Jesus Stayed With Vital Matters

By Dan King

Every teacher has experienced difficulty with class control at one time or another, possibly many times. Students like to get the teacher off on peripheral or incidental matters in order to avoid having to do some assignment or to slow progress so as to minimize work on their own part. Discipline on the part of the teacher is necessary to keep things on the right track. Otherwise, neither teaching nor learning will be accomplished, and the whole teaching-learning process will have broken down. A teacher must first decide what is vital, and then determine to remain with vital things. Both self and class control will be essential to assure success.

Like all teachers from time immemorial, Jesus met with pupils who wanted to divert attention from some immediate doctrine or principle which he considered essential, to something of less import. He could have chosen to spend much time and many words pursuing such incidental questions and subjects. But it would have meant that he was turning away from his high purpose to “chase his tail,” so to speak. Jesus refused to waste precious time and effort upon what was of so little consequence. When he was challenged by the Samaritan woman at Sychar about the Jewish insistence upon centralized worship in Jerusalem, he turned the challenge into an opportunity for instruction on what the Messianic reign would bring:

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither in this mountain (Gerazim), nor in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father . . . the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; the Father seeks such people to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must do so in spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24).

He refused to be led away into a debate over the legitimacy of Gerazim or Jerusalem. His kingdom would exalt neither one as primary. So, why pursue the matter at all? It was not vital, so he did not.

There was, however, an issue of more profound significance, and to this he drew attention with the words: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know; for salvation is of the Jews” (v. 22). An essential question with a Samaritan was the issue of the place of the Messiah’s origin: which people was to be his people, the Jews or the Samaritans? This was not a subject of only peripheral interest, as the following conversation shows:

“The woman said to him, `I know that Messiah is coming (he that is called Christ); when he arrives, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, `I that speak to you am he’ (vv. 25-26).

Jesus was relentless in his pursuit of the main point of their conversation. He had in mind to convince her that he was the Messiah of the Law, promise and prophecy, and would not be sidetracked away from this fundamental didactic goal. It was vital, so it was worth further exploration.

We, as teachers today, need to develop in ourselves the same relentlessness in the pursuit of our main class goals. Preparing ourselves mentally by knowing where we are going and how we intend to get there, then focusing upon attaining this ultimate target by taking the essential steps in this direction one at a time. This is the way to avoid being taken off course. Unswerving mental “focus” is in-deed the key to getting where we want to go as teachers. This we learn from Christ.

Students, help the teacher and the entire class by pre-paring your own lesson in advance and being ready for questions and discussion. But, leave off asking irrelevant questions. Ask questions and offer discussion of matters under immediate consideration. Don’t force the teacher to embarrass you by telling you that your question is more appropriate for another time and another study. Ask “off the wall” questions in private and after the class. Jesus stayed with vital matters, so you stay with vital matters! This will help everyone!

Teachers, keep your class on track. Keep them on the subject. The only way you can do that is by preparing your material adequately in advance and then coming to class and “delivering it.” If you permit yourself to be drawn off the topic of the Bible study onto extraneous and unimportant matters, you have failed as a teacher. Remember, Jesus was flexible enough to answer questions and engage in discussion which was on the subject. But he was inflexible toward the person who merely wanted to send him off onto a “wild goose chase.” Don’t permit one or two of your students to do this to your class. The whole class suffers when you do. Jesus stayed with vital matters, so you stay with vital matters! Learn this important lesson from Jesus.

Guardian of Truth XL: 10 p. 14-15
May 16, 1996