“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) I have often considered this to be one of the most wonderful promises for home educators, even though it doesn’t say anything about education directly. When we look at it from what He is promising to the teacher, it is beautiful. He is promising that through Him, we can know the best method of education—”the way”. He is what we are to teach about—”the truth”. And perhaps the most wonderful of all, He will give us the strength to accomplish it—”the life.” I don’t know about you, but sometimes the last part of the promise is what I need most—some life, some energy, the strength to make this project of home educating really happen.
Right now I’d like to look at the first part of the promise in more depth though, “the way.” I have been contemplating the meaning of “true education” for a while. Those two words sound so big and ominous to me. It has a similar impact on me as when somebody says “the Proverbs 31 woman”. Both of them seem like an awfully high bar to reach and I am left wondering if it’s even possible. But I am forced to remember the all too famous verse “for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) So there are no excuses for us to shirk on our duty of offering to our children true education.
Just defining true education is a pretty big task though, but based on the promise in John 14:6, I believe that we can find the definition of true education by studying the life of Christ, that is if it holds true that He is “the way”.
There are two interesting ways to learn from the life of Christ about education. One is studying how He learned as a Child and the other is how He taught during His ministry. Rather than look at it chronologically, I would like to take a look at in reverse order.
Jesus was an educator par excellence. He could teach people from every walk of life and they all loved to learn from Him or were at least intrigued with what He taught. Just think of some of the ones who listened (even if they didn’t agree) and had their lives changed by what they heard: children, fishermen, beggars, professors (rabbis), theologians, IRS agents (tax collectors), rich men, heads of state and more. Jesus’ teaching appealed to every class of person: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, famous and obscure, you name it. It is said of His teaching, “The learned and the most intellectual were gratified and charmed with His discourses, and yet they were so plain and simple as to be comprehended by the humblest minds.” (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 214)
So learning how to teach from observing Jesus seems like an obvious place to start and if He is truly “the way” then in Him we can find the definition of true education. There are many examples of Christ’s method of teaching that are worthy of study—the Sermon on the Mount, the intercourse with Nicodemus and with the woman at the well and more, but the best example of all of what Christ’s method of teaching was how He taught His disciples. “The most complete illustration of Christ’s methods as a teacher is found in His training of the twelve first disciples.” (Education p. 84) Sometimes we think of the disciples as pretty rough folk because of their background, maybe not what we would consider educated. This is not without reason, they were fishermen, but when Jesus was done educating them, they became some of the most influential men on the planet. They led out in a cause that covered large sections of the globe in only 100 years—long before there was even a decent mail service. They could not have done this if they hadn’t developed a phenomenal ability of leadership. In order to pull that all off they proved themselves as master orators as well as administrators, so much so, that the church that today holds the largest membership and is no doubt the wealthiest church anywhere, adamantly teaches that one of those disciples, one of those fishermen turned intellectual, is the their first pope. These men were the greatest teachers and leaders of their time. Now isn’t that what you want out of your child? And as to whether or not they remained rough, we are told that when Jesus was done teaching them “no longer were they ignorant and uncultured.” (Education, p. 95) They were refined gentlemen, who could carry on discourses with men like Herod and other heads of state and make an impact on them. They became such good writers, that they could produce pieces like the Gospel of John and the books of Peter and more.
So how did Christ teach His disciples? “To them, above all others, He gave the advantage of His own companionship. Through personal association He impressed Himself upon these chosen colaborers.” (Education, p. 84) Jesus taught His disciples by being with them, by being their friend, by being their confidant. He took them everywhere. He took them to the mountainside, to the sea, to the house, to the table. I find this as a most interesting aspect to teaching. If we want to be successful teachers, we must be friends with our students, and this is even truer if our students are our own children. If we are friends with our children, how much more will they enjoy learning from us? “Only by such communion–the communion of mind with mind and heart with heart, of the human with the divine–can be communicated that vitalizing energy which it is the work of true education to impart. It is only life that begets life.” (Education, p. 84)
The second thing we learn from how Jesus taught His disciples is that it was not an 8-5 job. It was all day long. “In the training of His disciples the Saviour followed the system of education established at the beginning… 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.” (Education, p. 84) The education taking place in our homes must become a lifestyle, not just something that happens at a desk for a few hours a day. Jesus taught them all the time, while traveling, while eating, while working, while ministering and while sitting. If we will, by faith, follow this example, and if it still holds true that Jesus is “the way”, it will work today as well as it worked 2000 years ago. “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.” (Education, p. 96)
Tomorrow we will take a look at another perspective of education in Jesus’ life—how He gained His education. The Bible says, “The Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:40) We can learn a lot from how Jesus became an educated Man.