The best teacher who ever walked on the face of the earth is Jesus Christ. Whether you be friend or foe, atheist or agnostic, you’ve got to say Jesus was an awesome teacher.
But I’m going to show you today that we can’t just say Jesus was a good teacher. I laugh when people say, “Well, Jesus was just a good teacher.” He did not leave that option open for us, and I’ll kind of chase that in a little while. Why, though, was Jesus such an amazing teacher? Why? Check out the Gospels for a second. Matthew 7:28, “The crowds were amazed at this teaching.” Mathew 13:54 (NKJV), “They were astonished….” Mathew 22:22 (NKJV), “When they heard these words, they marveled….”
People walked miles just to hear Christ teach. They scaled mountains, they climbed on rooftops, they went without food for a long, long time just to hear what he was talking about.
Maybe you’re saying, “Why? I hear you, Ed. People were amazed, astonished, and all that. But why?” Well, one of the reasons is because Jesus met people’s felt needs. Read about him in the Gospels. See how he taught. He was all about identification. You see, the other religious leaders during that day would not talk to the masses. They would just talk in little, special venues to the elite. Jesus talked in established venues like synagogues.
Also, though, Jesus talked in communities. He went out and walked and lived and illustrated people’s lives. He always started with a felt need, whether it was an encounter with the woman at the well, whether he was talking to Nicodemus…. And that was the first episode of Nick at Night, because Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and Christ said, “Nicodemus you must be born again.” Whether it be Christ’s interchange or interaction with the rich young ruler, he said, “Hey rich guy, you’ve got a stumbling block in your life and it’s all about wealth.”
Jesus always dealt with people’s felt needs, whether they needed healing, whether they needed a word or a touch. Jesus always started there. I was doing some research a while back on communication and I discovered that in all of our brains we have something called the reticular activating system. Isn’t this unique? And this is at the stem of our brain. The reticular activating system was placed there by God himself so that we would not freak out over all the stimuli. Because if we responded to all the stimuli, we would have to be committed to the Ha-Ha House. Thank God, literally, for the reticular activating system. It sifts through all the stimuli and it tells me what I should remember, what I should hold as important to me, things I value, things that scare me and things that are unique. That is what I respond to; that is what I remember. And that is what you respond to and that is what you remember. God knew this a long time ago. And that’s why Jesus started with our felt needs, our felt needs.
Luke 4:18-19—this is Christ’s first sermon. He gave this sermon in Nazareth, and I’ve stood at the exact spot where he delivered this sermon. It’s a very, very powerful place, but that’s a whole other story. Luke 4:18, here’s what Jesus said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News….” Do you know what good news means? It’s the Gospel, good news. It’s good and it’s news. [the verse continues] “…to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim,” Christ said, “that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Isn’t that amazing? Jesus was saying, “I’m going to preach good news—good news to free you up, good news for you to have a purpose and power and strength and a clear conscience. Good news. Good news about your past—your sins are going to be forgiven and forgotten. Good news about the present—there is meaning in your life right now. Good news about the future—a decade from now or eternity. I’m all about that.” And that’s what Jesus talks about, felt needs. People connected with him, people understood where he was coming from. Maybe he asked a question, maybe he made a comment, maybe he just touched for someone, or maybe he prayed a prayer. People just locked in.
Question: can something be true and irrelevant? You’d better believe it! The worst injury I’ve every had in my life, and I’ve told you this before, was several years ago when I dropped a 40-pound dumbbell on my great toe. It broke my toe in 40 places and the bone was sticking out of the nail bed in four places. It was horrendous. I cannot describe to you the pain, because all the nerve endings are on the tips of our fingers and on the tips of our toes. I was rushed to the hospital where several doctors from Fellowship Church happened to be on call. And you know you’re hurt bad when the doctors look and go, “Ohh! Ahh!” And I want to show you my toe. [Ed takes off his shoe to show how his toe has healed.] I usually show my toe off about every two years, and if you have a problem with it just close your eyes, okay? Get a good shot of this. Now look. Is that a beautiful great toe on my left foot, that toe right there. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Beautiful, beautiful.
