Comer: Jesus the G.O.A.T. — Greatest of All Teachers
Last week, my 6-year-old son showed me a card that he had been given that said “God loves you!” The exchange that ensued was not one soon to be forgotten. Here’s a paraphrased version of it:
“God loves me?” he asked with a cheerful expression.
“Of course he loves you. He created your spirit,” I told him.
“Did God give me my name?”
“I gave you your name.”
“I want a different name.”
“What name do you want?”
“I want my name to be Zachary.” (Zachary is his older brother and he wants everything that his brother has.)
“Well, you can’t have his name. That’s his name.”
“When I’m born again, can I be named Zachary?”
I don’t know where he got the idea that he could be physically born again (he could have been confusing it with resurrection), but the question really made me laugh. It also reminded me of something I had been studying about in the New Testament, which was the interaction between Jesus and Nicodemus.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:3-4)
Jesus responded that we must be born of water and of the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God, meaning we must be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.
This was the start of a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus that’s just one of two examples I’ve studied recently that show just how great a teacher Jesus was. To use the vernacular of today’s athletics, Jesus truly was the G.O.A.T. — the Greatest of all Time, yes, but also the Greatest of All Teachers.
We see examples in our lives of people who are truly exceptional at certain things. You see them and it instantly hits you how tremendous they are, how nobody else is like them. Perhaps it’s an athlete who can do things in their sport that simply nobody else seems capable of. Perhaps it’s a singer with an ability to hit certain notes or write certain songs. Perhaps it’s an actor or actress with an ability to perform in a certain way. We see so many examples of those who seem to have truly mastered a particular ability.
There’s a reason Jesus is referred to as the Master Teacher. Nobody else compares. Here was Nicodemus, a supposedly learned member of the Jewish Sanhedrin and a Pharisee, and Jesus was boldly educating him on the importance of baptism and the Holy Ghost.
Nicodemus later asked, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9), to which Jesus responded, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). What a humbling question. Moments later, Jesus asked another: “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12)
From there, Jesus taught Nicodemus of his redeeming mission.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:14-17)
We’ve all seen how difficult it is to remain civil in conversations on controversial topics, especially when we find ourselves questioning the intent and motivations of the other person. Some would question Nicodemus’ intent and motivations based on what he said to Jesus during this conversation and how he said it. Yet Jesus was patient and respectful. What many might see as an opportunity to mock, ridicule or shout down, Jesus took as an opportunity to calmly educate. He took no offense when some would say there was cause to take offense.
The scriptures don’t say how Nicodemus reacted to all of Jesus’ words, but we know he had to have a certain amount of respect for him because he later defended him before the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-51) and assisted Joseph of Arimathea with his burial. (John 19:39)
Another example of Jesus’ teaching proficiency came with the woman at the well.
Jesus was sitting at the well when a woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus asked her to provide him a drink, to which she responded, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” (John 4:9)
Jesus proceeded to say he could offer the woman “living water,” which meant a Savior.
“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14)
The woman asked for that kind of water, and Jesus responded by telling her to go get her husband. She said she didn’t have a husband, a fact Jesus already knew.
“Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17-18).
Think about how you would respond if someone knew something about you that you didn’t think it was possible for them to know. Like she said at the beginning of the conversation, the Jews and the Samaritans had no dealings with each other. He was a total stranger to her when they met at the well. The reaction she had might be your reaction as well.
“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” (John 4:19)
Still, she didn’t know who he was exactly, as evidenced later in the conversation.
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.” (John 4:25)
Then came a powerful moment:
“Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” (John 4:26)
I’m surprised the scripture doesn’t say, “and the woman dropped her waterpot in total shock” because I imagine that’s how she must have felt when she heard those piercing words. She knew Christ was going to come, here she is talking to a man who she can perceive to be a prophet because of what he knows about her and then he says, “I that speak unto thee am he.”
The mastery throughout this entire conversation from start to finish is just incredible to me. Every part of it built, from the very beginning when he initiated the interaction with a request that caught her attention, to the transition from a temporal need to an eternal need, to the invitation to get her husband, to a nuanced discussion of appropriate worship, to the final statement, “I that speak unto thee am he.”
What was the result?
The woman went back to the city, without her waterpot, and told the men, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29)
The men went to Jesus.
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” (John 4:39-42)
John Wesley Taylor, associate director of education at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said it well:
“The student becomes a believer, a witness and a disciple-maker. All because of her encounter with the Teacher and the life-changing effect of a single lesson.”
The G.O.A.T., indeed.
I expect to have many conversations about Jesus with my children throughout the years, and I feel like if I can have just a fraction of his skill and effectiveness, I’ll have cause to think I did pretty well.
Contact Ryan Comer at email@example.com.