October 5, 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Matthew 10:24-25.
“No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household!”
Disciple means learner or student according to the New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary. In the religious schools of the time once a student or disciple learned what knowledge the teacher or master had to impart, the student attached himself to another master or became a teacher himself. Jesus, as usual, upends the conventional way of thinking and behaving. He is the teacher, the master who cannot be superseded by the disciple, the learner. He is the source of God’s wisdom and he alone knows the mind of God. Jesus told his own disciples that they were not thinking as God thinks.
The same teaching is recorded a little more clearly in Luke 6:40: “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, will be like his teacher.” It was Jesus’ desire that his disciples, apostles and other followers, to be like him, to model his compassion and his justice, to work to bring about the kingdom of God by loving one another without limits. No one could then or now become fully like him even as confined to his human nature, but Jesus enjoined them to remain his disciples, to continue to learn from him and to follow his way.
Beelzebul was the name for the prince of demons. It’s a bit easier for me to understand this verse in the New Revised Standard Version translation, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul [prince of demons], how much more will they malign those of his household!” Jesus had just told his disciples that he was sending them out as sheep among wolves. He himself had been vilified by the scribes and Pharisees. They could expect the same and worse. In the next several verses he tells them not to be afraid because they are in the loving care of the Father.
I have been like a disciple, a learner, who has gone from one teacher to another when I think I’ve learned all I can, reading all the books he or she has written. Sometimes I even think that I am wiser. I am a continual seeker of knowledge and understanding. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as I remember that Jesus alone has the wisdom of God. I can spend the rest of my life reflecting on his gospel and never exhaust the meaning. I can and should strive with all my being to be like him but acknowledge at the same time that I can never be as good, as wise, as loving, as sacrificing as he is. And in trying to be like him I need to be prepared to suffer as he did; suffer rejection, humiliation, taunts, betrayal. If I’m not treated like that, I’m not living in his name! I’m playing it safe, too afraid to be among the wolves, too craving for acceptance to be disliked.
I need to keep in mind that Jesus has told me that it is enough for me to be like him. His is the only favor I need to seek, his is the only wisdom that I need to discern. Because as he said in verse 22: “[W]hoever endures to the end will be saved.”
P.S. I will be biking for the next several days, so I’ll be back with you on Thursday.
Your reflection that if we’re not suffering rejection, humiliation or other signs of the cross, we are playing it too safe really resonated with me. It reminds me that I must have more courage in living and speaking about the kingdom of God.