The Untaught Teacher
John 7:11-15 MKJV Then the Jews sought Him at the feast and said, Where is He? (12) And there was much murmuring among the crowd concerning Him, for some said, He is a good man; others said, No, but he deceives the crowd. (13) However, no one spoke openly of Him, because of the fear of the Jews. (14) Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (15) And the Jews marveled, saying, how does this man know letters, not being taught?
Jesus moves into an atmosphere of such hostility that He is literally “unmentionable” - However, no one spoke openly of Him, because of the fear of the Jews. Now obviously everyone at the feast was an Israelite – so the group they were afraid of was not their own Jewish race but rather the elite Judean hierarchy – who John calls “the Jews”.
“Now about the middle of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (15) And the Jews marveled, saying, How does this man know letters, not being taught?” About the middle of the feast – that is on the third or fourth day, Jesus goes up into the temple and starts teaching. He was not a learned professor – just a carpenter from Galilee, who knew His stuff” and startled the crowds so that they said, “How does this man know letters, not being taught?”
Jesus was certainly literate, could quote Deuteronomy and other Scriptures from the Greek Septuagint, and writes in the sand in John 8 - but He was not formally “lettered” or qualified in an academic sense. “The marvel was that Jesus showed Himself familiar with the literary methods of the time, which were supposed to be confined to the scholars of the popular teachers” (Westcott).
Wisdom and education do not necessarily oppose one another, but are actually independent of one another. This was brought home to me when I went to Papua New Guinea and found some very wise and godly church elders in tribal areas, with minimal education and little “formal theology” but a wonderful grasp of Christ and well-worn Bibles. Revelations through dreams and visions were so common as to be considered quite normative. They were quite literally “taught of God”. It is not a mastery of Greek verbs that makes a saint, but the ability to hear from God in the spirit.
Many an erudite person seems to have a poor marriage or goes off on foolish tangents – because their human spirit is unbalanced and they simply do not hear aright from God!
I am all in favor of a good education – and so is the Bible, but unless the spirit is right, all the education in the world will not form Christ in a human being. When the spirit is wounded or inflated, or dull or puffed up and proud, or obstinate and unbelieving no amount of education can help. Many skeptical liberal scholars, with brilliant minds, are unable to hear God correctly, because they are spiritually out-of-tune.
Jesus however was perfectly in tune with God and saw life with utter clarity and transparency. John often emphasizes this direct reception of knowledge from God via the Holy Spirit:
John 6:45 MKJV It is written in the Prophets, "And they shall all be taught of God." Therefore everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.
1 John 2:27 MKJV But the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and no lie, and as He has taught you, abide in Him.
(See also John 14:26, 1 John 2:20, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, Hebrews 8:10,11, Isaiah 28:23-29 etc.)
Jesus was not taught by man - but by God, who instructs us in the inner man, via our conscience and forms beliefs that are true within us. After Adam fell the human mind became darkened and it is only God who can bring the light that helps us to see things properly. Fallen minds reason in their fleshly self-interest and thus often oppose God and are hostile to Him. The fallen mind rationalizes far more than it reasons - and finds countless excuses for sin, greed, enmity and immorality.
People who pursue peace find the biggest obstacle to peace is in their own minds – their own fears, prejudices, excuses, wrong beliefs and insecurities. It is only as we follow Christ and listen to God that we begin to see through ourselves and our peer-group programming that is deep within us. As we are taught of God we are released from racial hatreds, envy, strife, contention and the love of money. God teaches us to have different attitudes – beatitudes! Only Christ can teach a Jew to love an Arab, or an Irish Protestant to love a Catholic.
Light is the test of true learning - and love is the test of how much light we have!
1 John 2:9-10 MKJV He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now. (10) He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no offense in him.
Those taught of God have a different attitude – an attitude of love that is without hatred, rancor and strife - while those merely taught by man are frequently argumentative and full of strife. A preacher can have a D. Min. and write academic papers but if that preacher is full of ethnic hatred, or bitter resentment, then he or she is still in darkness! Which is why Paul writes:
1 Corinthians 8:1-3 MKJV (1) But concerning the sacrifices to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. (2) And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. (3) But if any one loves God, he has been known of him.
To sum up: We need both human knowledge (of cars and computers) and also the divine attitudes and wisdom that comes from being taught by God. Knowledge without love and light can be hateful and deadly. The world needs people who are taught by God – and they will be our real teachers. The sign that someone has been taught by God is an unusual level of wisdom, love and spiritual light. Hatred is a sure sign that someone has not been taught by God - and that person is still in darkness. Thus the hostile, hateful Jewish experts of the Law were in darkness while the “unlettered” carpenter from Nazareth, who was full of love and wisdom, was the One taught by God.