In today’s gospel reading we see Jesus as teacher and our attention is drawn to teaching. Just as the job of a teacher is often a very difficult one today, so our Lord’s teaching job was a difficult one. His pupils, the disciples, were mostly mature men and women long past their childhood. Most of them had not had much formal schooling. They were not ideal pupils and teaching them was not always easy. There was no classroom and there was none of our modern teaching equipment and technology. The teaching of Jesus was done in the open air and subject to many distractions for the pupils. The teaching was often done, as here, while the group traveled on foot. Such obstacles were frustrating for Jesus. He sometimes expressed his frustration with his pupils, especially with their slow progress in acquiring the virtue of faith.
On this journey through Galilee with his disciples, Jesus was a teacher. He explained the things that he wanted them to learn. For the second time he predicted his coming passion and death. The disciples didn’t understand what he meant, but they were afraid to ask any questions. They probably feared that any questions they might ask would reveal their ignorance. And, of course, they did not want to be seen as ignorant by the other disciples. How little has changed over the centuries. How often have we had a teacher tell us: “If there is something you don’t understand, let me know.” And yet how often do we find that difficult because we fear to show our ignorance?
In spite of these difficulties, Jesus continued his teaching. Even without a proper classroom and equipment, and even in spite of his pupils fearing to ask questions, he kept to his task. Jesus had the characteristics of a good teacher. He excelled in patience and kept repeating the most important lessons that he wanted his disciples to learn. He also made good use of parables and stories to explain the meaning of his teaching. Gradually the disciples came to learn and understand the important lessons that Jesus wanted to teach them.
Today Jesus is still teaching us in the words of the gospel. The most important teachings of Jesus are repeated often in the gospel readings we hear at Mass. All of us are encouraged to familiarize ourselves with the teachings of Jesus through our own reading of the gospel story. Sometimes we refer to those who read the scriptures often as students of the bible. All of us can be students in this sense. The more we read about the teachings of Jesus, the better we will understand them. And as we come to better understand his teachings, we will become, like the disciples, true followers of Jesus.
By Tim Bannantine