When I got to the emergency room, these doctors had all these shots ready, and they gave me 20 shots in my toe. (I had to preach that night, because it was on a Saturday morning.) The doctors did not say, “Hey Ed, I want to give you the Latin terminology for the word ‘shot.’ I want to give you the historicity of the emergency room and how the hospitals have evolved over times.”
They didn’t say that. That would have been true, but irrelevant. I was saying, “I am hurting! Give me some relief. Give me drugs! I need them now,” and they began to shoot me up. Thankfully, too. Get one more shot of my toe. A friend of mine, who goes to Fellowship church, is a plastic surgeon who rebuilt my nail bed. So, now the hottest cosmetic procedure out there is the nail bed augmentation. A lot of people don’t have it, but I have it. And I’ve got the best looking big toe around!
Something can be true and irrelevant. Jesus talked about stuff that was true and relevant. And if someone thought it might be irrelevant, by his illustrations and word pictures, he would show its relevance. Jesus was all about felt needs. He was all about identifying with us.
He didn’t just stop at that, though. He didn’t just say, “Well, I’ll meet the needs of my listeners and that’s that.” No, no, no. He went somewhere else. He went to innovation. Every time he met a felt need, he would illustrate the felt need with a parable, with an example, with a word picture or something the audience could connect with, something they could go, “Oh, ah ha.” He would use something that would make the reticular activating system go, “Bing, bing, bing! That’s important, that’s valuable, that’s something I need to pay attention to!”
Jesus was the master illustrator, the master story teller. Read about it in the gospels, the synoptic gospels—Mathew, Mark, and Luke. Basically, they are sermons and stories that Jesus gave to his listeners.
I get the opportunity to speak right here on this stage about 41 weekends a year, I preach five times, 41 different weekends a year, and about two or three weekends I’m traveling somewhere to speak. Here is what I’ve discovered about all of my teaching over the years. If I’m talking about just principles and precepts, people are like going, “Oh, okay…,” but once I start telling a story like my toe was crushed, once I start taking my sock off, people are locked in. Why is that? There is something about a story. I love to hear people tell stories, don’t you? I just love it! You tell me a story and I’ll be like, “Wow, really?” It touches us. There’s a depth to it. Jesus understood what we’re just understanding—74% of us are visual learners. God knew that when the Bible was written. He’s always using word pictures and illustrations to communicate his truth to mankind.
For example: a piece of fruit with Adam and Eve, salt with Lot, some grapes with Samson, a ram with Abraham, a little basket with Moses, and ultimately, a cross to the world. Innovation, creativity. The Trinity is all over creativity. The Trinity is who God is—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three in one and one in three. The Father invented innovation, the Son modeled innovation, and the Holy Spirit empowers innovation.
Jesus was all about innovation, all about creativity. He preached from boat bows and beaches, he drew in the sand, picked up fish, pointed to a child and said, “There’s a sower.” He talked about a building that had fallen down. Contemporary and creative—something that blew others away.
Look at Mark 12:37, “The large crowd listened to him with…” With what? “…with delight.”
I laugh, not in a mean way but in a funny way, when people say about church, “Man, that church is just into entertainment.” I say, “Yeah! That’s what we should be all about!”
But wait a minute, I drift you back to Scripture. Mathew 7:28, “The crowds were amazed at his teaching.” Sounds like they were entertained to me. Mathew 13:54 (NKJV), “They were astonished.” Sounds like entertainment to me. Mathew 22:22, “When they heard these words they marveled.” Sounds like entertainment to me.
You know what the word “entertainment” means? I looked it up: to capture and hold someone’s attention for an extended period of time. That’s my goal. And it’s my goal because why? I just want it to be my goal? No. The reason it’s my goal is because it’s Christ’s goal, that’s what he was about.
