Lord Up, Disciples
Jesus speaking; as recorded by Matthew:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
We must remember what we have seen thus far. If you have not read the previous missives, do so now. If you have, here is a very brief review: Matthew is going to great lengths to convince his first century Jewish followers that Jesus is the long-awaited messiah by giving them first, his history and corresponding prophecies. Second, he writes to them specific words Jesus says. Matthew was very careful with the words he chose and the way in which he demonstrates Jesus as the true Israel. We pick up where we left off–Jesus instructing his 12 disciples as he sends them out to embark on their mission. Jesus, being quite honest and practical, tells them how difficult their mission will be. He instructs them to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves because he is sending them out as sheep (prey) among wolves (predator). It reminds me of a story my good friend Yusef tells: two wolves and a sheep form a democracy, a socialist democracy as it were. Things were going great for a short time but then one evening the sheep returned from his daily activities and asked the wolves, “baaah, what should we have for dinner tonight, baaah?” To which the wolves replied, “how about lamb chops?” “Baaah, no, how about salad!” The sheep nervously exclaimed. The wolves looked toward each other, then fixed their gaze intently, lustfully at the sheep and his ample appearance and said, “alright, let’s put it to a vote.”
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. The majority will always oppress the minority. The disciples were certainly in the minority, literally 12 against a nation. Yet, listen to what Jesus tells them; “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” At first, and possibly a second and third reading, this phrase seem odd, especially within the context. But this is Jesus speaking, we therefore can start with the assumption that the phrase is perfectly placed concerning the context. Context, context, context. It’s as if I get paid to write the word, context. Look at the context. Jesus is describing how it’s going to be for the disciples, tough. But he is also comforting them and empowering them. Prior to this particular passage, Jesus says, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” And immediately following: “have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Read the passage again, or better yet, write it out, all of what Jesus says and remove the verse numbers. See it as the master speaking and not as individual verses that are able to stand alone. I think it’s time to eliminate verses from Bibles, they only lead to destruction of the original intent–to be taken as a whole.
The disciples are also given hope when Jesus tells them that they will go through all Israel. Look at all of this context. The students are not above the teacher. They never will be. Jesus is the true Israel, he is the sacrificial lamb. He is the master, the disciples are the followers. Jesus tells them this but comforts them by explaining that although they are below him, they are to be like him–a proverbial pecking order. Actually, that’s a terrible analogy. In christianity it is in reverse. The master pays the highest price. Yet in the end, he rightfully gets all the glory. The disciples are mere men, but Jesus is promising them supernatural help by explaining to them that the Spirit will speak through them, and they will accomplish their purpose–and then there’s this.
“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Let’s look at that last part again, notice: “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” If only we’d rip this fragment out of context and live by it…
Jesus tells his twelve disciples, one of whom we know is a traitor, that they will need to “Lord up.” Fear, or reverence, the Lord and use his power to proclaim to the people the truths Jesus has told them “in the dark” with a “whisper.” Even though they would be dragged into synagogues and beaten and forced to testify before kings, they are told they, while not the soul-destroying higher power, follow and use the power. Even the traitor? We’ll get to that, eventually.
Now for the extreme comfort, if they believe Jesus is telling the truth. They are 12 chosen disciples. They are more valuable than a sparrow that’s worth about 10 bucks by today’s American standards and just over a nickel in much of the rest of the world. Let me ask a question concerning the context; are our hairs numbered? Are we more valuable than many sparrows; again, according to the context?
Let me rephrase and rethink. God said to be fruitful and multiply. Dose that mean the apostle Paul was sinning by remaining single? Does the married couple that chooses not to have children sin? What about a married couple that chooses to adopt rather than procreate, is that not more noble? Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” We need to let scripture interpret scripture, to not assign to ourselves things commanded to others. If you want to be fruitful and multiply, perhaps you should also build an ark. I’m sure I am stepping on a few toes with my rhetoric, and rhetoric gets a bad wrap these days. But it’s a wonderful way to get people to think, the apostle Paul was a master of rhetoric. Remember, unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught. Another example that will step on proverbial toes but proves that one is wrong if they believe one must speak in tongues to be saved. Yes, if you believe this; first, you were taught this, you didn’t come up with it on your own. Second, you are wrong. Paul used rhetoric to change people’s minds, as do I. However he was an apostle and I’m nobody, therefore, listen to his words. “All do not speak in tongues, do they?” I’m not ripping that out of context and I encourage you to read the context because Paul uses rhetoric to change people’s minds and attitudes towards spiritual gifts. I’m not here to make friends, I am here to proclaim that, unless you are learning for yourself, you only know what you have been taught.
Does God know the number of hairs in your head? Of course he does. But the truth is we are hard pressed to use this passage as proof text on its own. For just a moment, try to unlearn everything that you have been taught and see scripture as brand new. How can one believe that speaking in tongues is required for salvation when Paul writes that all do not speak in tongues, yet also believe that we are more valuable than sparrows. Again, the Christian is much, much more valuable than many, many sparrows, that’s not the point. The point is Jesus is saying, Peter, John, Bartholomew, etc. you are worth more than sparrows, yet we automatically apply it to ourselves. Yet, when Paul writes, “ALL do not speak in tongues, do they?” Many people dismiss the “all.”
Context, context, context. All means all and you means you, and in this case you is the pronoun assingned to the 12 disciples. The Bible is literature, we must read it as it was written.
Use the caged method: Context, author’s aspirations to audience, genre, expository exegesis of examples, and divide the word. The superlative being context, the other four support the context. We suffer spirutual shipwreck when we take verses out of context. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” My favorite meme on the interwebbing reads, “So, you think Jeremiah 29:11 applies to you? Tell me again about your time in the Babylonian deportation.” It’s funny because it is true. First century followers were not promised a future or a hope, they were promised power, words and persecution from city to city. It’s time for the little guys like me to stand up to the mega church pastors promising and promoting prosperity on this planet, it’s preposterous.