We’ve been looking at what Jesus did in discipling those who followed Him. When we look at the Beatitudes, we see that He began with the Gospel. Discipleship begins as we are teaching others about the Gospel, even before they’ve made a full commitment to follow Christ. For some reason we have separated evangelism and discipleship, but Jesus didn’t. I think that’s important for us to realize, especially where our children are concerned. If we are raising them in a Christian home, their faith may grow little by little, and they may not be able to pinpoint the exact moment they became a believer. So, we need to be aware that we are discipling, teaching, and training even when we are sharing the Gospel with others.
Jesus discipled in the everyday circumstances they were in. He used those teachable moments that arose as they did life together, often when His disciples were afraid or confused.
Jesus told them how to live the Christian life, and He showed them how to live the Christian life. This is an essential part of discipleship. If we only teach with words, we are not truly discipling, and if we only teach by example and never open up conversations about faith and following Christ, we are not truly discipling. The two must go hand in hand.
Today, as we come up to our last blog post in this series, I want to focus on some of the techniques Jesus used in teaching others. They all work great with children, by the way!
- He used stories.
We all think of parables when we think of Jesus’ teachings. He used storytelling to bring home the point of his teaching. For example, see Matthew 13, 18, 20, and 24-25. We can do the same, especially with children, to help those we teach to picture the point we are making.
- He used everyday objects
Jesus talked about ants, coins, flowers, birds, and fig trees. For examples, check out Matthew 6, 17, 24, and Mark 4. Object lessons are amazingly effective with children, but they work with adults as well.
- He used uncomfortable situations and teachable moments
When his disciples were afraid, confused, confronted, and judgmental, He used those emotional and uncomfortable situations and those teachable moments to pull his disciples aside and help them understand and grow in wisdom. He challenged their lack of faith. He cautioned them to be alert. For instance, look at Luke 8, Matthew 14, and Matthew 26. Sometimes our children are more open to teaching when they are confused or questioning. If they are afraid, they usually seek us out for help. These are opportunities when their hearts are tender and open to learning.
- He used prior knowledge
The disciples knew Jewish Law, so often Jesus would start with that. He took the law and gave it more meaning. He showed the spirit of the Law rather than the legalistic letter of the Law they had been raised to live. For example, Matthew 5-7. Helping our children mature means we help them learn what it means to interpret situations. Younger children are much more legalistic and expect fairness in all circumstances. Older children begin to understand that wisdom is needed in some situations, and grace needs to be offered, and that motives matter.
- He used surprise
Several times we see Jesus using surprising situations to teach His followers. Often those were miraculous but sharing something unexpected can grab listeners’ attention and make the lesson more memorable. Jesus used those opportunities to teach truth to His disciples. For instance, Matthew 14, Luke 19, John 11, and John 4.
- He used the dinner table
In many ways, all dinner tables are a type of communion. It may not be the official Lords Supper sort of event, but at the dinner table, conversations are natural. Usually people are relaxed, and topics often reveal the hearts of those at the table. Jesus used those conversations to teach and confront. He used the natural intimacy that occurs around the dinner table to open up important conversations. Of course, we think of the Last Supper and all that took place at that one dinner, but on several other instances the dinner table became the classroom. See Luke 10 and Matthew 9, for example. When we eat dinner together with our children, so many opportunities arise for us to parent well. We can learn where our children’s thoughts and hearts are, what they’ve been experiencing and learning, and what they need to learn. We can use the captive audience to share scripture together or stories that will teach them about their heritage or our faith. The communion we experience daily at the dinner table is a special time of connection that helps preserve the family as a unit.
- He used the road
As they walked along the road from town to town, Jesus taught. He used what was happening around them–the scenery, the people, and the places–to teach important points. For example, Matthew 21, Luke 6, Mark 4, and Matthew 6. When we are in the car or walking outside with our children, it seems that opportunities arise when our children are more thoughtful and may be open to learning. We can help them observe what’s happening around them, and we can use these as object lessons. Nature walks are amazing opportunities for these kinds of lessons. Road trips often also lend themselves to long talks and important lessons.
- He used their attitudes and arguments
Attitudes and arguments often reveal the hearts of people: their expectations and fears. Of course, Jesus did this perfectly because He is perfect. (Mark 9 and Luke 9, for example). We have to ask for wisdom in these situations. If we try to teach at the wrong time, in the midst of an emotional argument, we may actually cause bigger problems. But at the right time, the lesson can be powerful. I am especially thinking of our children when they are arguing with one another. Often a teachable moment opens up during that time.
- He used their questions
Socrates was not even close to being the first to use questions to teach. Jesus used them, and even our enemy uses them. Questions make us think. They make us teachable, especially if we’re not sure of the answer. Jesus used questions to reveal true motives of those around Him. (Mark 4 and 8 are two examples). Satan uses them to play on our doubt and make us susceptible to temptation (Matthew 4, Genesis 3). We, hopefully, use them to make our children think through what they are doing and come to a better decision.
- He used analogies
Jesus used analogies to help explain important facts. He described Himself as the door, gate, bread of life, and shepherd, to name a few (John 6, 10, 14, and 21). He also referred to us as His sheep. These word pictures helped the disciples, and us, to grasp the depth of His teachings. Analogies can bring stories and lessons to life. It can cause those light-bulb moments we long for when someone truly understands what we’ve been trying to explain.
Jesus used all of these and probably others that I haven’t mentioned. And in His wisdom and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can use these too. They are effective ways to communicate the spiritual lessons we need to convey, and they will help us make disciples as Christ commanded us to do—especially when those disciples are the little humans in our families.
What examples stand out to you when you think of how Jesus taught?
Have you noted other ways Jesus taught and discipled others?
Please share in the comments. We would love to hear from you.