I love the story in John 9 where Jesus heals the man born blind and He does it on the Sabbath which really ticked the Jewish religious establishment. The big wigs grab this 40-year-old man who was excited about seeing for the first time and they questioned him; “Who healed you? How did he do it? Why did he do it on the Sabbath?” The man answered them as best he could but he really did not know at the time that it was Jesus who gave him sight. Then an hour or so later, the same religious Jews who questioned him the first time, catch him and start the interrogation all over which doesn’t sit well with this guy who is on a sight-seeing tour. He is happy as a lark, running here, running there, looking at this, looking at that and they grab him for a second interview and start with the same questions. He says, “Look, I have already told you once, why are you asking me again? Do you guys want to become His disciples?” When he said this, they went ballistic, “Are you kidding, you were born in complete darkness and sin and you want to teach us. Just for you smart remark, you are officially barred from the Temple. You can’t come back inside ever.“The Jewish religious leaders had contempt for the man that Jesus healed. They basically said, “You can’t teach us, the idea of you instructing us is ludicrous. We are highly educated: you are totally ignorant.” This is not what they said but it is what they implied. Before we move on to the rest of the story, let me point out that these same fellows refuse to learn from Jesus and Jesus was vastly superior to them in knowledge and the common people and some of the leaders realized that Jesus knew infinitely more than the Pharisees and Scribes. The problem was they had a prideful and unteachable spirit. My father had a 9th grade education in math but a 4th grade education is reading. He could barely read and he could not spell cat but he could do math; simple math not calculus. By the time I got to high school, I looked down on my daddy. I thought of him as an ignorant and unlearned man but he had vast knowledge and a lot more wisdom that I was willing to give him credit for. I have always been amazed at how much my daddy learned while I was in college and seminary. My father could have taught me all that he knew if I had been willing to listen and learn but I had a prideful and unteachable spirit. I didn’t pay any attention to anything he said until it was too late. It was after I had made some huge blunders that his words kept going through my mind. Then I spent a decade wondering how he knew that I was making a mistake and now I know that he had learned from experience. He had seen it all before and he was trying to save me some misery but I was too stubborn and prideful to listen. It reminds me of a story. A trucker tried to go under a railroad bridge like the one in Ardmore, Tennessee and he got the van lodged between the pavement and the concrete bridge. He thought he could make it but he needed a couple of more inches. He wedged it in so tight that he could not pull forward or go backwards. After trying for several minutes to get it dislodged, he called a wrecker. By this time he had drawn a crowd of boys who are sitting on the bank of the railroad watching in curiosity. One of the boys came down the bank and attempted to talk to the driver but he skewed him away. Kids are to be seen not heard, you know. The wrecker came and they worked for a couple of hours with no success. By this time the police and the fire department are on the scene. The little boy had tried in vain to get their attention but no one would listen to him. Finally in exasperation, the entire crew of adults sits down on the grass to take a break. The little boy came up from the back and said, “I believe if you will let some air out of the back tires, you can back it out.” No one said a word but they all knew the kid had the right idea: they let air out of the back tires and backed the truck and van from underneath the bridge. Out of the mouth of babes.
The moral of the story is simple: we can learn from anyone at any time in any circumstance if we will be open, observant and willing to be taught. There is an old proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Our problem is that we want to define the teacher and that is not our job. God may send a kid to instruct us or a carpenter. Thirty years ago, I was preaching at the local Pastor’s Conference and I noticed a pastor taking notes. I had never seen anyone takes notes while I was preaching. The thing which shocked me about this man was his superior knowledge and experience. So I asked him later, “Why were you taking notes, you know much more than I do.” He said in a polite and gentle way, “Jack, I always takes notes and I did learn something today. I appreciate your message.” So help me Hannah, I ran into this pastor 20 years later at a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. We got to talking and I said, “Bro. Mike, I bet you do not remember this but 20 years ago, I was preaching at the PC and I caught you taking notes. The image of you taking notes is still fresh in my mind.” I am not lying, he retorted immediately, “Yes, the title of your sermon was WEARY YET PURSUING.” Unbelievable, I barely remembered myself. I returned to my seat praising God for the brilliance of this man’s mind and yes, I may have been a tad covetous.Bro. Mike [Dawson] had the most unusual gift of recalling things in an instant. He has a brilliant mind and a kind and humble spirit. I admired him because he made me feel important; his humble spirit made a lasting impression on my life. He taught be a valuable lesson: learning is a process and anyone can learn from any one if he is willing to humble himself and take notes. No matter who is preaching, I take notes unless I get caught in a situation where I don’t have a paper or pen. My pastor and mentor Calvin C. Inman use to say, “I’ve never heard a message that I didn’t get something out of but I have had a few narrow escapes.” Bro. Inman was a lot like Bro. Mike. I don’t have a brilliant mind like Bro. Mike but it does not take a brilliant mind to learn, it takes a teachable spirit. I know people with brilliant minds but they are know-it-alls like the Jewish Religious leaders and are unteachable.