He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying Matthew 5:2
To Teach – The Greek word here is edidasken. It is actually an imperfect, active form of the verb, didasko. Why does this matter? Because the imperfect form tells us that this teaching is an on-going action. It is as if the text really said, “He opened his mouth and teaching them, saying.” Not good English grammar, but a better sense of the meaning.
So, Yeshua instructs His disciples over the course of a long time. If we think about this in our terms, like attending classes or going to Bible studies, we will also be misled. That’s because the Greek verb didasko connects us to the Hebrew verb lamad. In fact, Matthew sets up this scene as a parallel to the teaching of Moses in Deuteronomy 4:1. Lamad is not simply about classroom instruction. Most of the time instruction occurred in the process of following in the footsteps of a teacher. From the Hebrew perspective, the pupil learned nothing unless the patterns of behavior were transformed. Head knowledge alone means nothing. So, classroom instruction isn’t nearly enough to accomplish the job. Teaching and learning in the Hebrew environment means attaching myself to the way of life of the instructor.
With a moment’s reflection, we see that this is perfectly in character with God’s idea of instruction. God doesn’t give us His lessons in order for us to pass an exam about what we know. Everything God teaches is designed to change our way of living. God instructs in distinctive difference. That’s why He tells Israel not to learn the ways of the nations. We are to be different – radically different. Copying what the nations consider wisdom will take us away from God’s direction.
When a rabbi taught his disciples, his intention was always to make clear God’s instructions. The authority of the rabbi ultimately rested on Scripture. “As it is written” is the fundamental starting point for rabbinic teaching. This is as true for Yeshua as it is for Rabbi Akiva. A rabbi’s real goal is to make Scripture applicable to life now and to set the standard for practical performance of God’s commandments. Yeshua does precisely this when He illuminates the principles of the Kingdom in what we call the Beatitudes. These are standards for distinctive difference – standards that set the bar so high that most of us find them extremely difficult to maintain. But the difficulty doesn’t matter. They are Yeshua’s insights into God’s way of doing things. No matter how hard they seem to be, they are lessons worth living. And to show us that they can be applied in every day life, Yeshua fulfills these standards. Then He says, “Just follow me.”
Lamad is a life-long process. Teaching involves debate, revelation, insight, memorization and life-changing commitment. When Yeshua teaches, you can be sure that you will learn something important and practical every day for the rest of your life. The well is very deep. We are invited to draw water as often as we wish.
Topical Index: to teach, lamad, didasko, difference, Matthew 5:2