Learning How To Teach From Jesus, part 3

Now Jesus began to go all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
-Matthew 4:23 and 9:35

Chapter 3 of Herman Horne's book, The Teaching Techniques of Jesus, is entitled: HOW DID JESUS SECURE ATTENTION?

(Quotes from Horne or the Bible are in italics)

Horne writes:

When one mind approaches another for any reason, the first thing to do is to catch attention. Ordinarily in human intercourse this is done by a word, gesture, or touch. The need of winning attention and of keeping it is felt, not only by the teacher before his class, but by the "preacher before his congregation, the lecturer before his audience, the lawyer before his jury, the salesman before his purchaser, and the writer and the advertiser, though only the printed page is before their readers. Anybody who influences anybody else must first have their attention. 

Did Jesus have the attention of his auditors, even of those who did not hear him, but only heard of him? Who since his day or before has so had the attention of mankind? Stop a few minutes to think your answers to these questions. 

Now why was this? How did Jesus so capture the attention of his generation, and, we may add, of all generations? For he is a teacher of the world. 

Before answering this question directly, we must approach it by asking another: What kind of attention did people give Jesus?

Horne breaks down the different kinds of attention that a person may have:
  • Voluntary attention, with effort, is like when we do homework that we don't really enjoy.  Another example is when we keep our car in the right place and watch the red or green light.  We voluntarily give our attention to something through the fear of the consequences of inattention.
  • Involuntary attention is less effortful.  Examples are a 'labor of love' or reading a good book till midnight.
Jesus' disciples and followers gave him attention involuntarily.  His critics and enemies attended to him voluntarily, making the effort to seek his demise.

Examples from Jesus' life:

Pilate's wife, but glimpsing him, perhaps, gave involuntary attention. Pilate, with no interest in the proceedings instituted by the ecclesiastical Jews, but rather a distaste for the whole business, gave voluntary attention.

There is a scene where the Jewish leaders sent men to take Jesus.  They went to do the task of arresting him voluntarily and ended up not arresting him involuntarily, saying, "never man so spake as this man" (Jn. 7:46).

Multitudes of people in the countryside, "heard him gladly" (Mark 12:37), with involuntary attention.  While his people in his hometown gave him the involuntary attention: "The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened upon him" (Luke 4:20).

There may have been a shift in Luke 4, with his audience starting out listening to him with ease and peace, involuntarily.  Then, the hard to swallow word was given by Jesus, and they changed to a hostile crowd, listening to something they did not like, that did not fit.

Now, how did Jesus secure attention? It was no great problem to him. "He could not be hid." He secured attention because first, there were many things about him to interest people; second, he knew what to do to get attention."

Horne suggests these, about how Jesus secured attention:
  • What are some of the things he did to get attention?
    • He called for it.  "Hear", "hearken", "behold", "give ear", he would say.
    • He announce his coming to a city by advance messengers.
    • He utilized posture- not that he ever posed (Matt. 5:1).
    • He spoke in concrete, pictorial, imaginative language, which easily catches and holds the attention, as a moving picture does today. The phrase "fishers of men" may rivet the attention like a fixed idea.
    • He used the familiar to explain the unfamiliar. Thus, he said men do not put new wine into old bottles to explain why he and his disciples, contrary to the custom of John and his disciples, did not fast. Professor James says: "The new in the old is what excites interest." Did Jesus exemplify this canon? Can you illustrate your answer?
    • In teaching he did not belabor a point, but passed quickly from one phase to another of his general topic. Thus, the different brief beatitudes. So, too, parables were spoken successively, one story after another, as The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, The Lost Son. Here is unity in variety.
    • He changed the subject rapidly to win attention.
    • His teaching was so different from that of the Scribes.
    • He spoke with authority rather than for the authorities.
    • Jesus received attention because he paid attention: he was genuinely interested in people and their needs.
    • His works prepared the way for his words.
    • People gave him attention because he was a peripatetic teacher.  He taught as he journeyed from place to place...  Jesus walked with his pupils in the open, carrying his good news to all.
    • But mainly Jesus won attention because of that complex thing, covering a number of the preceding points and others besides, which we call personal magnetism. The sum of his qualities made him unique, matchless, winsome.
Not that Jesus was, and did and said, all these things consciously and intentionally to get the attention of men. Winning and keeping attention was probably no conscious problem to him at all. He simply and naturally did those attention-winning things which poorer teachers must do with set purpose. Thus we must consciously imitate him as our unconscious model. 

Can you now think of still other ways in which Jesus won attention? 

The point that it was mainly through personal magnetism that Jesus secured attention, just as any good painting of him today arrests our attention, leads us naturally to ask: What in Jesus interested people?

Some other things about Jesus that got people's attention (my notes from Horne):
  • The question of, "Is he the Messiah? (His Messiahship).  There were many other fake messiahs that appeared, on the landscape, around the time of Jesus' life.
  • His claim to forgive sins got attention.
  • His giving authority to bind and loose, to his non-elite disciples, was attention getting.
  • His message of love and mercy got attention, in the midst of a religion steeped in legalism.
  • His message about God as a loving Father got attention.
  • His signs and wonders that he did out of love and not to prove something, got attention.
  • His social freedom caught attention: who he ate with and called "friend".
  • The fact that he did not follow the traditions of 'the elders' got attention.

  • What additional things about Jesus would naturally interest people? 
    • The fact that to some he extended a definite call to be with him? 
    • His moral earnestness? 
  • How would you explain the fact that the young fishermen accepted his invitation at once? 
  • How that the young ruler declined? 
  • What do you suppose would have happened if Jesus and Saul of Tarsus had met face to face in the flesh? 
  • What do you think would happen now if Jesus should visit in the flesh one of our towns or cities, as he visited Capernaum or Jerusalem? 
    • Would he have our attention? 
  • In what about him would modern Americans be interested? 
  • How much has human nature changed in nineteen centuries?

We have now seen in a measure how the problem of attention and Interest was solved in the teaching of Jesus. Make a list of the points he exemplified which we may imitate more or less in our work as teachers. Do you find that it brings Jesus too near or makes him too real in flesh and blood to study him in this way? If so, be patient till you are through, and then see what happens. 

What was the effect on the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other disciples, of their interest in Jesus? Did following out this interest soften and weaken their lives?  Is it only by doing hard, disagreeable tasks that our lives are disciplined?  Is there a discipline of higher interest as well as of effort? Did Jesus assign weary tasks as such to discipline his pupils?...

... What do you think of this conclusion: The interest of his learners in Jesus led them to make the supreme effort of their lives? As fishermen they would never have expended nervous and muscular energy to the same extent that they did as followers of Jesus. The pedagogy of Jesus was not the soft pedagogy of interest alone, nor the hard pedagogy of discipline and effort alone, but the combined pedagogy of effort through interest.

Next time, chapter 4: His Points of Contact


Learning to Teach Like Jesus