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The New Teacher
Photo: Rayudu Subba
We received an odd gift that Christmas, a surprise package that arrived the first day of school rather than on Christmas Eve. Our gift was a short, muscular man dressed in dark slacks, loafers, an aloha shirt, and an ear-to-ear smile. He was sitting on the old, gray, steel Bible classroom desk, greeting each high school junior as we clumped into the room.

Our expectations were low, and our entrances even slower, since we had endured many months of “Bible” that was starched, bound, limited, forced, and unfriendly. Bible class was the period just before lunch, and we often left with indigestion. Bible was not our favorite academy class.

We sat in our “commanded” seats, wondering what had become of the old teacher and what to expect from the new guy, fearful of the worst.

“Good morning kids,” his voice was unremarkable, except in its kindness. Every word came as if filtered through his smile, each enhancing a genuine friendliness that slowly transformed our apprehensions into expectations.

“I’m Jake Duran, and the school has asked me to be your Bible teacher for the rest of this year. I’ve never been a Bible teacher; in fact, I’ve only recently graduated from the Andrews University seminary and hoped to spend my life as a youth pastor. Instead, I am a Bible teacher, and I’m going to need your help to be sure I do a good job. Any questions?”

Someone in the back raised his hand. “So, have you ever had a real job?”

“Well,” Jake’s smile was like a rising sun, “for the last few years I was a Marine Corps drill sergeant.”

That brought nervous laughter, and then silence. Jake shifted positions, and answered our unasked question.

“I don’t know much about teaching Bible classes, so I’ll just use this time each day to introduce you to my best friend, Jesus Christ.”

Our Favorite Class

The rest of that year and the next, Bible was our favorite class. Jake told stories from his own life. He turned us into a drama class, and together we gave a new life to ancient Bible stories. His drill sergeant logic gave practical meaning to doctrines, his humor kept us laughing, and his love for Jesus reformed Bible from a study of truth into a study of relationships. He taught us that judgment rhymes with hope.

Jake hauled us into the mountains for Bible conferences. He joined us at the beach for Surfer Campfires and Sunset Bible Stories. He and his wife brought incredible enchiladas to class, celebrated our birthdays, and modeled Christ-centered love before infatuated teenagers.

Jake changed our lives by giving us a new picture of God. That wasn’t what he set out to do; he was just there to “teach Bible.” But as he shared his love for Jesus and as he lived as God’s friend, he taught us to “love being loved by God.”

We left academy to become husbands and wives, moms and dads, pastors, engineers, physicians, dentists, teachers, and stockbrokers. We were all better because of Jake’s God—the God who smiles, encourages, and forgives—the God whose character is defined by Grace.

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By Dick Duerksen. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, March 2007. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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