Jesus, Master Teacher—Instructional Themes

Christian Growth

There are many themes in Jesus’s teaching that are significant for teachers, including using Scripture, distinguishing the important from the trivial, recognizing the “big picture,” emphasizing service, and looking to the future.

The Role of Scripture 
In His teaching, Christ often used Scripture. He used it in a variety of ways, including to:

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  • Initiate thought. “‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’” (Luke 10:26)
  • Clarify connections. “‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone”?’” (Luke 20:17)
  • Expand concepts. “‘You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” (Matthew 5:27-28)
  • Understand the past. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:26-27)
  • Present a call to action. “‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17)

Distinguishing the Important
Christ also focused on distinguishing the essential from the trivial. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat,” He counseled, “or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes…. Seek first God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:22-31). He warned the teachers and religious leaders not to lose focus on what truly mattered (Matthew 23:23).

Recognizing the Bigger Picture
A group of Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. In His response, Jesus placed the matter of divorce in the context of God’s purpose for humanity (Mark 10:2-9). Similarly, Christ clarified that anger is a form of murder, that lust is adultery, and that one should not repay evil with evil (Matthew 5:21-44). In each instance, Christ wanted His listeners to glimpse the larger picture.

An Emphasis on Service
Through His teaching and His own life, Christ emphasized service (e.g., Matthew 23:5-12; Mark 9:33-35; John 13:12-16). Jesus reminded his disciples to serve: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

A View to the Future
While Christ did not ignore the value of the past or present, He also highlighted the significance of the future. In the gospel commission, Christ instructed, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” then added, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Walking in the footsteps of the Master Teacher, we should take care to emphasize these themes of His teaching in our classrooms.


John Wesley Taylor V, PhD, is Associate Director of Education at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He has served as teacher and educational administrator in North America, Latin America, and Asia, and in elementary, secondary, and higher education settings. He is a friend of young people and a colleague of teachers.

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