If you ever go to church and you’re bored, don’t blame God. Blame the communicator, because if the communicator ever gives a boring message from the most exciting book out there, they’re slandering the nature and the character of God. What’s so sad about the church is the fact that most of us grew up in churches that were boring. Maybe you were a member of the first church of the frozen chosen, I don’t know. Church, Gallop said, is the most boring place to be. We should be the most creative and innovative place to be. A church should not stand out if it’s creative, a church should stand out if it’s boring. The question should not be “How does my church get creative?” It should be, “What’s keeping it from being creative?” You want creative, you want innovation, you want illustration, you want word pictures, you want examples, and you want visuals? Look at Jesus. Look at Him.
The master story teller one time said, “Picture a camel.” Of course everyone in this audience could picture a camel, camels were prolific back then. Middle East, camels, okay? Then Jesus said, “Picture a needle. Got the needle?” Everyone probably goes, “Yeah! Camel. Needle.” Then he said, “Put the camel through the eye of the needle.” That was some Hebrew humor! People were going, “Oh my, you can’t put a camel through the eye of a needle! Come on, Jesus.” He said, “That’s how difficult it is for a wealthy person to get into the kingdom of God.”
He felt needs of the greedy and the wealthy people, their self reliance. They made it on their own, yet Jesus was saying, “You have to rely on the work of someone else to get you where you need to go. Wealth can be a stumbling block. Does wealth have you or do you have wealth?” Camel. Needle. See the identification and the illustration?
One time Jesus said [paraphrased], “See that big old tree right there? What if you could just chop all the logs off and put the tree right in your eye? And what if you pointed out a little spec of sawdust in someone else’s contact lens, while you had this big log, this big tree in your eye?” Think about that picture. I did a whole big series on it a while back. I did a message called “Yank the Plank.” Do you remember that? That’s hilarious! Great word picture, because all of us have a tendency to judge others. “Oh, I can’t believe him. I can’t believe she would wear that. Look at this group.”
Jesus said, “Hey, don’t’ worry about those people. You worry about yourself, worry about the plight, the log, the sequoia tree in your own eye.” What if Jesus happened to be in the flesh today, right here, 2004, in Dallas/Ft. Worth? What would he do? He would talk to us in modern day terms, things we could identify with.
What if he told the story of the Prodigal Son? He’d probably say, “Hey, picture a young guy, 18 years old, in Highland Park. Picture the guy saying, ‘Hey Dad, I want my trust fund now.’ The guy takes his money, jumps in his dad’s Gulf Stream 5, and flies to Las Vegas. The pilots drop him off, he checks into the Mirage Hotel, spends all his money on gambling, topless clubs, and buys a Lamborghini. Finally, after going through all this stuff, this guy ends up sweeping floors at the local McDonalds right up the strip. He finds himself digging through trash cans eating Happy Meals that the kids have discarded and then drinking warm Coke and he says to himself, ‘Life has got to be better than this. This is horrible. Can you believe I’ve done this? I’ve blown all of my father’s money.’ And this guys turns and he hitchhikes all the way back to Highland Park and he says to himself, ‘What can I say to Dad? I don’t have the words to say. Dad’s hunting dogs are better than I am right now.’ And then when the taxi drops him off in front of this mansion. His dad runs out, greets him, takes him on a shopping spree at Neiman’s and throws a party for him at The Mansion [a high-end steak restaurant in Dallas/Ft. Worth]. That illustrates the father’s forgiveness. It doesn’t matter how far away we are from God; it doesn’t matter if we’re in the trash can rummaging around for kid’s meals and Happy Meals and drinking warm Coke. If we’ll come to our senses and turn around, the Father will forgive us.” Maybe Jesus would say something like that.
