Many people will happily tell us that Jesus was a great teacher, a man of love whose message lives on 2000 years after he walked the earth. They retain the view of Jesus as a wonderful, gentle man who walked around teaching them about loving their neighbour. But would this make him a great teacher?
A great teacher is someone who:
If I was to try to teach you Japanese today, I would struggle. I would do a bad job of it, because I don't know how to read, pronounce, or communicate Japanese. I would be exposed as a fraud in no time. I am not a Japanese teacher, and I have no right to try to teach you Japanese. So does Jesus know what he was talking about, or was he an impostor?
If you listen to many people in society, you would think that Jesus' message is summed up in the phrase “love one another”. Yes, Jesus did say that, but to assume that was his message rather misses the point. Let me give you an example. If I were to take a guide to the law, and open it to read a random phrase, I might read “if you have food poisoning, visit your GP”. I don't doubt the wisdom and validity of this statement, but if I disregard the rest of the book, I miss the point of the law. Jesus' teaching about love, whilst being useful advice, was only part of a much wider and more significant message. Jesus was recorded to have mentioned love 10 times in total across the four gospels. Yet as we look through just Matthew's biography of Jesus, he is quoted talking about the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) on no fewer than 18 times. So Jesus' main teaching was about Heaven, what it is like and how people can get there. In fact, Jesus began his teaching in the synagogue by saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).
Well the first thing that struck people about Jesus' teaching was his authority; “They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, not as the scribes,” (Mark 1:22). Jesus obviously had authority over his subject; but isn't this inevitable, after all, as John the Baptist says, “He who comes from Heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard.” Jesus can happily teach people about Heaven because he's come from there. And Jesus can readily teach people about how they can get to Heaven, because he's actually the one who makes it possible. “In my Father's house there are many rooms…I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:2,6); “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
Jesus talked in parables to his disciples, and frequently explains his stories to those disciples. They can picture what he wants them to see and even though they may not understand immediately, we can see that Jesus' message becomes clear to them.
So it's clear that Jesus was a great teacher as he knew what he was talking about. He was talking about himself, where he was from and what he was on earth to do.
To categorise Jesus as just a great teacher is not only morally reprehensible, it is logically ridiculous. If Jesus' teachings were true, he cannot merely be a great teacher – he must be more than that! In Jesus' words about Heaven, he talks of a place he has come from and how he is going to bring access to Heaven through his death and resurrection. So if that is true, Jesus is a great teacher, but also MUST be God himself come down from Heaven to bring us to God – after all he claimed it for himself.
If Jesus is no more than a human teacher, then in the focus of his teaching, he is lying. His words are powerless and his teaching meaningless. Throughout John's gospel, Jesus is making outrageous claims about himself. Should we accept these teachings? If Jesus is no more than a teacher, then he is lying. If Jesus is lying, he is actively trying to mislead people. If he is misleading people, then please don't try to give more heed to those detestable lies by telling me to listen to him.
So here's the choice – take Jesus' teachings to be true…In which case Jesus is a great teacher, but also God himself, and the provider of access to Heaven. Or, deny Jesus' divinity and so you must disregard him as a freak and his words as the most depraved hoax of history. But don't delude yourself or patronise me, or Jesus himself, by claiming there is any middle ground.