For further examination, let’s take a look at the Greek word for ‘teach’ used in the New Testament. The most commonly used word is “didasko.” The definition of didasko is the act of causing someone to learn. If I had two tennis balls in my hand, which of the following would best represent the definition of didasko? First, I come to you and ask you to hold out your hand. Informing you that I want to give you one of the tennis balls, I release the ball to gently roll down my hand, off my fingers and into your hand. After this I turn to your neighbor and say, “Catch this ball.” However, before he can react I throw the second ball in the opposite direction, out of his reach. Which best illustrates didasko?
The depiction using the first ball does, doesn’t it? The difference is, I prepared you in how to receive the ball — I asked you to hold out your hand. Second, I gave the reason I wanted you to hold out your hand. Then, I allowed the ball to gently roll off my hand and into yours. My actions caused you to receive the ball. It was a gentle, informative act causing you to receive the ball. Didasko — teaching is the act of causing someone to learn. The actions with the second ball may have taught something but it certainly was not didasko. Yet, I am convinced the action with the second ball represents many of the classrooms and pulpits across our nation today. We have all sorts of gathered information and we hurriedly throw it out in the classroom, usually not even in reach of our learners.
The writers of the four gospels use the word didasko to describe Jesus’ teaching. Of the eighty-four times the word teach or one of its derivatives appears in the New Testament, fifty-eight are translated from didasko. Two of these references are found in Matthew 5:19 and Mark 6:34.
“…whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in heaven.” Matthew 5:19
“And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34
In Matthew 5:19 Jesus is giving us a directive, telling us to ‘didasko’ — guide others in the learning process. The emphasis here is on the learner. Mark 6:34 is an illustration of Jesus teaching. In this verse not only does the word teach (didasko) place the emphasis on the learner, the author tells us Jesus “was moved with compassion toward them” and even gives a description of the compassion, “as sheep without a shepherd.” The entire verse demonstrates how Jesus places the emphasis on His learners. As you study Jesus’ teachings you will find He always places the emphasis on His learners. It is never on the teacher. He is always in the act of effecting changed lives.
The art of didasko has been lost somewhere in the last 2,000 years. The intent of writing this book is to help Christian educators return to didasko — teaching the way Jesus taught. In all of Jesus’ teachings He never used mass amounts of information, facts, and knowledge. His teaching approaches caused His listeners to become learners. Jesus’ teaching ministry, His life, was about changing lives. Jesus’ every move was an act of “causing others to learn.”
George Yates, Teaching That Bears Fruit