Not (Just) a Teacher
At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. … When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
- from John 12:16, 36
Yesterday, we looked at Jesus’ rejection of the mantle of traditional kingship. What would he do if we wasn’t going to become a king like every other king?
Another option was to retreat and become a mystical sage. Dark and brooding. Aloof and misunderstood. Surrounded by a closed cabal, the keepers of the secret knowledge.
Mystical movements weren’t uncommon during Jesus’ lifetime. The Essenes retreated to a monastic community in Qumran where they transcribed and collected the Dead Sea scrolls. The Gnostics traded in secret teachings. The Cynics and the Stoics gathered disciples to circulate their teachings (for a fee).
Many people believe that this was the option that Jesus actually took, that he (at his core) was a spiritual teacher. They’re wrong.
Jesus did a great deal of teaching … but his teaching wasn’t what he was known for in his lifetime, what he was remembered for by his disciples, or what from his life has had the most significant impact on the world.
Jesus was often misunderstood because his teaching and his lifestyle radically diverged from people’s expectations of him. As a result, Jesus had a rocky relationship with the crowds who followed him.
Jesus had more to offer to the world than his teaching (as wonderful as it is). The chief problem for humanity wasn’t a lack of knowledge; it was a break in the core of our souls that isolated us from God and other people, trapping us in bondage to sin, death, and the dark powers of this world. A break and a bondage like that couldn’t be remedied by mere teaching.
Jesus’ path to the cross maps this trajectory. A teacher would have retreated from the crowds and controversies, to live to teach another day. But Jesus was a savior, a complex Messiah, and exactly what we needed.
What difference does it make for your interactions with Jesus that he approaches us as a savior and Lord and not merely as a wise teacher?