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On your Mark

The teacher

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. (Mark 4:1, NIV)

This is the first time Mark begins to record formal teaching by Jesus. All the teaching in the first three chapters has resulted from activities related to miracles, dialog or controversy.

Jesus, to this point, has taught by actions: calling disciples, driving out evil spirits, healing on the Sabbath, praying in a solitary place, healing, and confronting opposition. All this also constitutes teaching.

Jesus’ method of teaching by actions and example tells us that we, as His disciples, should regard every moment in our lives as a potential learning or teaching opportunity. Teaching is not limited to those occasions when we have a prepared talk to give.

This poem by Edgar Guest best expresses teaching through what we do:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,

Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;

And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,

For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done,

I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run;

The lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;

For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,

But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

There is also a time for more formalized and structured teaching. Jesus doesn’t have a church or synagogue in which to give His message; so the prow of a boat becomes His pulpit; the water, His natural amplification; and vast crowds on the shore, His audience.

Of course, the crowds do not yet understand His mission. That’s why He begins to teach in a more formal way. During His ministry, the crowds didn’t quite “get it.” They didn’t understand that the Kingdom He was bringing was internal and not external, spiritual and not political. But Jesus never chastised or harangued the crowds. He never railed on them for being “shallow.” Instead He constantly had compassion on them.

He has compassion on us as well. What He taught that day may not have been understood at the time, but after His death and resurrection it would become very plain. Perhaps you do not understand everything that God is doing in your life — but stay with Him. You’ll discover the meaning and purpose.

We couldn’t be on the shore that day with Jesus. Wouldn’t you love to have been in that crowd? There were always crowds around Jesus (Mark 1:33,45; 2:2-5,13; 3:7-9,20,32). But there is a crowd we can join — in that day when there will be a multitude around Him that no man can number (Revelation 7:9)! Whatever you do, don’t miss that gathering!

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, teach me to be a living example by word and deed so that I always reflect what You would say and do.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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