An Illustration of His Methods
The most complete illustration of Christ's methods as a teacher is
found in His training of the twelve first disciples. Upon these men were
to rest weighty responsibilities. He had chosen them as men whom He
could imbue with His Spirit, and who could be fitted to carry forward
His work on earth when He should leave it. To them, above all others, He
gave the advantage of His own companionship. Through personal
association He impressed Himself upon these chosen colabourers.
"The Life was manifested," says John the beloved, "and we
have seen it, and bear witness." 1 John 1:12.
Only by such communion--the communion of mind with mind and heart
with heart, of the human with the divine--can be communicated that
vitalising energy which it is the work of true education to impart. It
is only life that begets life.
In the training of His disciples the Saviour followed the system of
education established at the beginning. The Twelve first chosen, with a
few others who through ministry to their needs were from time to time
connected with them, formed the family of Jesus. They were with Him in
the house, at the table, in the closet, in the field. They accompanied
Him on His journeys, shared His trials and hardships, and, as much as in
them was, entered into His work.
Sometimes He taught them as they sat together on the mountainside,
sometimes beside the sea, or from the fisherman's boat, sometimes as
they walked by the way. Whenever He spoke to the multitude, the
disciples formed the inner circle. They pressed close beside Him, that
they might lose nothing of His instruction. They were attentive
listeners, eager to understand the truths they were to teach in all
lands and to all ages.
The first pupils of Jesus were chosen from the ranks of the common
people. They were humble, unlettered men, these fishers of Galilee; men
unschooled in the learning and customs of the rabbis, but trained by the
stern discipline of toil and hardship. They were men of native ability
and of teachable spirit; men who could be instructed and moulded for the
Saviour's word. In the common walks of life there is many a toiler
patiently treading the round of his daily tasks, unconscious of latent
powers that, roused to action, would place him among the world's great
leaders. Such were the men who were called by the Saviour to be His
colabourers. And they had the advantage of three years' training by the
greatest educator this world has ever known.
In these first disciples was presented a marked diversity. They were
to be the world's teachers, and they represented widely varied types of
character. There were Levi Matthew the publican, called from a life of
business activity, and subservience to Rome; the zealot Simon, the
uncompromising foe of the imperial authority; the impulsive,
self-sufficient, warm-hearted Peter, with Andrew his brother; Judas the
Judean, polished, capable, and mean-spirited; Philip and Thomas,
faithful and earnest, yet slow of heart to believe; James the less and
Jude, of less prominence among the brethren, but men of force, positive
both in their faults and in their virtues; Nathanael, a child in
sincerity and trust; and the ambitious, loving-hearted sons of Zebedee.
In order successfully to carry forward the work to which they had
been called, these disciples, differing so widely in natural
characteristics, in training, and in habits of life, needed to come into
unity of feeling, thought, and action. This unity it was Christ's object
to secure. To this end He sought to bring them into unity with Himself.
The burden of His labour for them is expressed in His prayer to the
Father, "that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and
I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: . . . that the world may
know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved
Me." John 17:21-23.
The Transforming Power of Christ
Of the twelve disciples, four were to act a leading part, each in a
distinct line. In preparation for this, Christ taught them, foreseeing
all. James, destined to swift-coming death by the sword; John, longest
of the brethren to follow his Master in labour and persecution; Peter,
the pioneer in breaking through the barriers of ages, and teaching the
heathen world; and Judas, in service capable of pre-eminence above his
brethren, yet brooding in his soul purposes of whose ripening he little
dreamed-- these were the objects of Christ's greatest solicitude and the
recipients of His most frequent and careful instruction.
