United Church of God

Letter From William Bradford - August 25, 2023

Letter From William Bradford

August 25, 2023

Jesus Christ's Teaching Approach

In the Spokesman's Clubs this year, our theme was the Parables of Jesus Christ, and the understanding of the Kingdom of God contained in them. Jesus used parables to teach his disciples about aspects of the Kingdom of God that he wanted them to understand as he preached the good news of the Kingdom to come.

And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  (Matt 13:10-11, NKJV)

We can gain insights into the Kingdom of God by analyzing these parables as they were recorded in groupings. As we reflect on the teaching methods Jesus used with his disciples at that time, we can gain insights into the way He teaches modern-day disciples about the Kingdom as well.

The first grouping of parables are the seven parables in Matthew chapter 13, which Jesus presented during his earlier ministry in Galilee. These parables serve as building blocks for understanding the Kingdom of God, including the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Tares and Wheat, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Parable of the Leaven, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, and the Parable of the Net Cast into the Sea.  

Together, these seven parables present themes about how people learn about and respond to the message of the Kingdom as well as how the Kingdom of God will expand over time. These parables introduced the original disciples to key concepts about the Kingdom of God and are also instructive for us today.  

Later, while in Capernaum, when Jesus sensed that His disciples were ready to understand deeper concepts, He presented teachings and parables about relationships to expand their understanding of the Kingdom.  We see this grouping of teachings recorded in Matthew 18 and they include Becoming Like Little Children, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, Going to Your Brother, and the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. These lessons taught an approach to interpersonal relationships that added to the disciple's understanding of the Kingdom of God.

Still later, recorded in Matthew 24 and 25 is Jesus' response when asked about His second coming to establish the Kingdom. Jesus then taught them about how to prepare, grow, and be ready upon Christ's return to enter the Kingdom.  These teachings include the Parable of the Fig Tree, the Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servant, the Parable of Wise and Foolish Virgins, the Parable of the Talents, and Sheep and Goats Separated.

When we step back, we can see that Jesus presented understanding to his disciples in a sequence and in the order that best allowed them to grasp the lessons He was teaching about the Kingdom of God. 

When we consider our own spiritual development, we can see that God also imparts to us understanding at the right time when we are able to absorb the lesson effectively.  Successful teachers structure their lesson plans to address the student's current level of understanding, and then provide the next set of concepts that will stretch the student's comprehension just enough to allow the student to grasp deeper understanding.   In this context, we can appreciate John 13:13.

 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. (John 13:13, NKJV)

Jesus Christ effectively taught his disciples through a set of organized and increasingly deep teaching lessons filled with memorable parables. Reflecting on this can prompt us to consider what lessons Christ is teaching us now.  Are our minds and hearts receptive to the Teacher, through the power of God's Spirit, to understand more about the Kingdom of God, including how people learn about and respond to the message of the Kingdom, what relationships will be like in the Kingdom and how we can grow and be ready for Christ's return?  In this light, Peter's final words are always meaningful as they encourage us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As Paul expressed in Romans 15, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NKJV)