"THE MASTER TEACHER!'
Written and preached by David P. Nolte
When he first met Mr. Jim Lemon, Rick Phillips was a seventeen-year-old
freshman at Houston's Jackson Junior High School and the chances of his
finishing high school were slim to none. He was a troubled teenager with
an attitude, living in a neighborhood that fostered troubled teenagers.
Mr. Lemon taught American history and it was clear from the first day that
his classroom was not going to be disrupted. It was very quickly apparent
that Mr. Lemon was quite different from the other teachers he had known.
Not only was he a disciplinarian, he was a great teacher. He would never
settle for Rick's usual standard of classroom work. Mr. Lemon pushed and
prodded and never tolerated the mediocrity that had become his standard.
He was truly a teacher. Jesus Christ has been called "The Master Teacher"
and such He was, and is. He taught with authority, and didn't merely echo
the teaching of some previous Rabbi. He astounded, unsettled, and even
upset some with His teaching. He told earthy stories to illustrate heavenly
truth, He told pointed parables to drive home poignant lessons, His teaching
challenged the status-quo, chastened the self-righteous, comforted the
down-trodden. His lessons are timeless and enduring. Truly Jesus Christ
is the Master Teacher.
- THE MASTER TEACHER SETS A HIGH STANDARD:
- He calls us to bear a cross, to ruthlessly eliminate all that leads
to sin, to set our eyes on perfection, to turn the other cheek when insulted,
to pursue righteousness and to strive for holiness. In this immediate text,
Jesus sets some high standards:
- V12 "however you want people to treat you, so treat
them." Contra the world view: "Do unto others before they do
unto you!" or "Do unto others what they do unto you, only twice
- VV13, 14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate
is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those
who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads
to life, and few are those who find it." Instead of taking the easy
way, the way of the popular mind, the societally acceptable way, follow
the "strait and narrow."
- V15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you
in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." In a world
that thinks believing anything at all is okay provided you are sincere,
Jesus says, "Be careful what you listen to and believe." It matters
what you believe. A lie accepted is still a lie.
- V17 "every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad
tree bears bad fruit." Jesus demands fruit from His disciples; good
fruit! Not wild oats, good fruit..
- V21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father
who is in heaven." He calls for more than lip service, He calls for
life service, for obedience. The world says, "Do your own thing."
Jesus says, "Do as you are commanded."
- While Jesus does forgive when we fall short of these high standards
and repent of it, He never lowers the standard to accommodate us; He never
grades on the curve; He never shortens the yardstick.
- Not only are His standards high, but they are final. In a day of relativism,
when most reject a norm that is absolute, Jesus upholds the unequivocal,
unchanging standard of right and wrong that coincides with the revelation
recorded in the Bible.
- Robert Hiejermans tells about the time that the growth chart had slipped
from the playroom wall because the tape on its corners had become dry and
brittle. Five-year-old Jordan hung it up again, meticullusly working to
get it straight. Then he stood his sister against the wall to measure her
height. "Mommy! Mommy! Anneke is forty inches tall!" he shouted
as he burst into the kitchen. "I measured her." His mom replied,
"That's impossible, sweetheart, she's only three years old. Let's
go see." They walked back into the playroom, where the mothers's suspicions
were confirmed. Despite his efforts to hang the chart straight, Jordan
had failed to get it at the proper height. It was several inches low. It
gave a deceptive appearance of height to the little girl. The world's
standard has slipped. But measuring against it doesn't really make us taller,
it just makes us in error. Jesus Christ, His way, His Word, His teaching
is the ultimate standard.
Mr. Lemon expected a high standard, even from Rick. On the occasion
of the first semester report cards, Mr. Lemon called Rick aside and asked
how it was possible that he was a B student in his class and a D and F
student in the rest of his classes. Rick was ready for that question. He
passionately told him about his divorced parents, the local gangs, the
drugs, the fights, the police -- of the evils he had been subjected to.
It was then that Mr. Lemon patiently explained that the only person responsible
for his situation was Rick. And the only person with the potential to change
his situation was Rick, and that when he personally accepted that responsibility
he could make a significant change in his life. He convinced Rick that
he was failing not because he was a failure, but because he was not accepting
the responsibility for his results in those other classes. Mr. Lemon was
the first teacher he had who made Rick believe in himself. He inspired
Rick to become a better student and he changed his life. Jesus never lets
us pass the buck to someone else. He encourages us to our best, our utmost
effort. He always calls us to fulfill our own duty and to be personally
involved in the lessons He teaches.
