George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Our Lord as a Student
How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?--Joh 7:15
He Gave the Impression of a Student
What our text implies is this, that our Lord gave the impression of a student. The Jews as they listened to Him recognized the accent of a cultured, educated man. Our Lord stood up in the temple and spoke, and whenever the Lord spoke a crowd would gather. There was something about Him that compelled attention, though nobody could say just what it was. The one question that sprang to every lip was, "Whence hath this man letters, never having learned?" He had never been at any Rabbinical school, never graduated from any university, and was evidently only a common man from the province of Galilee. Yet as they listened to Him they recognized the student, the cultivated, educated man.
Those Closest to Him Recognized His Scholarship of the scriptures
It is also a very striking thing that the nearer men got to Him the more they recognized His scholarship. It was when men were in closest contact with the Lord that they found to their cost His scholarly exactitude. There are people who, from a little distance, give the impression of admirable scholarship, but whenever you get near enough to them you are pitifully disillusioned. But nobody who came right up to Christ was ever pitifully disillusioned; what happened was that they were overcome. Think for a moment of the Rabbis. They had given their lives to the study of the Scripture. They had scorned delights, and lived laborious days, poring over the sacred word of Scripture. Yet never one of them encountered Christ but was beaten ignominiously from the field; our Master was the master of them all. "What," He would say to them, "have ye never read?" How the very question must have rankled. Never read! They had been doing nothing else since they entered the Rabbinical university. Yet the proudest scholar of them all invariably was convicted of incompetence by this strange provincial from Galilee.
His Learning Was Detected Although Not Paraded
Nor did our Lord create that deep impression by any elaborate parade of learning. All parade was abhorrent to His soul. Among the Pharisees learning was largely pedantry, with endless citation of authorities. It had passed out of touch with all reality in its meticulous exposition of the law. And over against that pharisaical pedantry, which was the despair of common people, stands the perfect simplicity of Christ. With what perfect and unfaltering ease He used to handle the most abstruse of themes! With what homely and familiar figures He would lighten what was dark! Where others stumbled, groping in the mists, lost in large polysyllabic words, our Lord moved just like a little child. The last thing the Lord ever would suggest to me is that of a man groping. There is such perfect mastery about Him, such ease of conscious and consummate power. And whenever you find anything like that, it is more than the crown and blossom of an intellect; it is the crown and blossom of a life. His intellectual processes were beautiful, because His life and character were beautiful. He says, "I come to do thy will, O God." Our modern psychology stresses will as one of the organs and avenues of knowledge, but our Master knew that long ago.
Christ Had the Courage to Be Himself
I like to notice, too, that this so perfect student had always the quiet courage to be Himself, and the quiet courage just to be oneself is one of the finest kinds of courage in the world. I have known many a young minister who might have had an admirable ministry; but then he began imitating somebody, and afterwards he might as well have stayed at home. That is one great temptation of a student, to see things through other people's eyes; to see the Bible through Dr. Moffatt's eyes or Shakespeare through the eyes of Mr. Bradley. And one of the glorious things about this student was that He never saw things through other people's eyes; He always had the courage to be Himself. Trained in the home at Nazareth, steeped in the teaching of the synagogue, with what tremendous pressure the learning of His day must have been brought to bear on Him. And His refusal to be overborne by the tradition of His time is one of the features of the Gospel story. How fresh His expositions were! How He found the truth that everyone had missed! How He swept aside accepted meanings and reached unerringly the beating heart of things. No wonder that men listening to Him found their hearts beginning to burn within them as He talked with them by the way.
His Was Not a Leisurely Learning
That leads me, lastly, to suggest that our Lord never was a leisured student. All that He won from Scripture and from nature was won in scanty intervals of toil. It is commonly supposed, from certain inferences, that Joseph died when Jesus was still young, and from the way in which He is called "the carpenter," one would take it that the shop was His. So one pictures Him, growing up to manhood, the sole support of Mary and the children, working "from morning sun till he was done." Not for Him the leisure of the morning, that golden season for the student; not for Him the "endless afternoon," nor the roomy and large hours of evening. And the marvelous thing is that when at length He went out to His public ministry, He was perfect in intellectual equipment. The world had yielded all her treasure to Him. His mind was stored with the teaching of the fields. He was a perfect swordsman with the sword of Scripture at the very outset of His ministry. And all this, garnered in the years when the daily task was arduous and long and the hours of happy leisure very few. Some of you may be just like that. You may have little leisure for the higher things. Engaged in arduous and exacting toil, your time for study may be very limited. The Master understands. His earthly experience was the same. He has not forgotten on His throne in heaven that He was once the Carpenter of Nazareth.
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