Walking with the Teacher # 2: He Starts with the Blessings

He Starts with the Blessings

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5: 3-10

To be “Blessed”

To be blessed means more than to be happy, healthy or overflowing with material goods. It indicates a joy that goes beyond mere emotion. Max Lucado, in The Applause of Heaven, calls it “…a delicious gladness that comes from God. A holy joy. A sacred delight.” It is what we all really want at the core of our souls. Any form of earthly pleasure is only a signpost or a substitute for what God really wants to give us. To be blessed by God… it is peace, it is bliss. And it is reward.

Jesus starts out his earthly ministry as a teacher by talking to his listeners about rewards. The notes in the NIV study Bible refer to the Sermon on the Mount as “…in effect, King Jesus’ inaugural address, explaining what he expects of members of his kingdom.” But there is no fanfare, no royal proclamation, no PowerPoint presentation. He simply climbs up a hillside and begins to teach the first group of students God has given him, those who would one day share these lessons and turn the world upside down. He does not start out with a list of regulations and the penalties that will result if they are breached. He does not promise entertainment or fun times ahead for those who follow him. But he does unmistakably appeal to his listeners’ desire and need to be rewarded for right action.

Jesus is the best teacher who ever lived. When we answer God’s call on our lives to be teachers, we are signing up to walk with the Teacher, to sit at his feet and take lessons from him about all aspects of this demanding and rewarding career and ministry. He will show us how to communicate truth in a way that touches the hearts as well as the heads of our pupils. Demonstrating the perfect balance of correction and encouragement,he can inspire us to inspire others. He will teach us how to teach.

On the day of new beginnings, at the start of our ministry to the hand-picked group of “disciples” God gives us each new academic year, we must inspire our students with a clearly- drawn picture of the rewards that will be theirs as a result of the time and effort they will invest. As we share our expectations and then begin our course of instruction, we must also be attentive to the importance of presenting our material in the most memorable and engaging fashion possible.

My grandmother used to tell me I could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Despite the disturbing image that created for me of dead flies floating in our honey jar, I eventually came to understand what she meant. Children, and adults, thrive on the positive. Don’t try to win your students respect and cooperation by intimidation. Don’t squander their initial good will by glowering and telling them what you’ll do to them if they make one false move. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a teacher who has good classroom management skills is the one who waves the biggest stick with the most threatening scowl. Jesus told us that if we followed his format for our lives we would be blessed. Your students want to know what they can do to be blessed, too. You can and should spend those precious first moments with your students helping them to get excited about what they will be able to do and understand as a result of the hours they will spend listening to you and following your instructions. They need to know that their lives will have been improved as a result of the time they spend under your tutelage. Jesus tells his followers what he expects and promises them rich rewards. We should do likewise.

Jesus finds a way to make his lesson memorable by arranging his words artfully. He uses the poetic techniques of repetition and rhythm to make his words stick in the hearts and minds of his listeners. The special effort we make to carefully design our lessons can be like the steps a good cook takes in preparing a delicious meal. The extra time it takes to peel the apples and roll out the pie crust results in a gift of love from the kitchen that no store-bought pie in a box can rival. The text-book is not the curriculum. You as the teacher use the text-book as just one of the many means to bring your students to mastery of the concepts you are teaching them. Don’t just rely on what you find in the teacher’s guide; use your creativity and take time to craft your lessons so that they are unforgettable. Your reward will be the engagement and enthusiasm of your students who will appreciate your positive expectations and careful planning.

In his hillside discourse Jesus tells us first that we are blessed when we recognize our own spiritual poverty. There is nothing like a class of high school students staring at you in anticipation, to put it kindly, on the first day of school to help you feel your own deep sense of personal inadequacy. It is helpful to remember that we have a God who loves to be called upon to be our source of wisdom and help in time of need. Jesus is the Teacher who calls us to be like him, who instructs us and gives us everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus enables us to go out and be a blessing to the students he gives us. In the process, our own reward will be to taste of the delicious gladness he promises to those who seek to fulfil his expectations of those who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.