A while back it was popular in the religious world to talk about Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The emphasis has often been on the disciples’ experience. I believe the biblical emphasis is on the character of Jesus. The disciples are contemplating Him even as they encounter Him. They describe Jesus as “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Notice three reasons why He was so mighty in word before all the people.
JESUS KNEW HIS MATERIAL. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Truly His knowledge is perfect and ours is not, but there is no excuse for failing to study–both on our own and for a class we are teaching or sermon we are preaching.
JESUS KNEW HOW TO RELATE ITS MEANING EFFECTIVELY. The men journeying to Emma’s, after walking with Jesus, said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The dismal method of too many Bible classes is to essentially read and paraphrase in verse by verse fashion. Preaching can too often be disorganized in delivery or vague in message. Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV). Robertson says of “rightly handling” that it means “cutting straight…Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor?” (Vol. 4, 619). As presenters of truth, tell what it meant then and in context, and then apply it!
JESUS KNEW HOW TO MAKE THE MATERIAL LIVE IN HIS STUDENTS. Luke 24:45 says, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That is just what we are after as teachers, preachers, and proclaimers of the Word. We are not just fact-reporting. We are trying to get into the heart. Remember that Jesus sought to change lives with His teaching.
Only Jesus was the perfect teacher. But we can always be better and great. Let us mimic the Master’s approach to His material!
In March, 2006, I spent nearly an hour walking in Belleau Wood, a 200 acre tract behind the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery about 50 miles east of Paris, France, accompanied by Kathy as well as the preacher for the Eglise du Christ in Paris, Roland Mohsen. Seeing the World War I cemetery, chapel, and memorial was exciting for me, given not just my love for history but my special interest in “The Great War.” It was in those woods that the U.S. Marines made their first big impression on the whole world. At a 1923 ceremony for an American battle monument there at Belleau Wood, the Army General who led the Marines in the decisive battle against the Germans, James G. Harbord, said this: “”Now and then, a veteran … will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds” (Kozaryn, Linda. “Marines’ First Crucible: Belleau Wood.” 6/18/98. Armed Forces Press Service).
The Marines won a hard-fought victory, at great price requiring such persistence. The memorial erected on that ground has been an inspiration for countless soldiers as well as those from many nations who have stood at that spot. Now, almost 100 years after the battle, memories have faded and fewer go to that spot for inspiration despite the predictions of General Harbond.
For the last several days, I’ve been mentally devouring the sermonic masterpieces of men like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Bobby Duncan, Wendell Winkler, and others at a great audio site called preachersvault.com. Most of the men on that site have transitioned from time to eternity. My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding and motivational value found in listening. I recall the incredible blessing of attending the 1988 Faulkner University Lectureship, where brother Winkler invited men who at that time were 65 years old and older. Only 18 years old, I sat with my dad, who was also in attendance, to hear Camp, Black, Hugo McCord, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., Bob Hare, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Basil Overton, and many others. Over a quarter-century later, I still revel in the memories of those lessons.
Military memorials may begin to fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passage of time. There is great reward in taking the time to sit at the feet of seasoned students of Scripture, drawing from their deep wells of knowledge. These opportunities are not just relegated to days gone by and various media selections. Try prepared, studied Bible class teachers, guest speakers, and local preachers. Those of us in those positions need to be challenged to go deeper and make truth live more powerfully. Those of us who hear need to value this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). Won’t you reserve a few spots in your heart for heroes whose weapon is the sword of the Spirit?