“I Set the Pattern for You”

“You ought to be teachers in view of the time.”​—HEBREWS 5:12.

1. Why might the words of Hebrews 5:12 naturally cause a Christian to feel some measure of concern?

AS YOU read the inspired words of our theme text, do you feel a measure of concern about yourself? If so, you are not alone. As followers of Christ, we know that we must be teachers. (Matthew 28:19, 20) We know that the times in which we live make it urgent that we teach as well as we can. And we know that our teaching can even make a life-or-death difference to those whom we teach! (1 Timothy 4:16) Naturally, then, we may ask ourselves: ‘Am I really the teacher I ought to be? How can I improve?’

2, 3. (a) How did one teacher explain the foundation of good teaching? (b) Jesus set what pattern for us as to teaching?

2 Such concerns need not discourage us. If we think of teaching solely in terms of some studied techniques, we might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of making improvements. The foundation of good teaching, though, is not technique but something far more important. Note what one experienced teacher wrote in a book on the subject: “Good teaching is not a matter of specific techniques or styles, plans or actions. . . . Teaching is primarily a matter of love.” Of course, his perspective was that of a secular teacher. Still, his point may be even more applicable to the teaching we do as Christians. How so?

3 Our Exemplar of a teacher is none other than Jesus Christ, who told his followers: “I set the pattern for you.” (John 13:15) He was referring to his example in showing humility, but the pattern Jesus set for us certainly includes his principal work as a man on earth​—that of teaching people the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Luke 4:43) Now, if you had to choose a single word to characterize Jesus’ ministry, you would likely select the word “love,” would you not? (Colossians 1:15; 1 John 4:8) Jesus’ love for his heavenly Father, Jehovah, was paramount. (John 14:31) As a teacher, though, Jesus manifested love in two additional ways. He loved the truths he taught, and he loved the people he taught. Let us focus more closely on these two aspects of the pattern he set for us.

A Long-Standing Love of Divine Truths

4. How did Jesus form a love for Jehovah’s teachings?

4 A teacher’s attitude toward his subject has a considerable bearing on the quality of his teaching. Any indifference will likely show and spread to his students. Jesus felt no apathy  toward the precious truths he taught about Jehovah and His Kingdom. Jesus’ love for this subject was profound. He had formed that love as a student. Throughout the long ages of his prehuman existence, the only-begotten Son was an avid learner. Isaiah 50:4, 5 records these fitting words: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word. He awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones. The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has opened my ear, and I, for my part, was not rebellious. I did not turn in the opposite direction.”

5, 6. (a) What experience did Jesus evidently have at his baptism, with what effect upon him? (b) What contrast do we find between Jesus and Satan as to using God’s Word?

5 While growing up as a human on earth, Jesus continued to love divine wisdom. (Luke 2:52) Then, at the time of his baptism, he went through a unique experience. “The heaven was opened up,” says Luke 3:21. Evidently, Jesus was then able to recall his prehuman existence. Thereafter he spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness. He must have found intense delight in meditating on the many heavenly sessions of instruction he had received from Jehovah. Before long, though, his love of God’s truths was put to the test.

6 When Jesus was fatigued and hungry, Satan sought to tempt him. What a contrast we find between these two sons of God! Both quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures​—but with a completely different spirit. Satan twisted God’s Word, disrespectfully using it to serve his own selfish ends. Really, that rebel had nothing but contempt for divine truths. On the other hand, Jesus quoted the Scriptures with obvious love, using God’s Word carefully in each reply. Jesus had been in existence long before those inspired words were first written down, yet he held them in reverence. They were precious truths from his heavenly Father! He told Satan that such words from Jehovah were more vital than food. (Matthew 4:1-11) Yes, Jesus loved all the truths that Jehovah had taught him. How, though, did he display that love as a teacher?

Love for the Truths He Taught

7. Why did Jesus refrain from inventing his own teachings?

7 Jesus’ love for the truths he taught was always apparent. After all, he might easily have developed his own ideas. He possessed a vast repository of knowledge and wisdom. (Colossians 2:3) Nevertheless, he reminded his listeners again and again that everything he taught originated, not with himself, but with his heavenly Father. (John 7:16; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10) He loved divine truths far too much to replace them with his own thinking.

