Contagious Enthusiasm

**It is Mary who has chosen the better part** (Luke 10:22).
Genesis 18:1-10; Psalms 15:2-5; Colassians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42


A nervous young man was about to set forth on his first date …

Fearful that he would falter in making conversation with the young lady, he sought the advice of a teacher he regarded as “all knowing.” The teacher suggested that if he couldn’t think of anything to say, he should resort to three categories, in the following order: food, family, and philosophy. The young man was not with his date very long before he became tongue-tied. Then he remembered his teacher’s counsel. “Food!” he said to himself, and asked the young lady, “How do you like your popcorn, buttered or unbuttered.” “I hate popcorn,” she replied curtly. Then the young man thought of “family,” the second category. “How’s your sister?” he inquired. “I don’t have a sister,” she answered flatly. Desperate now, the young man thought of “philosophy,” the third and last resort. “If you did have a sister,” he asked, “how do you think she’d like her popcorn?” “Take me home!” the girl replied.

The youth’s reliance on his teacher as a source of infinite knowledge was somewhat shaken that day.

What do we expect of the “ideal teacher?” A leading educator,1 once set down five major qualifications for a good teacher:

1. A good teacher must have contagious enthusiasm for the subject being taught.
2. A good teacher must regard teaching as a joy.
3. A good teacher must have a passionate interest in students and their development.
4. A good teacher must know enough about the subject being taught to stimulate the students to great effort.
5. A good teacher must possess the teaching skills necessary to relate successfully to the students.

The four Gospels portray Jesus at work in many capacities. He heals; He comforts; He fishes with the Apostles; He prepares dinner for the crowds and breakfast for the Apostles; He casts out demons; He reads the Scriptures at synagogue services; He carries a Cross.

The Gospels also describe Jesus’ engagement in many non-working capacities, such as visiting friends, dining out, attending a wedding reception, spending time with little children, taking a boat ride. But whether He is at work or at leisure, whether He is in the formal atmosphere of the synagogue or in the informal atmosphere of a roadside encounter with a stranger, invariably He transforms the event into a teaching situation.

In Jesus’ time, the term “Rabbi” was an honorable form of address to an outstanding teacher. It meant, literally, “My Great One” and, in the Gospels, it is used almost exclusively as a title for Jesus.

If we should presume to use that leading educator’s criteria as a measure of Jesus’ performance as a teacher, He would receive high marks indeed.

Clearly, Peter and the others discovered His enthusiasm to be highly contagious, to the point that when He said “Follow Me,” they followed.

Clearly, Jesus expressed the joy He experienced in the company of His pupils when He prayed to the Father in these words: “I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me … that they may share My joy completely” (Jn. 17:6,13).

Clearly, Jesus manifested a passionate interest in His pupils. Thus He prayed to the Father, “I have given them the glory You gave Me … so that Your Love for Me may live in them, and I may live in them.”

Clearly, Jesus knew His subject well enough to stimulate His pupils to great effort. Listen to Luke’s account of the crowd’s response to Peter’s first preaching effort: “When they heard this, they were deeply shaken … Those who accepted his message were baptized; some three thousand were added that day” (Acts 2:37,41).

Clearly, Jesus possessed the teaching skills necessary to relate successfully to His pupils. When the Pharisee, Nicodemus, came to Him secretly in the night in search of answers to the mystery of life, he addressed Jesus in this manner: “Rabbi, we know You are a teacher come from God, for no man can perform signs as You perform unless God is with him” (Jn. 3:2).

Through the Ages, even those who do not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, recognize Him as one of the world’s great teachers. But for those who do accept Him as Lord and Savior, Jesus is not just teacher par excellence, He is the Course.

For those who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, He not only teaches the Word of God, He is the Word of God. In giving us the Course on the “Mystery of Life,” Jesus gives Himself. He is not merely the “Enlightener,” He is the Light.

What Jesus teaches us to be, He is. We read from the First Epistle of John,

The way we can be sure we are in union with Him is for the man who claims to abide in Him to conduct himself just as He did. (I Jn. 1:5-6).

Sincere Christians know that his or her deep commitment means more than the mere acceptance of the teachings of the world’s greatest teacher.

Sincere Christians know that the “Rabbi” Himself dwells within them; that their own full life experience — whether at work or at leisure — has been transformed into a teaching situation.

Sincere Christians know that because the Light of the World is in them, the world is enlightened through them; because they are possessed of the “Way the Truth and the Life,” they must reveal it; because they share in the Kingdom of Love with their Lord and Savior, they must share it with others.

May we be recognized as Christians for our contagious enthusiasm, for the spirit of joy in our hearts, for our passionate interest in the welfare of all our brothers and sisters, for our outstanding skill in relating lovingly to one another!

May we, through our living example, faithfully proclaim the Lord’s Kingdom of Love!

In today’s Gospel Lesson, Luke tells us that “Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him to her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His words” (Lk. 10:38-39). Meanwhile, Martha had given her full attention to “all the details of hospitality.” Here is the picture, then: Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, intent on hearing everything this very special Guest had to say; Martha was busy fussing and fixing and straightening and preparing and, consequently, heard nothing Jesus was saying. And Martha left no doubt about her opinion on whether her activity or Mary’s should have taken first priority. She took her case to Jesus, saying, “Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me to do the household tasks all alone? Tell her to help me” (Lk. 10:40). And it must have been something of a shock to Martha when she heard Jesus’ answer: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is required. Mary has chosen the better part.

In a 16th century play, a major character named Friar Bacon creates a huge head of brass, designed to answer any question on any subject, past, present and future. The all-knowing brass head represents one of man’s earliest dreams of a teaching machine — a computer that could be programmed to provide us with easy answers to our most troublesome questions.

This is not unlike the child’s early trust in parents and teachers as sources of complete knowledge. The young lad who asked his father, “Dad, is God stronger than Superman?” was not being frivolous. It was the thorniest question on his mind that day, and he just knew that Dad would have the answer because Dad had all the answers.

Listen to Jesus and He will teach you all you need to know about who you are, and why you are, and where God wants you to be going with your life!

Go, therefore with contagious enthusiasm and heartfelt joy, teaching others to love one another as Jesus has taught you.

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