Listening to Jesus the Teacher by Jessica Richards

A few Saturdays ago, I had the privilege of traveling with friends from St. Andrew’sdown to Olympia to hear our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speak. To my surprise, instead of giving a formal address, the format of the gathering was a Q&A, with the audience supplying handwritten questions. Naturally, many in attendance had a plethora of questions for him—ranging from his views on current events to how he got chosen to preach at the recent royal wedding. However, probably the biggest topic he addressed was the Jesus Movement.

In fact, one of the things that struck me throughout the conversation was how time and time again, whatever the topic, Bishop Curry continued to turn the conversation back to Jesus—and specifically his teachings. “We need to pay more attention to the Teaching Jesus,” he told the crowd at St. John’s. In our church cycle of worship, we often focus onand celebrate the big events of Jesus’s life—his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension—but his days of teaching and talking were every bit as important, as Bishop Curry reminded us.

Why is the “teaching Jesus” significant? Well, for one thing, it’s not very hard to beChrist-like when we are primarily focused on “Baby Jesus;” though the message of “God with us” is beautiful and important, it doesn’t require much of us. Conversely, the suffering and dying Jesus can be so intense and emotional that it can be hard to find our place in the story. Are we the disciples who fled? The one who denied him? Are we the soldiers who crucified him? It can be easier just to keep the whole story at arm’s length.

“Teaching Jesus” is different, because in spite of the miracles, nothing else shows off his humanity so well. He gets tired and hungry; he is cranky and sometimes straight up angry! He makes jokes and attends parties. He calls out the corruption and indiffer- ence of the religion in his day. But most of all, he loves people. Jesus the teacher wasn’tjust interested in having a crowd of followers who knew how to parrot his teaching back to him; he spoke in riddles and stories, and used hyperbole and dramatic irony to surprise his audience. More than that, he didn’t simply care about their minds or souls. He cared equally about their bodies, by feeding them and healing them.

“Teaching Jesus” spent time with the lowliest of his day—people that the “good religious people” of his time would never have associated with (and in fact prided them-selves on avoiding!). He cared for the sick and the poor. He told people to love their enemies and pray for them, rather than hate them. Jesus also welcomed the presence of children; he blessed them, fed them, and healed them. He also used children as an illustration: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt 19:14 NIV) He alsogoes on to say “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes
me.” (Mark 9:37 NIV) Jesus is clearly full of compassion for the well-being of others—as should his followers be.

Given the current divisive climate not only of our nation, but even of those who are Christians, it seems to me that Bishop Curry is right. We could all use some time focusing on the “Teaching Jesus” and listening to what he has to say—and then following it! If anyone could heal our divisions and bring our nation some much-needed hope, it is Jesus. (And, Lord willing, those who follow his teachings.)