8. At the start of his ministry, how did Jesus set a pattern of relying on God’s Word?

8 When Jesus began his public ministry, he quickly set a pattern. Consider the way he first declared to God’s people that he was the promised Messiah. Did he simply appear before crowds, proclaim himself Christ, and then perform spectacular miracles to prove his point? No. He went to a synagogue, where God’s people habitually read from the Scriptures. There he read aloud the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1, 2 and explained that these prophetic truths applied to him. (Luke 4:16-22) His many miracles helped to establish that he had Jehovah’s backing. Still, he always relied on God’s Word in his teaching.

9. In his dealings with the Pharisees, how did Jesus show his loyal love for God’s Word?

9 When Jesus was challenged by religious opponents, he did not engage them in a duel of wits, although he could easily have outdone them in such a contest. Rather, he let God’s Word refute them. Recall, for instance, when the Pharisees charged that  Jesus’ followers had violated the Sabbath law by plucking a few heads of grain in a field and eating them while passing through. Jesus replied: “Have you not read what David did when he and the men with him got hungry?” (Matthew 12:1-5) Of course, those self-righteous men may well have read that inspired account recorded at 1 Samuel 21:1-6. If so, they had failed to discern an important lesson that it contained. Jesus, however, had done more than read the account. He had thought about it and taken its message to heart. He loved the principles that Jehovah taught by means of that passage. So he used that account, as well as an example from the Mosaic Law, to reveal the balanced spirit of the Law. Similarly, Jesus’ loyal love moved him to defend God’s Word against the efforts of religious leaders to twist it to their own ends or bury it under a morass of human traditions.

10. How did Jesus fulfill prophecies regarding the quality of his teaching?

10 Jesus’ love of his subject would never allow him to teach merely by rote, in a manner that was tired or mechanical. Inspired prophecies had suggested that the Messiah would speak with ‘charm on his lips,’ using “words of elegance.” (Psalm 45:2; Genesis 49:21) Jesus fulfilled those prophecies by keeping his message fresh and alive, using “winsome words” as he taught the truths he so loved. (Luke 4:22) No doubt his enthusiasm animated his features, and his eyes shone with a lively interest in his subject. What a pleasure it must have been to listen to him, and what a fine pattern for us to follow when we talk to others about what we have learned!

11. Why did Jesus’ abilities as a teacher never cause him to become puffed up with pride?

11 Did Jesus’ immense grasp of divine truths and his winning way with words induce him to become puffed up with pride? That often happens in the case of human teachers. Remember, though, that Jesus was wise in a godly way. Such wisdom does not allow for haughtiness, for “wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) There was something else that kept Jesus from turning proud or haughty.

Jesus Loved the People He Taught

12. How did Jesus show that he did not want his followers to feel intimidated by him?

12 Jesus’ deep love for people always showed through in his teaching. His teaching was never intimidating to people, unlike that of prideful humans. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) After witnessing one of Jesus’ miracles, Peter was overwhelmed with astonishment, and he fell down at Jesus’ knees. But Jesus did not want his followers to be in morbid fear of him. He kindly said, “Stop being afraid” and then told Peter of the exciting work of disciple-making in which he would take part. (Luke 5:8-10) Jesus wanted his disciples to be moved by their own love of precious truths regarding God, not by dread of their instructor.

13, 14. In what ways did Jesus display empathy for people?

13 Jesus’ love for the people he taught was  also evident in the empathy he felt for them. “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) He felt for them in their miserable condition and was moved to help them.

14 Note Jesus’ empathy on another occasion. When a woman with a flow of blood approached him in a crowd and touched the fringe of his garment, she was miraculously healed. Jesus felt power flow from him, but he did not see who had been cured. He insisted on finding the woman. Why? Not to berate her for violating the Law or the rules of the scribes and Pharisees, as she might have feared. Rather, he said to her: “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be in good health from your grievous sickness.” (Mark 5:25-34) Note the empathy in those words. He did not merely say, “Be healed.” Rather, he said: “Be in good health from your grievous sickness.” Mark here uses a word that can literally mean “scourging,” a form of whipping often used as torture. Thus, Jesus acknowledged that her illness had caused her suffering, perhaps severe physical and emotional pain. He felt for her.

15, 16. What incidents in Jesus’ ministry demonstrate that he looked for the good in people?