He was talking about the parable of the sower. He might say, “Picture the ChemLawn man. Let’s imagine some of the grass seed falls on the sidewalk and the birds come down and peck the seed and cruise off to their nest and eat the seed. Let’s say the ChemLawn man drops some seed into the flower beds, but the weeds choke the grass out. But say some of the grass seed falls on fertile soil and the sprinkler system hits it, it germinates and it turns into beautiful Bermuda.” Christ might say, “Well, that’s the response to me. I’m the ChemLawn man.” The seed is the Word. And the different soils represent your life and mine. Sometimes when Christ’s seed is sown, it hits the hard, sidewalk-like heart, and the bird comes and the evil one comes and snatches it away. Other times, if the seed hits maybe a flower bed in the crowded life in your life or mine, materialism or greed or whatever just chokes the seed out. And sometimes the seed falls on fertile soil and someone turns to Christ and they give everything to him and they get involved in the church and all of that. Jesus, the master illustrator, the master communicator.
And if you really study the teaching ministry of Christ, you see that Christ did not speak in classical Greek. He spoke in Aramaic, the street language of the day. Isn’t that something? The Son of God had a choice, classical Greek or Aramaic, and he chose Aramaic. And if you continue to study his teaching and his Aramaic, a lot of the words he used had a rhythm and a rhyme to them.
And on top of that, the parables that he told were not some stories just off the top of his head. It wasn’t like, “Oh, alright, I’ll talk about this.” They were things that were thought through, things that were tight, things that had a meaning and a principle and a precept, things that illustrated something.
Why do we do what we do here at Fellowship Church? Why do we teach the way we do? I want to show you some things that we’ve done in the past, a couple of months ago here at Fellowship Church. Watch this for a second. [A video showing different illustrations and message series ideas, a creative montage, is played on the side screens.] Those are just 13 things that we’ve done. They are all about creativity. Why? Because Jesus is our model. Our challenge is taking something very deep, very complex, very intricate and making it simple. I didn’t say simplistic. I said simple.
The apostle Paul was worried about people muddying up the Gospel. The apostle Paul was worried and freaked out about people making it complex. Here’s what he said in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I am afraid that …your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
Jesus made the complex simple, and that is our goal. That is our call as communicators. Jesus identified with us, he illustrated it and also, he applied the stuff. Every time you hear Christ talk, every time you hear someone teach from the Bible, you should have two things down in your heart of hearts: what you need to know and what you need to do.
At Fellowship Church, like the teaching ministry of Christ, we want to say things that affect you and change your lives between services. We’re not just about information, we’re about application and transformation. 69% of Christ’s words were words of application. Where does application take place? Where do we live it out? We live it out in this venue, the local church. Because when gifted communicators—whether it be in music or video, in children’s church or whatever—open God’s word and teach, great and wonderful and supernatural stuff occurs.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” We should, as believers, gather together for a corporate feeding, a corporate teaching.
In the early church, in Acts 2 and Acts 4, they dedicated themselves to teaching. It’s not just about the Holy Spirit of God. Yes, when Christ comes in he puts the Holy Spirit inside of our lives and the Holy Spirit teaches us. What does the Holy Spirit teach us? He teaches us what he’s written down. He’s written down God’s word. Thus, we should sit under teaching corporately.
Also, we should sit in private teaching. We should learn to feed ourselves, to read the Bible on our own. Also, we should have a small group feeding in relationship and sharing biblical and scriptural principles.
After the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said two things, and I’ll read them for you. In Mathew 7:24-27, he said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Which one are you? Are you just hearing, or are you hearing, listening, and applying? Are you building your house and your life on shifting sand, or are you building it on the rock? We can’t just say that Jesus was a great teacher. Yes he was. But we can’t stop there. We have basically two options when it comes to the person of Christ: he was either a loony tune or he was Lord. The good teacher thing is not an option. When anyone says that, they’re advertising their ignorance, because Christ said, “I’m God.” What is he in your life?