No Teacher Like Christ.
Never man spake like this man. — John vii:46.
We are informed in this chapter that Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles, taught the people the way of salvation, and proclaimed on the last day of the feast, "if any man thirst, let him come to me and drink." Many were so impressed with his teachings, that they said, "Of a truth this is the Prophet." It seems that the "chief priests and Pharisees" were chagrined at the Savior's popularity, and sent officers to apprehend him, that his teachings might be arrested. The officers approached him, "But the majesty of his appearance and the grandeur of his instructions rendered them powerless to seize him. They returned, the object of their errand unaccomplished, and when asked, "Why have ye not brought him?" they replied, "Never man spake like this man." The theme I deduce from the language is,
The Superiority of Christ as a Teacher.
In illustration of this theme, I refer to the following considerations:
1. The authoritative manner of his teaching. — Philosophers had indulged doubtful speculations, and had expressed themselves with hesitation. They were not satisfied with their own utterances. They roamed over the wide fields of conjecture, discontented at every step. They felt that their teachings needed to be invested with an authority which philosophy could not give. Their inculcations required a superhuman endorsement to give them binding force, etc.
Moses and the prophets had said, "Thus saith the Lord," etc. This was the preface to their communications. They spoke not in their own names. Their messages were not from themselves, but from the God of Israel. When Jesus came, he said: "Verily I say unto you," etc. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time," etc., "but I say unto you," etc. At the close of the sermon, "the people were astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes."The authority of the apostles to engage in their work, was derived from him; for he said, "All power is given to me in heaven and on earth: Go ye, therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."Never man spake like him in the authoritative manner of his teaching.
2. The adaptation of his teachings to the common people. — It is remarkable what contempt most
of the old philosophers felt for the masses of the people. They were partial to a favored few, and looked down with disdain on the overwhelming majority. The common people heard Jesus gladly. His teachings were suited to them — His parables, suggested by objects with which they were familiar, were easy of comprehension. The most unlettered could understand them. They were simple, yet sublime — simple in their sublimity, and sublime in their simplicity. "To the poor the gospel is preached." To this Jesus referred as the crowning proof of his Messiahship, as a demonstration of his divine mission, more satisfactory, even, than the raising of the dead. And why so? It was so unlike any thing the world had ever seen as to prove that it was not of the world; but that the author of such an arrangement was divine. Never man adapted his teachings to the common people like Christ.
3. His revelation of the character of God. — "No man," said he, " hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. And he was never so declared before. He was infinitely well qualified to reveal the character of the Father; for he said, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee." Polytheism prevailed. The heathen believed in many gods, —gods, in some respects, like themselves. Jesus taught the spirituality of the divine nature. He said, "God a spirit." He dwelt on the veracity, wisdom, holiness, justice and love of God
He represented the divine character as the bright center in which all the lines of perfection meet. Who ever spoke like him among sages, patriarchs, or prophets? He stands forth in the majesty of unapproachable superiority, extorting from enemies the reluctant eulogy, " Never man spake like this man."
4. His delineation of human, nature. — He knew what was in man. He knew all the springs of human action. He refers to the heart as the fountain of evil. He recognizes in all his teachings, the depravity and condemnation of the human race. Admitting as true, Christ's delineation of human nature, we can account for all the facts of history. Nor can we account for them in any other way. If men are what he represents them, we have a key to unlock all the mysteries of history; if they are not, all history is a labyrinth. "Why have innumerable evils been perpetrated among men in all ages? Why have nations and individuals acted so wickedly? Because human nature is just as the great Teacher represents it. Never man spake like this man in his delineation of human character.
5. His development of the way of salvation. — He tells us, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He informs us, that "the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." He refers to his own death as the basis of redemption. What wonders are these! Who
would ever have thought of such a way of salvation, had it not been divinely revealed? And now, since Jesus has revealed it, how glorious does it appear! How honorable to God! How illustrative of his perfections! How indicative of the justice and majesty of the divine law! How safe to man! The interests of those who acquiesce in this way of salvation are effectually secured. "Who ever spoke like Christ on the subject of salvation?
6. The soul's immortality. — Philosophers could not satisfactorily settle the question of the immortality of the soul. They speculated ingeniously, and conjectured plausibly, and hoped waveringly. The question can not be settled without the Bible. Doctors of divinity have attempted it, but all their attempts have been vain, and will ever be in vain. Life and immortality have been brought to light through the gospel, and Jesus is the author of the gospel. The gospel has brought the doctrine of the soul's immortality from the dark recesses of heathen philosophy and the twilight of the Mosaic economy into the open sunlight of the new dispensation. How sublime an attribute of our nature is immortality! "Fear not," said Jesus, "them that kill the body, but can not kill the soul." The murderer's dagger may be thrust into the body and draw out the life's blood, but no dagger nor spear, nor dart can pierce the ethereal essence of the soul. How his immortality ennobles man! It makes the slave and the peasant, in the most
important respect, the equal of the master and king. "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Who ever spake like him of the soul's immortality or value?
7. The resurrection of the body. — Among all the tribes of ancient philosophers, there was no man who believed in the resurrection from the dead. That the body, after becoming food for worms, and undergoing a pulverizing process in the grave, would be reanimated, never entered the mind of any one unblest with the light of revelation. Paul was ridiculed at Athens for an allusion to the resurrection. Jesus says, "The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth." Power divine will accompany that voice, and as certainly as the first Adam carries all his descendants down into the grave, so certainly will the second Adam bring them all up out of the grave. The wide empire of death is destined to total depopulation. Never man spoke like Jesus in regard to the resurrection.
8. The bliss of Heaven. — He spoke of Heaven, not as a place he had heard of, but as a place with which he was well acquainted. He said to his disciples, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I
am there ye may be also." His language to the persecuted saints is, "Great is your reward in Heaven." How great! A reward comprehending the absence of every evil and the presence of every good. The pure in heart shall see God. This was one of the utterances of the great Teacher. O! to see God! What shall I say of it? Well did the old theologians term it the "beatific vision." To see God will beatify the soul, and perpetuate its joyous rapture through endless ages. How much Jesus says of Heaven. Who ever spoke like him of the upper world?
9. The misery of hell. — In tones of awful eloquence he said to his hearers, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell!" He said of the wicked, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." He referred to the worm that never dies, and to the fire that is never quenched. He spoke of the destruction of the soul and body in hell. No one can listen to the teachings of Christ without receiving the impression that the punishment of those who die in their sins will be fearful in intensity, and endless in duration. Who ever spoke like him, whether on topics glorious or awful, attractive or appalling?
10. Christ, as a teacher, is eminently practical. — He said nothing to gratify curiosity. When he was asked, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" he replied, "Strive to enter in at the straight gate," as if he had said, whether there be many or few, aim to be among the number. All his
teachings were designed to do good — to improve the heart and the life. At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, he says, "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Never man spoke like Jesus in the practical character of his teachings.
1. We should reverently listen to the teachings of Jesus, and felicitate ourselves that we enjoy them. Blessed are the ears which hear what we hear. Prophets and kings, under the Jewish economy, desired to hear the things we hear, but heard them not. Our responsibilities are in proportion to the greatness of our privileges.
2. Glorious will be the consequences of hearkening to the teachings of Christ. Those who learn of him not only find rest to their souls in this life, but will finally be exalted to the enjoyment of eternal glory in Heaven.
3. "Awful will be the doom of those who slight
the teachings of Christ. He who hears not this prophet shall be destroyed. So Moses wrote. Alas! who can tell how much is implied in the destruction which comes on those who care not for the teachings of Christ? No language can describe it.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY.]
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