Here’s a truth about teaching: it’s hard.
It’s hard for any number of reasons. Some days it’s hard because, when you’re a teacher, it’s up to you to translate complex topics to learners in a way that is understandable and accessible to them.
Some days it’s hard because you’re teaching people who either do want to learn and just don’t get it, or people who don’t want to learn and don’t care if they get it, and either way you want to throw your hands up in the air and give up.
Some days it’s hard because people ask a question right after you just answered it.
Some days it’s hard because people think the thing you’re teaching is stupid.
Some days it’s hard because, even if you manage to teach the thing you wanted to teach, nobody really seems to care.
And some days it’s hard because teaching is far more physical than you’d imagine: a lot of talking, hand-waving, moving, expressing, emoting, engaging. There are times, after a day of classes, that I just walk to my car and flop into the seat and absorb the silence and stillness.
We know that Jesus was a teacher. But we don’t often dwell on what that means, or how difficult His job was in that regard. I struggle enough just teaching my classes how to read and think critically; can you imagine being the Lord of the Universe and reducing all your vast, incomprehensible stores of knowledge to nuggets that easily-distracted people with limited intelligence might understand? Yet God somehow managed to render the most vital and complex truths about life and the human spirit to the people He met.
Jesus taught crowds who were far more interested in His wonders than His words. His nearest and dearest pupils – the disciples – often couldn’t seem to grasp or apply even the most basic concepts He tried to teach them. Day after day, people pursued Jesus regardless of how tired or overworked He was, regardless of what His circumstances were, and He somehow kept on delivering to them the same fundamental message.
Here’s another truth about teaching: it can be rewarding, and it can be soul-crushing.
On certain rare days, when you’re a teacher, everything is just popping. The students are engaged, the questions are thoughtful, and even if they don’t entirely get it, they’re getting there. You’re all on the same page: they’re making headway and they’re doing it because they want to be. And on other days, you might as well be swimming through mud. They’re half-asleep. They’re probably texting. You ask a question and no one responds. They don’t care and they’re not going to care and you’re pretty much talking alone to a room full of people.
I think of Jesus the teacher, and I just…boggle. I imagine Him telling a crowd about the kingdom while ignoring the throb of a headache that starts at the back of His head and threatens to spread to his temples. I imagine Him noticing those in the crowd who shift their feet, whose eyes wander, who were maybe dragged to see Him by a friend or a family member. I imagine Him explaining – again – the same basic concept to Peter – again – and knowing that this will not be the last time, either. I imagine Him gearing up to share the message with group after group, under a blazing sun, on tired feet, with a growling stomach.
And I imagine His delight, His abject joy, when He sees the spark of understanding in someone’s eyes.
If you ever wonder if God loves you, imagine the humility and the grace and the love that it took for the Beginning and End of all things not only to clothe Himself in flesh, but to walk around sharing some of His knowledge with impatient, distracted, ignorant crowds of people who couldn’t even begin to know what they didn’t know. Regardless of the adversity, Jesus embraced the work of teaching, and He never gave up on it.
He still hasn’t. Our God is a Lord of learning, too: the author of infinite knowledge, and One who loves to teach and share with those He loves. Go ask Him what He wants to show you today.