Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jesus, the Master Teacher

Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
Commemoration of Joshua
Rally Sunday
September 1, 2013
Today is our Rally Sunday. It is the day we begin a new Sunday School year and make a special observance of the opportunity we have as Christians in our congregation to grow in the Word of God. Since we commonly call this Christian Education in our congregation, and that’s a common way for many congregations to refer to this, it’s worth noting that this is all because of Jesus. This is the case in other things. If we were to say, for example, what is the sole reason for our salvation, we would answer immediately, Jesus. Or for example, what or who is the center of who we are as a Christian congregation and the people of God, we would point once again to Christ, the Son of God.

So if we are going to make a big deal about Christian education in our congregation, and we are, or at least we should, then it’s worth understanding the reason for it. And that reason is Jesus. Not only is He is the source of salvation and new and eternal life for us, He is the reason we have Sunday School and Bible Class, that we read and study the Bible, that we engage in personal and family devotions. If it’s not for Him, then all we are doing is learning information. You could just as well go to a community college for that, or take an online course, or just sit down and read a book, or even watch an educational program on TV. Learning is good, but our Christian education in this congregation goes far beyond that.

To see this, we look to Jesus. Jesus is Lord. He is the Savior. He is true God and true man. He is also the Master Teacher. Now today’s Gospel reading isn’t one of those where He is teaching or responding to someone’s question. But it is Jesus our Lord and Savior teaching in all His glory. For only He can do what He did in the Gospel reading before us.

What happened? We know the story well. The ten lepers. They want to be healed. They cry to Jesus for mercy. He heals them. He sends them to the priests. They go. One returns and profusely gives thanks. It’s all pretty familiar and straightforward.

But then something strange happens. The man who returns, a Samaritan, is ecstatic that he has been cleansed of his leprosy. He returns to Jesus for the purpose of thanking Him. And there is no mistaking it. Luke describes it this way: “when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” He was really grateful! He was truly humbled and thankful. He probably felt that there was nothing he could to do to thank Jesus that would compare with the gift he received from Jesus. So he showed as best he could how grateful he was.

Now here’s what’s strange. Did Jesus say, “You’re welcome!” Or, “Dear Friend, it was My pleasure.” Or even what has become very common in our culture, “No problem.” Perhaps He could have responded along the lines of what we would expect from the religious figure He was, especially being God Himself, and say something like, “God bless you My son.”

What we have is the Samaritan returning and thanking Jesus profusely and then this: “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’” This was Jesus’ reaction when the guy returned to give thanks. This was the way Jesus responded when this man who came back to simply say, “Thank you Jesus. I was deeply in need and You helped me out more than I could have ever imagined. You have given me a new lease on life! Thank you.” This is met with a series of questions from Jesus blasting out the other guys.

Now it’s true that after that Jesus closes with His customary “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” And while we shouldn’t discount that, but in fact, latch on to that, it’s worth considering what exactly Jesus was doing in responding the way He did.

One thing that keeps becoming clearer when you look at who Jesus is and what He does is that He is the Master Teacher. He is always teaching. He is always guiding us in the truth and in the way of truth. He doesn’t have to be in official teacher-mode to be teaching. In a similar way, we teach others all the time in various ways. By our actions, by showing, by explaining, and of course by the traditional mode of a teacher teaching a student.

One method teachers use to teach is asking questions. It goes without saying that those learning will ask questions. They don’t understand certain things and so they ask and the teacher answers. But teachers also ask questions. Especially the good ones. They ask not in order to learn or gain information, but to get the student to learn and grow. If the teacher states the information straight out and the student takes the information in, learning has taken place. Sometimes learning and growing take place when it’s turned around. The teacher asks a question and the student has to think. The student has to struggle to get a handle on it. The student has to grow beyond just gaining some information, but also to begin to understand it, and see how it applies to life, and what value there is in it.

If I tell you the right thing and you take that in, you have learned. If I model the right thing and you take that to heart, you have learned as well as grown. Asking questions is a way to show. So what was it Jesus was teaching in asking those questions? What was He showing?

We see the Samaritan returning to glorify God and give thanks to Jesus and Jesus responding with His questions. As the Master Teacher, He doesn’t respond immediately to the man, addressing him personally. Rather, Jesus responds rhetorically. He responds generally. He is taking the moment and using it as what teachers call a ‘teaching moment’. Taking the Samaritan’s profuse action of worship and thanks as an opportunity to make a valuable point, Jesus says generally, for the crowds who were there, His questions.

The way it is written it invites us to listen in. The one guy came back, but not the others. The one guy’s response was dead-on, the others’ were dead wrong. The one guy responded in faith and humility, the others responded in selfishness and apathy. What are we to learn from this? How can we learn from Jesus in our own lives? How can we learn from this to respond to Jesus faithfully? These are the questions Jesus is inviting us to ask when He asks His questions.

The irony in all this is that the other nine did exactly as Jesus had told them and the Samaritan did not. Yet, the other nine were judged by Jesus for their response and the Samaritan was affirmed for his response. Jesus’ questions lead us to see that it is never in the fulfilling of the Law in which our response to God consists. Rather it is in the complete resting in the Person God has made Himself known in. That, of course, is Jesus Christ. It is the one who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. It is the one who is fully God and yet became flesh. It is the one who has power to heal but has so much more to give than simply physical healing.

That is why He then turns to the man directly and speaks to him directly. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” This is Him saying that what He gives is so much more than what we think we need on the surface. Now, if you had leprosy, you sure would want to be healed of that. And the man was. But what was he truly grateful for? Was praising God for being cleansed of his skin malady all there was going on with this man? When Jesus says the man had faith, what does that tell us about the man and why gave thanks and praised God?

What it says is that what Jesus has come to do is to restore, to make whole. All ten received cleansing from leprosy. All ten were now restored back into the community, having been cut off from the community because of their leprosy. But only one was, as Jesus says, “made well.” The Samaritan received a gift by faith. He received more than just cleansing from leprosy, he received wholeness and restoration from God. And he received it from God in the person of Jesus Christ. There was now no need to be declared clean by the priests. The very God of the universe was standing before this man declaring him cleansed, whole, restored.

This is what Jesus was teaching on that day. It is what He continues to teach us today. That is why we too respond to Him in thanks and praise. It is why we cry out for mercy to Him in faith, and not selfishness. Rather, we place our own wants and desires aside and cry out to our Lord for mercy. Praying He give us what He knows we need.

But most importantly, why we do this is because on that day Jesus was not simply teaching. He was giving. What we mostly learn from Jesus the Master Teacher is that He is the one who gives. He gives healing, He gives hope, He gives help. He does it by giving Himself. He does it by His own cry of agony, where on the cross His cry went up to His Heavenly Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His cry lifted up where He was forsaken so that we may be taken in. So that we may be restored, renewed, made well, saved, forgiven, lifted up, made whole.

He would indeed be the worst teacher in the world if for everything He has done was simply to teach us. He is the Master Teacher, but what we learn is that He is the Master, the Lord, who gives of Himself. Who brought us into His eternal life through death and resurrection in Baptism. He gives Himself to us, His very body, His very blood, to us in His precious and marvelous Supper which He invites us to partake of and makes us whole here in our needs and there in eternity. Amen.


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