by Michael Maciel
There are many ways we can learn a skill and many different types of teachers who can teach us.
If we want to learn how to play a musical instrument, for instance, we find an instructor, someone who not only knows how to play the instrument, but who is also skilled at teaching.
Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to go to a really good school, one that has teachers who are not only good, but who also have noteworthy careers. Not all of these teachers, however, are easy to get along with. Having worked hard to get to where they are, they tend not to have the patience to teach beginners. But for the more gifted students, they are the best, because they know how to get the most out of their pupils.
It’s hard to say what kind of a teacher Jesus was, but by the sayings attributed to him, especially those in the Sermon on the Mount, it’s easy to assume that his ability to teach soul development was of the highest caliber.
But just as it takes a trained ear to know the difference between a good musician and a great musician, many of the sayings of Jesus seem to the uninitiated to be be at best quaint and pious, and at worst hopelessly idealistic and even obscure.
For people who only want to learn to play a musical instrument as a way to enhance their lives and the lives of their friends, or who simply want a career, a good teacher is all they need.
But those for whom music is a calling, for whom music is an art and feels larger than they are, something they would gladly die for, only a great teacher will do. For them, music is a portal into a higher world, something that transcends ordinary life, something that will carry them not only into personal glory, but into a glory that transcends them as a person. For them, music is a way to liberate their very soul.
If we try to understand the teachings of Jesus in any way lesser than this, we will fail to catch the spirit in which they were given. They were not meant to lead us into a “good life” but into a higher life, a life that transcends the ordinary human experience. They were meant to break us open, to see past the limitations of our mind, and to carve out a wider space in which to live. They were not given to placate, but to challenge, not to bring peace, but a sword.
The teachings of Jesus are the highest spiritual teachings that have ever been given. Their depth can only be grasped at the outskirts of human life—they are not for the ordinary but for the extraordinary. Mastering them takes far more endurance and tenacity than any other art.