But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” Jesus therefore answered them and said, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” John 7:14-16 NASB
Learning is a transaction, a process, a choice. It’s deliberate. People recognized Christ as a teacher yet he didn’t have a formal education — the rabbinical training that Jewish leaders valued. So the obvious question is: how did he gain the knowledge, understanding and authority he taught with?
I am what I see. I mimic that which I value. My life is the sum of choices based on observing mentors and teachers and others who influence. I’m curious about the distinction I’ve seen between man and every other creature. Animals come coded with instincts to navigate life, some from the moment they are born. Yet for 15 to 20 long years man must observe, learn, and practice. The web that a spider spins did not come from Charlotte studying a textbook. My disposition toward knowledge and my awareness I need a teacher makes me the person I am.
In Proverbs, the Spirit of God in Solomon compels Christ and everyone who would be like him:
My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-6 NASB.
Early each morning Jesus awoke and opened himself to his Father. He listened. Learned. Saw. Observed. Even before Christ was born, Isaiah prophetically mirrored this disposition:
The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient Nor did I turn back. Isaiah 50:4-5 NASB
Jesus said in John 3:11 “We bear witness of that which we have seen…” He didn’t just have a vivid imagination that conjured up this new faith — he saw and experienced it in reality. Then shared it. Jesus knew his source and poignantly shared it with his disciples in his farewell supper.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14:26 NASB
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. John 16:13 NASB
Paul revealed the unique training and influence offered to God’s kids by the Holy Spirit:
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 NASB
I may know about God’s kingdom, His truth, abide in heaven’s reality even if I don’t attend school. Human education is helpful — I wouldn’t be typing these words without it—but as helpful as it is, if I don’t have a vigilant disposition of heart, human teachers (especially Bible teachers) can quickly sidetrack me, especially when they undermine my faith’s foundations. The snake is a crafty creature.
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. 1 John 2:27 NASB
So what about me? Do I avoid College? Abandon all the traditional places from which learning comes from? Personally, I know I can be of more value to my fellow man when I am trained to be an expert in our society’s crafts. To understand the world, I learn from the world’s teachers. But to understand the kingdom, I must learn from the kingdom’s teacher. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is not one, or the other, but a mingling of both. I love the home my Father made for me in this body, but I understand it is only part of the picture. There is a spiritual reality not often taught in our universities. The point is, the heart is teachable, and craves truth. Solomon said “seek her as silver, search for her as a hidden treasure” because that’s what it is, hidden. But to those who seek, God delights in allowing me to find.
The Father placed upon Jesus the role — or mantle — of a disciple, and he too learned just like all sons and daughters of the kingdom. He also placed upon him the mantle of a teacher as he taught the things he saw and learned. When God calls me by a name or gives me a role, it doesn’t matter that it didn’t originate in the institutions of earth. It sounds silly to say, but God has the resources, depth and wisdom to train me in the economy, infrastructure, ethics, philosophy, math, and laws of the kingdom. Jesus walked daily with his Father in the courts of heaven, seeing, hearing, knowing, experiencing what exists in his kingdom, and what was possible on earth. He was truth and light, and his achievements have impacted our earth like no other:
Therefore it says, “ when he ascended on high. He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers… Ephesians 4:8, 11 NASB
Teachers are a gift! Yet, the Holy Spirit is the real teacher.
Christ learned the letters from the Letter-giver. God intends for me to understand in the same way that Christ did. This is what he offered in the temple — a living example of learning from the Spirit and the promise that those who come to him would be just as satiated in mind and heart as he was. After the disciples learned from Christ, they then had an opportunity, just like Christ, to learn from the Spirit directly. Jesus said, “He abides with you (in Christ) and will be in you.” (John 14:17) After being filled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), these uneducated disciples too had a similar testimony.
And, looking at Peter’s boldness of speech, and John’s, and having discovered that they were unlettered and obscure men, they began to marvel, recognizing them also, that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13 (Rotherham)
The thing which impacts me is that Jesus offers me the same education he had, at the feet of the same teacher. Everyone who is willing is also able to pay the admission costs to this university. And even more impacting is that the training I receive and the resulting life I live may be my offering of worship, the respect and honor I offer to my God — just like Jesus.