Peter, James, and John sought every opportunity of coming into close
contact with their Master, and their desire was granted. Of all the
Twelve their relationship to Him was closest. John could be satisfied
only with a still near intimacy, and this he obtained. At that first
conference beside the Jordan, when Andrew, having heard Jesus, hurried
away to call his brother, John sat silent, rapt in the contemplation of
wondrous themes. He followed the Saviour, ever an eager, absorbed
listener. Yet John's was no faultless character. He was no gentle,
dreamy enthusiast. He and his brother were called "the sons of
thunder." Mark 3:17. John was proud, ambitious, combative; but
beneath all this the divine Teacher discerned the ardent, sincere,
loving heart. Jesus rebuked his self-seeking, disappointed his
ambitions, tested his faith. But He revealed to him that for which his
soul longed--the beauty of holiness, His own transforming love.
"Unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world," He said
to the Father, "I have manifested Thy name." John 17:6.
John's was a nature that longed for love, for sympathy and
companionship. He pressed close to Jesus, sat by His side, leaned upon
His breast. As a flower the sun and dew, so did he drink in the divine
light and life. In adoration and love he beheld the Saviour, until
likeness to Christ and fellowship with Him became his one desire, and in
his character was reflected the character of his Master.
"Behold," he said, "what manner of love the Father
hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:
therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. Beloved,
now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be:
but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we
shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him
purifieth himself, even as He is pure." 1 John 3:1-3.
From Weakness to Strength
The history of no one of the disciples better illustrates Christ's
method of training than does the history of Peter. Bold, aggressive, and
self-confident, quick to perceive and forward to act, prompt in
retaliation yet generous in forgiving, Peter often erred, and often
received reproof. Nor were his warm-hearted loyalty and devotion to
Christ the less decidedly recognised and commended. Patiently, with
discriminating love, the Saviour dealt with His impetuous disciple,
seeking to check his self-confidence, and to teach him humility,
obedience, and trust.
But only in part was the lesson learned. Self-assurance was not
Often Jesus, the burden heavy upon His own heart, sought to open to
the disciples the scenes of His trial and suffering. But their eyes were
holden. The knowledge was unwelcome, and they did not see. Self-pity,
that shrank from fellowship with Christ in suffering, prompted Peter's
remonstrance, "Pity Thyself, Lord: this shall not be unto
Thee." Matthew 16:22, margin. His words expressed the thought and
feeling of the Twelve.
So they went on, the crisis drawing nearer; they, boastful,
contentious, in anticipation apportioning regal honours, and dreaming
not of the cross.
For them all, Peter's experience had a lesson. To self-trust, trial
is defeat. The sure outworking of evil still unforsaken, Christ could
not prevent. But as His hand had been outstretched to save when the
waves were about to sweep over Peter, so did His love reach out for his
rescue when the deep waters swept over his soul. Over and over again, on
the very verge of ruin, Peter's words of boasting brought him nearer and
still nearer to the brink. Over and over again was given the warning,
"Thou shalt . . . deny that thou knowest Me." Luke 22:34. It
was the grieved, loving heart of the disciple that spoke out in the
avowal, "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to
death" (Luke 22:33); and He who reads the heart gave to Peter the
message, little valued then, but that in the swift-falling darkness
would shed a ray of hope: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired
to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee,
that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy
brethren." Luke 22:31, 32.
When in the judgement hall the words of denial had been spoken; when
Peter's love and loyalty, awakened under the Saviour's glance of pity
and love and sorrow, had sent him forth to the garden where Christ had
wept and prayed; when his tears of remorse dropped upon the sod that had
been moistened with the blood drops of His agony--then the Saviour's
words, "I have prayed for thee: . . . when thou art converted,
strengthen thy brethren," were a stay to his soul. Christ, though
foreseeing his sin, had not abandoned him to despair.
If the look that Jesus cast upon him had spoken condemnation instead
of pity; if in foretelling the sin He had failed of speaking hope, how
dense would have been the darkness that encompassed Peter! how reckless
the despair of that tortured soul! In that hour of anguish and
self-abhorrence, what could have held him back from the path trodden by
Judas? He who could not spare His disciple the anguish, left him not
alone to its bitterness. His is a love that fails not nor forsakes.
