Who is your favorite teacher you’ve ever had? Most of us have at least one teacher who really made an impression on us for life. How blessed I would feel if some of my former students, when asked who their favorite teacher ever was, answered Mr. Erlandson (or Mr. E. or E Machine).
I don’t have any one teacher that I can say is my favorite, at least not from my years in K-12. But I do have one favorite teacher, and his name is Jesus Christ. We all have the most amazing teacher who ever lived, and often we don’t even realize it. When He walked the earth, Jesus was known sometimes as Teacher, or “Rabbi,” and truly, He is the most extraordinary teacher who ever lived.
Now some want to reduce Jesus to merely a good teacher, thinking that He taught a few good moral platitudes that seem to theoretically govern American culture. Of course, when He begins to teach that He is truly God and that we must repent from our sins, they begin to walk away, or more fashionably, say, “He never said that. I didn’t hear Jesus say that – did you hear him say that?”
But this Teacher of ours goes far beyond any earthly teacher, and not just because He teaches perfectly and teaches with His own authority in a way that no earthly teacher does. His role as our Teacher is much more than even the fact that He teaches us the most important truths in the world, about who we are and who He is and how He is the only means to our salvation.
This Teacher of ours does more than just mouth the words that we need to hear: He has made Himself the means by which we are able to obey those words. This teacher is not only the purveyor of truth: He is Truth incarnate.
The truths that our Teacher teaches are the most wonderful truths the world has ever heard. But they are the most difficult truths as well, for our Teacher teaches us that we are lost in our sins and that we will soon die. He teaches us that we have not lived our lives the way they should be lived and that there will be the most dire consequences in the life to come unless we change. And then He tells us that we are not able to change ourselves.
And then, when all seems lost, He teaches us that He has offered His life for ours so that we are able to live as we should. But when He offers this life to us, He teaches us as well that we must give up our lives to Him, as He gave up His life for us. The Teacher who took up His Cross and denied Himself teaches us that if we want to follow Him then we must be like Him. We, too, must take up our crosses daily, deny ourselves, and follow Him.This Teacher was not content to merely teach us truth and then go home, hoping we did our homework. No, He is with us in our extracurricular activities, except that learning to obey what He has taught is no extracurricular activity but is the divine curriculum. And Jesus Christ Himself is not only the Teacher but is also the Curriculum. He is the very thing we are to learn, and learn not just in our heads but also in our hands and hearts.
And so Jesus says to you, His disciples, “Everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Everything that He is teaching us should be seen in this context: that we are in the process of being made like our Teacher, by our Teacher and for our Teacher. Like Him, we should be poor in spirit, and like Him we should hunger for righteousness and for God. Like Him, we must learn to love our enemies.
The truth is that if we do our homework and follow our Teacher in all things, then we shall be delivered from our enemies, the chief of which is eternal death. And if we follow Him in all things, we will be made like Him because He will dwell in us, and we will dwell in Him.
What can I bring to such an incredible and perfect Teacher? I’d offer to bring Him an apple today to show my appreciation, but I don’t want Him to take it the wrong way (you know, Adam and Eve and the fruit.)
I’ve got a better idea! I’ll offer myself! I’ll offer my life as the fruit I’ll bring Him. My Teacher is in reality the Tree of Life who has taught me the way of life and is Life itself, and if I faithfully follow Him and become one with Him, I’ll produce the fruit of Life that He produces in me. Because He is the Tree of Life that produces life, I’ll give Him my life, which is the best gift any of us can give to the perfect Teacher and Giver of Life.
Prayer: Teacher, teach me Your ways that I may never depart from them. Give me the life that is Your life, that I might learn to truly live. In all things, make me like Yourself that I might receive Your blessing. Amen.
Point for Meditation: What has Your Teacher been trying to teach You today or recently? How good of a student have you been?
Resolution: I resolve to offer my life to Jesus Christ in one specific way today. My offering may take the form of my confession of sin, or my vow to obey, or my fruit of good works, or some other form.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson