Luke 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to be a straight A student. I was not! I consistently fell short by a point or two. Sometimes I flat out failed. Ugh! This desire for perfection plaques me to this day. Even in nursing school, the sight of red bleeding all over my papers was enough to give me heart palpitations. I have been looking for the proverbial “key of knowledge.” Could it be Jesus told us what it is?
Lawyers. Bless them they get a bad rap. A few greedy, accident chasers give them all a bad name. Seems this has been a problem from antiquity. Let’s see if I can use this key and discover all Jesus was saying.
Lawyers in scripture were the Pharisees and Sadducees: The “teachers of the law” (Luke 5:17). These were the leaders of the Jewish faith. Religious leaders. Not lawyers like we think of. Woe, is a word that means great distress, sorrow or grief. Jesus is expressing His great distress for rather than giving knowledge, helping the student gain understanding these learned men were “locking it up.” “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16-17). So, instead of giving the “revealed word of God to the people and helping them live a life pleasing to God “they were living self-righteous and self indulgent lives.” (quote from David Platt)
The Holy Spirit had not yet been given to the individual and these men were entrusted to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” to the masses. The masses were the “children of God” and these children were suffering from lack of knowledge. Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
I taught swimming for many years. It is the best life insurance policy you can buy for a child or adult. Swimming lessons are best taught step by step. I am not a fan of “water babies” or “throw them in the deep end.” Many a child has drowned by someone thinking it would be fun to throw a non-swimmer in the pool or overboard. As a swimming instructor, I was entrusted with the lives of hundreds of children and adults. The first time they entered the water, they were often frightened to the point of tears. Understandably so. It is a foreign environment and the teacher is unknown. All control is lost until the skills are mastered. My main job was to instill courage to try: To attempt what seemed impossible.
One year, a little boy came to me. He was painfully shy. He did not trust me at all. Why should he? He had never met me before and his parents brought him and left him with a “perfect stranger.” To him I was “stranger danger.” Day after day he came and our progress was nil. I pulled out every trick in my bag. No reward was going to work on this little tyke. About the last two days of lessons each summer he had BEGUN to warm up to his person he believed was trying to kill him. After a couple of summers of this I approached his parents and asked if they would allow this child to come to swimming lessons every day for the entire summer. Nine weeks of lessons. I assured them no compensation was needed for I felt what my sweet little friend needed was time to learn to trust me and for me to move from stranger to teacher. They agreed. The dad was especially reluctant thinking it was a bit hopeless but we had nothing to lose.. Nine weeks later, I made a phone call asking my now dear friends to be sure to come for “parents day” at the pool. This was an opportunity for them to see if we had made ANY headway in their child gaining confidence in and around the water. This family had a boat and dad really wanted to take his sons fishing but mom was not keen on the idea if they could not swim. (I agree with her!)
The next day dawned warm, bright, and clear. My new little friend and I had a surprise up our sleeves for his mom and dad and I had one for him!
The class gathered, I thanked all the parents for entrusting me with their gifts from God and proceeded to put the children through a regular class. We started out blowing bubbles. Check. He put his face in the water and blew bubbles without any tears. Dad cocked his head slightly.
Next each took a turn floating face down and then rolling over onto their backs and sculling. Check. He did too. No hesitation. Then I asked all the children to swim freestyle across the pool in shallow water. Done. I looked up to see his Dad’s expression softening. I then got my guppies out of the pool and we walked to the deep end and Dad crossed his arms and had that “it will never happen expression.” One by one my little guppies crawled up on the diving board, walked out over the deep water and at my signal that I was in position and ready should they need me, they jumped into the deepest part of the pool, came up grinning and began to tread water without assistance. No spitting or sputtering or coughing. I then signaled each child to put their faces in the water, level off, and to begin swimming toward the shallow end of the pool (about 25 yards) with me swimming alongside but only for safety purposes. I made sure my hands were visible to the parents so they would know each was swimming SOLO. About halfway I would ask them to roll over and finish using back crawl.
My little timid and apprehensive student bravely did all this for the very first time! We put all his skills together that day. The smile on his face was priceless! His sense of accomplishment was huge. I hugged him and told him there was now nothing he could not do for he had learned to overcome fear.
I got out of the pool to pass out the daily bubble gum only to be met by his Dad. He came to full attention as if in front of the Commander in Chief and saluted me in front of everyone. I was stunned. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I would not have believed this if I had not seen it with my own eyes. Well done, lady!”
This child was a challenge. He required extra attention. He needed time to trust and obey. He demanded a relationship not just expectation. Of all my students, I think he taught me more about thinking outside the box.
Does he love to swim? No, but he loves me! He knows he can trust me. He knows I mean what I say. He knows I am willing to go the distance to help him do what needs to be done. He learned all he needed to learn to be able to go fishing with his Dad and he made his Dad very proud of him that day.
I had to stay in the water with him to give him courage to try. I had to lift him up until he had strength and had mastered the skills to do it alone. I had to be consistent and positive.
These “lawyers” Jesus is speaking to, forgot to not only break the “law” down into understandable pieces they forgot to get into the “water” themselves. They “hindered” those desiring to learn by failing to “swim alongside” until they grasped the concepts.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more severely than others.” (James 3:1) Not just anyone should teach swimming. If it is not your passion, for heaven’s sake, stay away from the pool! This is what Jesus was saying to the teachers of the law. Not many of you need to be doing this, because “you are really like a weight tied around their necks and you are throwing them into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
So what is the key of knowledge? The key of knowledge is JESUS! All the Scripture points to Jesus! If they were not teaching Jesus, Messiah coming, Immanuel, God with us, then they needed to not teach at all!
As I write this I am very aware I will be held accountable for every word I write. I want to stop every day!!! My former English teachers would be SHOCKED to know I do this. They bled red all over my papers. I do this for one reason only: I am a swimming instructor. I know the value of encouragement when you are frightened out of your mind. I want to encourage you in your walk of faith and lay down a stone or two of courage and understanding I have learned the hard way. It is my attempt to throw out the lifeline or swim beside you in your rough waters.
As an instructor of lifeguards, I often made them pick up weights off the bottom and swim with them for a fairly long distance. Why? To build strength and endurance to protect them!!!! I taught them how to use what they had, like clothes, as floatation devices. (Yes, they doubted I cared about them at all!) God, in His infinite mercy teaches us through difficult lessons prior to the storms of life raging loud and long. Peter got to walk on the water by trusting Jesus. Will you trust Him to be your key of knowledge? If so, get The Book out and get to studying! Study to show THYSELF approved! Today, you have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach you!
Treading with arms held high,
Dedicated to every student I ever had the honor of instructing! Knowing you are safe is all I need to know! The greatest compliment of all is you have asked me to teach your children. It is a humble grace to this heart!