Human beings, themselves given to evil, are prone to deal untenderly
with the tempted and the erring. They cannot read the heart, they know
not its struggle and pain. Of the rebuke that is love, of the blow that
wounds to heal, of the warning that speaks hope, they have need to
It was not John, the one who watched with Him in the judgement hall,
who stood beside His cross, and who of the Twelve was first at the
tomb--it was not John, but Peter, that was mentioned by Christ after His
resurrection. "Tell His disciples and Peter," the angel said,
"that He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see
Him." Mark 16:7.
At the last meeting of Christ with the disciples by the sea, Peter,
tested by the thrice-given question, "Lovest thou Me?" was
restored to his place among the Twelve. His work was appointed him; he
was to feed the Lord's flock. Then, as His last personal direction,
Jesus bade him, "Follow thou Me." John 21:17, 22.
Now he could appreciate the words. The lesson Christ had given when
He set a little child in the midst of the disciples and bade them become
like him, Peter could now better understand. Knowing more fully both his
own weakness and Christ's power, he was ready to trust and to obey. In
His strength he could follow his Master.
And at the close of his experience of labour and sacrifice, the
disciple once so unready to discern the cross, counted it a joy to yield
up his life for the gospel, feeling only that, for him who had denied
the Lord, to die in the same manner as his Master died was too great an
A miracle of divine tenderness was Peter's transformation. It is a
life lesson to all seek to follow in the steps of the Master Teacher.
A Lesson in Love
Jesus reproved His disciples, He warned and cautioned them; but John
and Peter and their brethren did not leave Him. Notwithstanding the
reproofs, they chose to be with Jesus. And the Saviour did not, because
of their errors, withdraw from them. He takes men as they are, with all
their faults and weaknesses, and trains them for His service, if they
will be disciplined and taught by Him.
But there was one of the Twelve to whom, until very near the close of
His work, Christ spoke no word of direct reproof.
With Judas an element of antagonism was introduced among the
disciples. In connecting himself with Jesus he had responded to the
attraction of His character and life. He had sincerely desired a change
in himself, and had hoped to experience this through a union with Jesus.
But this desire did not become predominant. That which ruled him was the
hope of selfish benefit in the worldly kingdom which he expected Christ
to establish. Though recognising the divine power of the love of Christ,
Judas did not yield to its supremacy. He continued to cherish his own
judgement and opinions, his disposition to criticise and condemn.
Christ's motives and movements, often so far above his comprehension,
excited doubt and disapproval, and his own questionings and ambitions
were insinuated to the disciples. Many of their contentions for
supremacy, much of their dissatisfaction with Christ's methods,
originated with Judas.
Jesus, seeing that to antagonise was but to harden, refrained from
direct conflict. The narrowing selfishness of Judas' life, Christ sought
to heal through contact with His own self-sacrificing love. In His
teaching He unfolded principles that struck at the root of the
disciple's self-centred ambitions. Lesson after lesson was thus given,
and many a time Judas realised that his character had been portrayed,
and his sin pointed out; but he would not yield.
Mercy's pleading resisted, the impulse of evil bore final sway.
Judas, angered at an implied rebuke and made desperate by the
disappointment of his ambitious dreams, surrendered his soul to the
demon of greed and determined upon the betrayal of his Master. From the
Passover chamber, the joy of Christ's presence, and the light of
immortal hope, he went forth to his evil work--into the outer darkness,
where hope was not.
"Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not,
and who should betray Him." John 6:64. Yet, knowing all, He had
withheld no pleading of mercy or gift of love.
Seeing the danger of Judas, He had brought him close to Himself,
within the inner circle of His chosen and trusted disciples. Day after
day, when the burden lay heaviest upon His own heart, He had borne the
pain of continual contact with that stubborn, suspicious, brooding
spirit; He had witnessed and laboured to counteract among His disciples
that continuous, secret, and subtle antagonism. And all this that no
possible saving influence might be lacking to that imperilled soul!
