Using Problems To Teach (Learning to Teach Like Jesus, pt.6)

Then Jesus left there and went into the area of Judea and across the Jordan River. Again, many people came to him, and Jesus taught them as he always did.
-Mark 10:1 (ERV)

These are reflections and notes on chapter six of Harrell Horne's book on learning to teach like Jesus.  Life is filled with problems ranging from what to have for lunch, to questions about eternity.  When we face a problem, it makes us think.

Here are some problems that people had from the book of Mark, in chapters 9 and 10.  The problem is underlined.  I am using the ERV version today (Easy-To-Read version, 2006)

They asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?

Jesus answered, “They are right to say that Elijah must come first. Elijah makes all things the way they should be. But why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man will suffer much and that people will think he is worth nothing?  I tell you that Elijah has already come. And people did to him all the bad things they wanted to do. The Scriptures said this would happen to him.”

-Mark 9:11-13

Jesus teaches that they should look at who comes after this type of Elijah (John) and consider how the Son of Man will suffer and be considered worthless.  Asking these questions will lead us further down the path.

Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum. They went into a house, and Jesus said to them, “I heard you arguing on the way here today. What were you arguing about?” But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest.

Jesus sat down and called the twelve apostles to him. He said, “Whoever wants to be the most important must make others more important than themselves. They must serve everyone else.”

Then Jesus took a small child and stood the child in front of the followers. He held the child in his arms and said, “Whoever accepts children like these in my name is accepting me. And anyone who accepts me is also accepting the one who sent me.”
-Mark 10:33-37

Jesus takes the question or problem of who is greatest and teaches them about serving like he does.  He also made an object lesson out of a child, saying that service or being important is about accepting the smallest and weakest people, who can not do much for you.  He even goes further and says that when you do this, you are accepting him and his father.  This is an entirely upgraded upgraded teaching on importance or greatness, that causes the learner to re-think and perform the actions of importance or greatness differently than had been previously understood.

Then John said, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to force demons out of someone.  He is not one of us.  So we told him to stop, because he does not belong to our group.”

Jesus said, “Don’t stop him. Whoever uses my name to do powerful things will not soon say bad things about me.  Whoever is not against us is with us.
-Mark 9:38-40

Jesus taught tolerance.  We get intolerant of people who are different than us and sometimes even want to shut down so-called ministries that are very different than what we are comfortable with.  We have all sorts of lines, boundaries, walls, and tests that we use to say, "They aren't right", when they are using Jesus name to do good.

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and tried to make him say something wrong. They asked him, “Is it right for a man to divorce his wife?

Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you to do?”

The Pharisees said, “Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife by writing a certificate of divorce.”

Jesus said, “Moses wrote that command for you because you refused to accept God’s teaching.  But when God made the world, ‘he made people male and female.’  ‘That is why a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.  And the two people will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  God has joined them together, so no one should separate them.”

-Mark 10:2-9

The backdrop of this question was not only to see if they could trip Jesus up, which was very rude and says something about the heart of the question askers.  But Jesus refuses to say "yes', or "no", and goes deeper; teaching them why God gave Moses a law like that: because of hard hearts, which is exactly what these Pharisees had.

To learn about marriage, from which some people want to divorce, Jesus takes us back to creation.  Male and female, who become one.  In creation, the woman is created out of the man, as sacred architecture.  This is the exegetical meaning of the Hebrew used in Genesis.

Jesus says, in a sense, that divorce is a terrible and destructive thing, because of how marriage glues a man and a woman together.  The Pharisees had made divorce an easy and lite thing, because they lost sight of what God made marriage to be.

Jesus started to leave, but a man ran to him and bowed down on his knees before him. The man asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get the life that never ends?

Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.  And you know his commands: ‘You must not murder anyone, you must not commit adultery, you must not steal, you must not lie, you must not cheat, you must respect your father and mother ….’”

The man said, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commands since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at the man in a way that showed how much he cared for him. He said, “There is still one thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have. Give the money to those who are poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
-Mark 10:17-21

Jesus answers or teaches this man about the problem that he does not know that he has.  His stuff had him.  At least that what many people I have heard teach on these verses have said and it seems like a good guess.  Jesus in a sense says that the key to eternal life is not doing the right thing, but giving up everything and following him.