- THE MASTER TEACHER CALLS FOR PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY:
- Jesus taught us to bear good fruit. Nobody can do that for you. He
taught us to be obedient. Nobody can do that for you. My brother, Howard,
sitting at the breakfast table used to jokingly say to his wife, "Honey,
will you take my face in and shave it for me?" Of course, he'd have
regretted it if she had done so! Some things you just do for yourself.
- The Bible is abundantly clear on the point of personal responsibility:
- "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do
you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the
judgment seat of God." Romans 14:10.
- "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God."
- "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that
each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what
he has done, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10.
- While we are taught to help those in need we are never taught
- To ruin a person's sense of responsibility.
- To do for others what they really need to do for themselves.
- To foster or encourage a spirit of "feed me, clothe me, take care
of me, and I'll just let you do it!"
- Recently, I saw a cartoon that demonstrated how people don't like to
take responsibility. It was a "Peanuts" cartoon, and it showed
Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said, "Guess what,
Chuck. The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal's office.
It was your fault, Chuck." He said, "My fault? How could it be
my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?" She said, "You're
my friend, aren't you, Chuck? Your should have been a better influence
on me." Somehow, we all would like think that someone else is responsible
from time to time.
Mr Lemon wouldn't let Rick forget his personal responsibility.
Ten years passed and Rick was preparing to graduate from Chaminade University
in Honolulu when he spoke to Mr. Lemon again. It had taken weeks of telephone
calls to find him but he knew what he had to say. When he finally did get
him on the telephone Rick explained what his classroom toughness had meant
to him, how he finally graduated from high school, and how he was a staff
sergeant in the Army, that he was married and had a daughter. Most of all
he wanted him to know that he was about to graduate Magna Cum Laude after
going to school for four hours a night, four nights a week for three years.
He wanted him to know that he could never have done it if he had not been
a part of his life. Finally, he told him that he had been saving money
so that he could invite him and his wife to come to Hawaii at his expense
to be a part of his graduation. Rick never forgot his response. Mr. Lemon
said, "Who is this again?" Then it dawned upon him. Rick was
just one of hundreds of students whose life Mr. Lemon had changed and he
had no idea of his impact. Mr. Lemon never came to Rick's graduation.
- THE MASTER TEACHER REMEMBERS HIS DISCIPLES:
- The Hebrew letter assures us, "For God is not unjust so as to
forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in
having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." Hebrews
- Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "the firm foundation of God stands,
having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Let everyone
who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.'" 2
- He not only remembers your work, your effort, your faithfulness, but
He also remembers your weaknesses, your trials, your frustrations:
- "He does not forget the cry of the afflicted." Psalms
- Speaking of Ancient Israel, Asaph wrote, "But He, being compassionate,
forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; And often He restrained
His anger, And did not arouse all His wrath. Thus He remembered that they
were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return." Psalms
- David wrote, "Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows
our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." Psalms 103:13,
- And David wrote of God "Who remembered us in our low estate, For
His lovingkindness is everlasting," Psalms 136:23.
- God said, "Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed,
as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares
the Lord." Jeremiah 31:20.
- Others may forget you, may forsake you, may prove to be fickle and
unappreciative. Not Jesus.
Mr. Lemon didn't remember Rick. But his absence at graduation taught
Rick a valuable lesson. He taught him that we will probably never know
or understand or realize the impact we have on other people's lives for
the better or for the worse. We may not even remember the people we influence.
They man never remember us. What Jesus wants you to know is that you ought
to benefit other's lives whether they know you or remember you or repay
you or not. But here is a comforting truth: Jesus Christ will never forget
you. To the Christless, Jesus will indeed say, "I never knew you;
depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." Matthew 7:23.
But to the faithful, the fruitful, He will accord a welcome and a blessing.
Mr. Lemon didn't remember Rick and didn't attend his graduation. Jesus
will not forget you, and will be there when you graduate from earth to
heaven. It depends on what you do with Him now. Will you take up your cross
and follow Him? Will you take His yoke upon you and learn of Him? Will
you allow Him to direct and discipline your life? Will you lead where He
follows? The Master Teacher has much to teach, who is ready to learn?
Rick Phillips in "A 6th Bowl of
Chicken Soup For The Soul," Canfield & Hansen, Health Communications,
Inc., Deerfield, Florida.
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