In my previous post I described how the Gospel of Mark emphasises Jesus’ Messianic title, “Son of God”. Yet in an unexpected move Jesus expresses his lordship through service rather than power and authority.
Matthew’s gospel takes a different approach. Matthew presents Jesus as a rabbi, or teacher.
[NOTE: The word “rabbi” reminds us of Jesus’ Jewishness. Matthew certainly didn’t have a modern 3rd grade teacher in mind when he described Jesus as a teacher. A rabbi held a specific position in Jewish society with specific expectations about how he would teach and how he would relate to his disciples and how he would interact with the broader community. Although this post and the original sermon focus on Jesus as teacher, there’s a lot to be gained by understanding Jesus as a Jewish religious teacher: a rabbi.
Looking at the big picture, Matthew uses the structure of his book to emphasize Jesus’ role as a rabbi. While Matthew relies heavily on the Gospel of Mark, he also scatters 5 of Jesus’ sermons throughout the book. The first, in chapters 5-7 sets a tone for the book. At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (7:28-29) “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew begins the Gospel by favorably contrasting the teaching of his rabbi, with the teaching of other rabbis. Jesus taught with authority.
Matthew portrays Jesus as more than simply an ethical teacher. In this gospel Jesus has a very focused message regarding the Kingdom of Heaven. In the sermon at the centre of the Gospel (chapter 13) Jesus tells a series of parables. They all relate to the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Parable of the Sower – Not everyone will respond to the “message about the kingdom” (v19) in the same way. Some will even reject it.
- Parable of the Weeds – It’s God’s job to determine kingdom membership, not ours. (It’s God’s kingdom, not ours.)
- Mustard Seed & Yeast – From small beginnings, the kingdom will grow. It’s not static. It has no boundaries.
- Hidden Treasure & Pearl – The kingdom of heaven is worth everything you have. But will you give it up?
- Parable of the Net – Diversity within the kingdom & final judgment.
So that’s two important aspects of Matthew’s view of Jesus: His role as teacher; and his message of the Kingdom.
I could go through each of these parables verse by verse. We could dialogue about the hierarchy of themes in Matthew’s gospel. I could describe various nuances of teaching by parables. But all that effort would count for naught if we don’t acknowledge Jesus as our Teacher. Until Jesus moves from being A teacher to My Teacher all other conversation is moot.
Even more urgent than recognising the validity of regarding Jesus as a rabbi or teacher, is the answer to this question, “Will I become a student of Jesus?” It’s so much easier to simply describe Jesus as a teacher than it is to make the commitment to be his student.
If the message of the parables hadn’t caught your attention, the urgency of the need to make this decision is demonstrated in the final verses of chapter 13. Here we find Jesus returning to his hometown. As he teaches there in the synagogue the people he grew up with mock him. They see him only as a carpenter’s son. Not even a carpenter, just the son of a carpenter. Certainly they don’t accept him as their teacher.
So who is Jesus to you? Think about that for a minute. Who is Jesus to you? Then ask, “If Jesus is my teacher, what sort of student am I?”
I would love for you to engage this conversation by leaving a comment addressing the question, “What is a practical implication of being a student of Jesus?”