A lousy teacher

Jesus is an effective teacher.

His capacity to use stories to illustrate concepts is fabulous. The verbal images he creates are used by people who don’t know they are his: good Samaritans; walking on water; the good shepherd; turn the other cheek; “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” His internship program  has worked with great resilience for centuries. He spent three years talking and living with a small group of committed followers. He sent them out as interns, in pairs, doing miracles and preaching.

But shortly before he died, at the end of that part of his training program, he says: For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. (John 12:49)

He was, he says, sent. He was told what to say. He was told how to say it.

That is a startling lack of originality. It would make him delusional if it weren’t true, casting doubts on the rest of his work.  On the other hand, that kind of commonality of purpose, of–we might say–communion, does make sense if Jesus is telling the truth.

Just before, Jesus says, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.”

Apparently, for Jesus anyway, the statements “you sound just like your dad” and “you look just like your dad” are the best possible compliment. They trace a relationship that, according to Jesus, has significant repercussions.  The struggle to figure out God is intimately connected to the struggle to figure out Jesus. Jesus, at least, doesn’t let them be separate.

To be a good teacher only, according to him, would be a failure on his part.

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