15 Jesus also showed love for people by looking for the good in them. Consider what happened when he met Nathanael, who later became an apostle. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him: ‘See, an Israelite for a certainty, in whom there is no deceit.’” Miraculously, Jesus had looked into Nathanael’s heart, thereby learning much about him. Of course, Nathanael was far from perfect. He had his faults, as do all of us. In fact, when he heard about Jesus, he made a rather blunt remark: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45-51) However, of all the things that could be said about Nathanael, Jesus chose something positive to focus on, the man’s honesty.

16 Similarly, when an army officer​—perhaps a Gentile, a Roman—​approached and asked Jesus to cure an ailing slave, Jesus knew that the soldier had faults. An army officer of those days would likely have a past littered with many acts of violence, bloodshed, and false worship. Yet, Jesus focused on something good​—the man’s outstanding faith. (Matthew 8:5-13) Later, when Jesus spoke to the evildoer who was hanging on the torture stake next to him, Jesus did not rebuke the man for his criminal past but encouraged him with a hope for the future. (Luke 23:43) Jesus knew well that taking a negative, critical view of others would only serve to discourage them. No doubt his efforts to find the good in others encouraged many to do even better.

Willingness to Serve People

17, 18. In accepting the assignment to come to earth, how did Jesus show a willingness to serve others?

17 Another powerful evidence of Jesus’ love for the people he taught was his willingness to serve them. In his prehuman life, God’s Son had always been fond of mankind. (Proverbs 8:30, 31) As Jehovah’s “Word,” or  spokesman, he may have enjoyed many dealings with humans. (John 1:1) However, in part to teach mankind more directly, “he emptied himself and took a slave’s form,” leaving his lofty position in heaven. (Philippians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 8:9) While on earth, Jesus did not expect to be waited on and served. On the contrary, he said: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Jesus fully lived up to those words.

18 Jesus humbly ministered to the needs of those he taught, readily expending himself in their behalf. He crisscrossed the Promised Land on foot, walking hundreds of miles on preaching tours in an effort to reach as many people as possible. Unlike the proud Pharisees and scribes, he remained humble and approachable. All manner of people​—dignitaries, soldiers, lawyers, women, children, the poor, the sick, even society’s outcasts—​approached him eagerly, unafraid. Though perfect, Jesus was human, subject to fatigue and hunger. Even when he was tired or was in need of rest or quiet time to pray, however, he put the needs of others ahead of his own.​—Mark 1:35-39.

19. How did Jesus set a pattern of dealing humbly, patiently, and kindly with his disciples?

19 Jesus was equally willing to serve his own disciples. He did so by teaching them kindly and patiently. When they were slow to grasp some vital lessons, he did not give up, lose his temper, or berate them. He continued to find new ways to get his point across. For example, just think of how often the disciples bickered over who was the greatest among them. Again and again, right up to the night before his execution, Jesus found new ways to teach them to deal humbly with one another. In this matter of humility, as in all other things, Jesus could rightly say: “I set the pattern for you.”​—John 13:5-15; Matthew 20:25; Mark 9:34-37.

20. What teaching method set Jesus apart from the Pharisees, and why was the method effective?

20 Notice that Jesus did not merely tell the disciples what the pattern was; he “set the pattern.” He taught them by example. He did not speak down to them from a lofty height, as if considering himself above carrying out the things he was telling them to do. That was the way of the Pharisees. “They say but do not perform,” Jesus said of them. (Matthew 23:3) Jesus humbly showed his students exactly what his teachings meant by living them, putting them into practice. So when he urged his followers to lead a simple life unencumbered by materialism, they did not have to guess at what he meant. They could see the reality of his words: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus served his disciples by humbly setting the pattern for them.

21. What will be considered in the next article?

21 Without question, Jesus was the greatest Teacher ever to walk the earth! His love for what he taught and his love for the people he taught were evident to all honesthearted ones who saw and heard him. It is just as evident to those of us today who study the pattern he set. How, though, can we follow Christ’s perfect example? The following article will take up that question.

How Would You Answer?

• What is the foundation of good teaching, as exemplified by whom?

• In what ways did Jesus display love for the truths he taught?

• How did Jesus show love for the people he taught?

• What examples show Jesus’ humble willingness to serve those he taught?

[Study Questions]

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How did Jesus show that he loved the principles found in God’s Word?