I was reading again in Matthew this morning and the first two verses really stuck out to me.
“Now when he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:”
I had somehow always thought that Jesus was teaching the crowd that had gathered. I never could quite wrap my head around that because in my mind, thousands of people are gathered around this mountainside so how could anyone at all hear Jesus? Did he have some kind of supernatural amplification? Was it a case like Pentecost where the people in Jerusalem could understand the apostles in their own language except these people could hear Jesus even from really far away? Did people pass the message back as they heard it?
Now, as I read again, Jesus isn’t teaching the crowd. He is teaching his disciples. All four of them at this time, according to Matthew: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. He is teaching a MUCH smaller crowd. So he teaches them and then what?
Matthew 7:28-29 ends the Sermon on the Mount by saying “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
I wonder, even with the way Matthew 7 is worded, if Jesus taught his disciples and then they dispersed among the crowd and taught the gathered crowd what Jesus had said? After all, if I knew that I had limited time for ministry and was depending on average, uneducated men to carry on my work when I was done, I would want to start their training early. Give them a chance to prove themselves, an opportunity to learn, teach and coach them through the difficulties they encountered.
In addition, these are some pretty radical ideas that Jesus is teaching and what better way to wrap your head around new ideas than to teach them yourself?
I remember in college helping various classmates with difficult sections of material and even if I didn’t have the best grasp on it when we started, by the time we ended, I really understood the new material. Struggling through it together, trying to explain it to someone else, getting lost or hung up on a misunderstood process and working through it, helped me to really internalize it.
That is how really great teachers teach, though, isn’t it? Or how really great leaders lead? By equipping those under them and sending them out to teach or lead others?
It is amazing to see how these little things that Jesus did equipped his disciples for the extremely challenging times that would come before them after his death and through them being able to preach, teach, and mess up while he was alive, they were all the better equipped to preach and teach on after they had no opportunities for post-preaching debriefing sessions.
So what do you think? Did Jesus teach the crowd or his disciples?