(3.) Teaching Methods of Jesus: Introduction

(3.) Teaching Methods of Jesus: Introduction

(3.) Teaching Methods of Jesus: Introduction.

Jesus Christ designed the human mind, the mysterious seat of consciousness of each person, and the pinnacle of creation. The brain’s unlimited complexity means there is no “brain expert.” The more we know about the brain, the more we discover we don’t know. We do know it is a muscle that weighs about three pounds, and has 100 billion neurons branching out to more than 100 trillion synapse points. We know that the brain has over 100,000 miles of blood vessels. The mind needs to be constantly strengthened in its development, and can actually change by our behavior and how we decide to use it. The brain is “plastic” in that way. Jesus highlighted the importance of using the human mind when He told His followers to love God with all their mind (Matthew 22:37). And there we have the basic task of Christ-centered education: to use all the facets of the mind to love God and belong to His truth.

One way to think about the mind is to consider the idea that it has three main facets: the intellect, the conscience, and the imagination. If students want to learn, they need to have each facet invigorated, inspired, stretched, developed. To some extent, these three facets are in all human minds, no matter the age. So the savvy teacher is aware of how to approach each facet in an age-appropriate way. These three facets of the mind are all bundled together and interconnected within one brain. So there is overlap in how all three operate and interact. To characterize the profound complexity of the human mind with three simple facets is no doubt inadequate, but it’ll have to do for now. Teachers need to start somewhere in coming alongside the students, and perhaps it’s helpful to focus on the intellect, the conscience, and the imagination. Certainly Jesus did just that in His teaching ministry.

With the different facets of the mind in view, an overview of the teacher’s role in education could look like this:

Intellect. Give the students the tools to pursue and understand the truth; train them in the ability to reason effectively; enable them to develop insightful common sense and logical thinking; help them be comfortable in exploring the truth intellectually and spiritually; strengthen the ability to memorize and grasp factual data; sharpen their discernment between wise and unwise, true and false, loving and unloving, mindful and mindless, logical and illogical.

Conscience. Nurture goodness in the lives of the students; cultivate their integrity and virtue; hold them accountable so they are trained for righteousness; promote a wholesome character and moral intelligence; strengthen their will to make sound decisions; help clarify moral confusion; help them develop shrewd street smarts; enable them to apply biblical principles to daily choices; help them embrace a pedagogy of love; strengthen their ability to empathize.

Imagination. Inspire creativity in the students; help them distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly; provide opportunities for creative self-expression; train them in basic artistic skills; capture their imagination in the classroom through story, music, drama, and the visual arts; help them gain confidence in expressing themselves; help them take risks artistically; stimulate their God-given creative impulse; help them be sensitive to their intuition.

Reading through the Gospels, we notice that Jesus enjoyed using a huge bag of tools for teaching others in His public ministry. He sought to engage the whole mind as He interacted with the people. Being Jewish, He was raised in a multi-sensory, experiential style of learning. The Sh’ma makes this clear. This Scripture developed into the central statement of faith in the Jewish faith. “Listen, O Israel! The LORD (Yahweh) is our God, the LORD alone (or, the LORD our God, the LORD is one)! You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Notice the importance the LORD places on teaching the children in the home, on their faith development and education. Every Jewish parent took these commands in the Sh’ma to heart. Education according to the teaching methods of Moses was constant, holistic, and involved eating and cooking, talking and listening, asking and telling, reading and writing, looking and touching, smelling and tasting, memorizing and discussing, experiencing and imagining. Jesus knew these teaching tactics intimately since He was raised in an obedient, practicing Jewish home. God wanted parents, the first teachers, to teach the whole person, all the time. The conscience was just as important as the intellect and the imagination. And every year the children would be taught through a cycle of biblical feasts and festivals and activities. These reenactments would bring their history and faith alive since they centered on biblical events and principles. One can safely assume that Jesus was a full participant in teaching the disciples through the same means, as well as all the other methods He used. Jesus was a Master Teacher, and He would use every method He could think of to reach the people with the Good News of the Kingdom.