In other words, many people live their lives doing the right thing, while not giving up everything and following Jesus.  When you do follow Jesus, you will end up at least attempting to do the right thing, although you might miss it, mess up, fail, or blow it often.  The key to life and eternal life is not doing the right thing, but following the right person.  A true followership is when we are willing to give up everything for that right person, Jesus.

Then James and John, sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want to ask you to do something for us.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The sons answered, “Let us share the great honor you will have as king. Let one of us sit at your right side and the other at your left.

Jesus said, “You don’t understand what you are asking. Can you drink from the cup that I must drink from? Can you be baptized with the same baptism that I must go through?”

The sons answered, “Yes, we can!”

Jesus said to the sons, “It is true that you will drink from the cup that I drink from. And you will be baptized with the same baptism that I must go through. But it is not for me to say who will sit at my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he chooses.”

When the other ten followers heard this, they were angry with James and John. Jesus called all the followers together. He said, “The non-Jewish people have men they call rulers. You know that those rulers love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority over the people. But it should not be that way with you. Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant. Whoever wants to be first must serve the rest of you like a slave. Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.”
-Mark 10:35-45

This might seem like a silly or embarrassing question.  This is like asking Jesus if I can be famous: a rock star, a great athlete, author, or political leader; perhaps even an ecclesiastical leader.  How does Jesus answer us if we were to ask him this?  But their question or request was re-framed, by Jesus, as a problem that he gave insight into and a solution for.

Notice that we don't hear Jesus shaming them for asking.  Jesus deals with us where we are, even if we are below par.  This seems to have been a sincere question.  Bad-faith, insincere questions are different.

They were asking if they could be the top people, who received the top honor, right beneath or next to Jesus.  They were requesting the highest appointments to honored positions.

Jesus first of all says that the honored ones are perhaps going to be the ones who suffer the most for him.  Secondly, he says that his father is the one who assigns the seats.

Then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter and teaches the disciples that leadership in his kingdom is not like it is in the world, where some people enjoy their power over others and like to make a show of it.

"You want to be a leader over people?", Jesus asks.  "Then serve: be a servant; be like a slave", is what Jesus said.  Follow his example of laying down your life for others, so they can be saved; is also what he said.

For each of these problems, underlined, Jesus gave a solution.  His solutions affected the conduct of his learners.  In other words, his teaching contained a new path, new way, or an upgrade.

Jesus takes a theoretical question and makes it practical.  Today, we might ask, "Is this the end of the world, or perhaps the beginning of the end?"  And God's answer might be something like, "It may be, but are you loving, living by faith, and serving me?"

Jesus usually takes the question and goes deeper than a simple answer.  He makes it a heart issue and a faith issue.  And his answer or part of his answer often contains a question that makes us think and learn even more than we thought about previously.

In teaching, like Jesus taught; if we seek to emulate him, are we going to talk about problems?  Did Jesus bring up problems that people were having or did he answer problems that people brought to him, to deal with problems and teach about them?

Do you agree that Jesus felt that real thinking begins with problems?

Before we get down on the Scribes, Pharisees, and skeptical people who asked Jesus questions; we can look at their questions or comments as problems that required thinking and learning.  These issues brought up were their 'felt need'.

Did Jesus always answer the comments or critical questioning?  Do you see places where Jesus did not get into it?  Do you see other places where Jesus did answer something?

What were the problems that Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman brought to Jesus?

When Jesus Jesus addressed a problem, his teaching was a solution, with a faithful action attached.  He did not just teach and indoctrinate people with theories to be believed, but gave solutions that hold true by active faith participated in by the student.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about a list of problems.  Is Jesus showing us that addressing problems is the way to teach?

Jesus saw the needs of his learners and talked to them about them.  We also can speak to people about what they need.

Horne: "Jesus met the moral and religious needs of men, and inspired them to find satisfaction of all their needs in the abundant life.
   What difference would it make in our work if we met men on the ground of their problems and needs?


Learning to teach Like Jesus series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5