When I was counseling at a two-year college in the early 1990’s, I spoke with a student who was from Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. He was preparing to take a math entrance exam at our school, to determine which level courses were appropriate for him. He held the study booklet out to me and showed me a page filled with multiple choice questions. He asked if he had the wrong booklet, and I assured him that he had the correct study guide. He said, “In Russia, we don’t guess. We learn the math without the answers.” This was a grim reminder of why, over many years, Russian kids have performed better in math and science than kids in our nation. And as it turned out, this Ukrainian guy was a math whiz and could have taught most of our courses himself!
What if Jesus’ disciples wanted the things Jesus was teaching them to be presented in a more “student friendly” manner? So, after the Sermon on the Mount, Simon Peter might have said, “Are we supposed to know this?” And Andrew said, “Do we have to write this down?” James wanted to know if there would be a test, and Phillip didn’t have any paper. Bartholomew’s pencil was broken. John asked, “Did the other disciples have this same assignment?” Matthew needed to go to the bathroom, and Judas said, “What’s this got to do with real life, anyway?” The little children, who had been allowed to sit on Jesus’ lap during the lecture, asked when they could go for recess. A Pharisee came up and challenged Jesus to show the syllabus for His course and asked if it contained appropriate evaluation techniques, the policy on cheating, and details on how to find Jesus after class. Jesus’ mom said, “Don’t forget to make your language all-inclusive, Sweetie.”
And Jesus wept.
Holy Teacher, deliver us from complacency when we hear Your Words over and over. These are the Words of Life, and You have promised to save us from testing! Amen