"Many waters cannot quench love,
Neither can the floods drown it;"
"For love is strong as death." Canticles 8:7, 6.
So far as Judas himself was concerned, Christ's work of love had been
without avail. But not so as regards his fellow disciples. To them it
was a lesson of lifelong influence. Ever would its example of tenderness
and long-suffering mould their intercourse with the tempted and the
erring. And it had other lessons. At the ordination of the Twelve the
disciples had greatly desired that Judas should become one of their
number, and they had counted his accession an event of much promise to
the apostolic band. He had come more into contact with the world than
they, he was a man of good address, of discernment and executive
ability, and, having a high estimate of his own qualifications, he had
led the disciples to hold him in the same regard. But the methods he
desired to introduce into Christ's work were based upon worldly
principles and were controlled by worldly policy. They looked to the
securing of worldly recognition and honour--to the obtaining of the
kingdom of this world. The working out of these desires in the life of
Judas, helped the disciples to understand the antagonism between the
principle of self-aggrandisement and Christ's principle of humility and
self-sacrifice--the principle of the spiritual kingdom. In the fate of
Judas they saw the end to which self-serving tends.
For these disciples the mission of Christ finally accomplished its
purpose. Little by little His example and His lessons of self-abnegation
moulded their characters. His death destroyed their hope of worldly
greatness. The fall of Peter, the apostasy of Judas, their own failure
in forsaking Christ in His anguish and peril, swept away their
self-sufficiency. They saw their own weakness; they saw something of the
greatness of the work committed to them; they felt their need of their
Master's guidance at every step.
They knew that His personal presence was no longer to be with them,
and they recognised, as they had never recognised before, the value of
the opportunities that had been theirs to walk and talk with the Sent of
God. Many of His lessons, when spoken, they had not appreciated or
understood; now they longed to recall these lessons, to hear again His
words. With what joy now came back to them His assurance:
"It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away,
the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send
Him." "All things that I have heard of My Father I have made
known unto you." And "the Comforter, . . . whom the Father
will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all
things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John
16:7; 15:15; 14:26.
"All things that the Father hath are Mine." "When He,
the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. . . . He
shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you." John 16:15, 13,
The disciples had seen Christ ascend from among them on the Mount of
Olives. And as the heavens received Him, there had come back to them His
parting promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world." Matthew 28:20.
They knew that His sympathies were with them still. They knew that
they had a representative, an advocate, at the throne of God. In the
name of Jesus they presented their petitions, repeating His promise,
"Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it
you." John 16:23.
Higher and higher they extended the hand of faith, with the mighty
argument, "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again,
who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for
us." Romans 8:34.
Faithful to his promise, the Divine One, exalted in the heavenly
courts, imparted of His fullness to His followers on earth. His
enthronement at God's right hand was signalised by the outpouring of the
Spirit upon His disciples.
By the work of Christ these disciples had been led to feel their need
of the Spirit; under the Spirit's teaching they received their final
preparation and went forth to their lifework.
No longer were they ignorant and uncultured. No longer were they a
collection of independent units or of discordant and conflicting
elements. No longer were their hopes set on worldly greatness. They were
of "one accord," of one mind and one soul. Christ filled their
thoughts. The advancement of His kingdom was their aim. In mind and
character they had become like their Master; and men "took
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13.
Then was there such a revelation of the glory of Christ as had never
before been witnessed by mortal man. Multitudes who had reviled His name
and despised His power confessed themselves disciples of the Crucified.
Through the co-operation of the divine Spirit the labours of the humble
men whom Christ had chosen stirred the world. To every nation under
heaven was the gospel carried in a single generation.
The same Spirit that in His stead was sent to be the instructor of
His first co-workers, Christ has commissioned to be the instructor of
His co-workers today. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world" (Matthew 28:20), is His promise.
The presence of the same guide in educational work today will produce
the same results as of old. This is the end to which true education
tends; this is the work that God designs it to accomplish.
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