The Holy Spirit reminds us what Jesus taught… assuming we know what Jesus taught.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 September

John 14.25-26.

Most Christians figure Jesus’s students followed him three years. It might actually have been longer than that.

The idea of three years comes from the fact three Passovers get mentioned in John, Jn 2.13, 6.4, 11.55 the last one being the Passover for which he died. But just because John mentioned three particular Passovers doesn’t mean these were the only Passovers which took place during Jesus’s teaching time. Coulda been nine for all we know.

No I’m not kidding:

7 BC: Jesus was born.
24 CE: Jesus’s 30th birthday. Luke states he was ὡσεὶ/oseí, “like,” 30 when he started teaching. Lk 3.23 Didn’t say exactly 30, but let’s start from there.
33 CE: Jesus died. And woulda been about 39.

Time for some basic arithmetic. If Jesus started teaching in the year 24, and “like” just means he was a few months shy of 30, by the year 33 he’d’ve been teaching nine years. If “like” instead means he was already in his thirties; say 33… he’d’ve been teaching six years. (Still more than three.) And if “like” means he was coming up on 30, that he was actually younger than 30, like 27… he’d’ve been teaching twelve years.

Yeah. You thought Jesus was just giving these kids a two-year course in church planting. Nope. Pharisee rabbis provided young men a full secondary education. And as the best teacher ever, you know Jesus taught ’em so well they astounded the Senate, who assumed because they hadn’t been to their academies they were ἀγράμματοί/aghrámmatí, “unschooled” and ἰδιῶται/idióte, “idiots.” Ac 4.13

But one significant boost to their education—and really to every Christian’s education—is the Holy Spirit.

Yeah, Jesus’s students had listened to him speak in synagogue every Friday night. Yeah, they listened to him speak to crowds every other day of the week. Yeah, they sat in on his lessons as the people at dinner parties and every other social function decided to ask Jesus a question or two. And of course there were all those teaching moments as they hung out with him.

But how much of that stuff are you naturally gonna remember? Like really remember? Remember in detail? Remember in useful detail, like when you actually need it in real life? Well, a good teacher will help you memorize stuff by reinforcing it time and again. But for Christians we get another boost because the Holy Spirit remembers absolutely everything. And if we listen to him, as we should, he’ll remind us of everything Jesus taught us. Jesus said so.

John 14.25-26 KWL
25 While staying with you, I spoke these things to you.
26 The Assistant, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name:
This person will teach you everything, and remind you of everything I told you.”

There’s a catch though: What has Jesus told you?

Duh; it’s in your bible.

Just as we really oughta be following Jesus already if we’re gonna have the Holy Spirit come alongside us to help, we really oughta have Jesus’s teachings somewhere in our brains if we’re gonna have the Holy Spirit remind us what he said.

So if you don’t know Jesus’s teachings, read your bible. Read the gospels. Read Jesus’s teachings. Read ’em dozens of times, in as many different translations as people have made of them. Put ’em in your brain!

Done yet? No? Well, make sure you go back to it later. (And keep doing it. I keep doing it, and I’ve been Christian for decades.)

It doesn’t hurt to crack open a bible commentary or two (or ten) and get a better understanding of what Jesus meant in his teachings. There are two kinds of commentaries out there:

  1. The sort which tries to explain the historical background, and analyzes the words of the scriptures. You know, kinda like I do, only they tend to write like university bible professors… usually ’cause they’re university bible professors.
  2. The sort which is trying to promote their particular views of Christianity based on these passages. (Yeah, I admit I do this a bit, although I hope I actually provide more useful historical background than not. Whereas these guys don’t really care; if historical and grammatical context is no help to them, they deliberately skip it. And yeah, some of them are university bible professors—but only because they own the university. Other universities won’t have ’em.)

If you’re getting the idea I think you’d do best to get the first kind of commentary, good. The other kind definitely sells, but their purpose is to get you to think like the authors. The rest are trying to use hard, useful facts to nudge us closer to Jesus. But the only one who can take us all the way to Jesus himself is the Holy Spirit.

And whether or not you read commentaries, read your bible. Read what Jesus himself teaches. Read his words. Memorize them if you can. Get a good idea of what they mean—because when you quote him, you don’t wanna misinterpret him.

When I tell new Christians this, they tend to say, “Well I thought the Holy Spirit was gonna do all the work.” Nope. The Spirit helps. You’re gonna go way farther with his help than without it. But yeah, you gotta put the work in. You gotta read your bible. Because when the Spirit applies his power to your memory… well, if there’s nothing actually in your memory, he can do a lot with a little, but it’s a totally squandered opportunity. So don’t blow it! Put lots of Jesus in your brain.

The Spirit corrects us when we go wrong, so as we’re studying the scriptures and reading the commentaries, if we pay attention to the Spirit as we study, he’s occasionally gonna tell us, “Pay more attention to this part of the verse,” or “This commentator knows what she’s talking about,” or “This teaching makes more sense if you first read Leviticus,” or even bluntly, “Nope; wrong.”

One interesting thing which happens to me from time to time: As I’m meditating on a certain scripture, the Spirit will drop certain ideas into my head. Then later, as I’m reading a bible commentary about that very same scripture, I’ll discover that author brings up the very same ideas. How about that: Prophetic confirmation in an academic bible commentary. It’s as if both I and the commentator were at one point talking to the same Person, huh?

Of course, some Christians don’t read.

The obvious problem with Christianity is Christians don’t read. Don’t read their bible; definitely don’t read bible commentaries. I’ve met plenty of Christians who even turn up their noses at reading a bible commentary: “What do I need that for? I got the Holy Spirit.”

Meh. I’d expect a Spirit-led Christian to be way fruitier.

So obviously these folks don’t read their bibles, don’t read the gospels, and don’t know what Jesus teaches. Oh, they might know a few stories; might know plenty of stories. But exactly like the audiences to Jesus’s parables, they haven’t a clue what Jesus meant by any of ’em. Never thought about it. Never meditated; never will meditate, ’cause they think it’s an eastern thing and might invoke demons or something. All they know is what their pastors taught ’em… and their pastors are just as clueless.

Worse: They think they do know Jesus. ’Cause he lives in their heart, doesn’t he?

But if they knew him, they’d act like him. They’d love more. Exhibit more grace, generosity, patience, and kindness. Exhibit less rage, frustration, worry, and fear. Not just because the Holy Spirit is transforming their character, but because this is what Jesus teaches. And instead of looking at the kingdoms of this world and agitating about how things aren’t the way they want, they’re looking to the kingdom of God and praying that it come the way Jesus wants.

Jesus’s teachings and the Holy Spirit reinforce one another mightily. So if you want any of that might, you’d do well to immerse yourself in those teachings, and listen to the Holy Spirit. We don’t have Jesus living here on earth; not yet. But we can follow him just as good as if he were—by reading what he left us, and by following the very same Spirit who empowered him.