Tag Archives: Jesus the Teacher

Salt of the Earth

The latest issue of Bible Today, published by the Benedictines of St. John’s Abbey and edited by Fr. Donald Senior, CP is devoted to the Gospel of Matthew, which is read at Sunday Mass this year.

Matthew’s Gospel depends on Mark’s Gospel, the first of the four gospels to be written. One question the writers in Bible Today try to answer is: Why did the community represented in Matthew’s gospel look for the Good News in another form? Why didn’t they simply use what was written in Mark?

Obviously, there were needs in Matthew’s community that called for something else about Jesus to be told. Mark’s gospel sees Jesus as a powerful worker of miracles and cures. Matthew’s gospel sees him as a powerful teacher. As he begins his ministry, he goes up a mountain and gathers disciples around him and begins to teach them.

His “Sermon on the Mount” doesn’t take place in the synagogues of Galilee. In the church Matthew represents, the disciples of Jesus are being driven out of the synagogues, as the temple officials, the pharisees and other Jewish authorities have come to Galilee to reconstitute traditional Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD.

By the year 90 AD, about when Matthew is written, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth seem to be losing the battle in the villages and cities of the area to a strong smart opposition who are questioning the credentials of a carpenter from Nazareth and of a movement led by fishermen and tax-collectors.

Matthew’s gospel sees Jesus “in the chair of Moses,” on a mountainside, and his disciples are to look to him as their teacher.

“You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world,” Jesus says to these disciples. Perhaps we can hear those words directed to disciples who are questioning whether they’re in the right place as they experience diminishment and power slipping away. The old leaders are gone; their “golden age” is over.

Still, “you are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.”

Not a bad message for us today.

 

Listening to One Teacher

Mt 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,

“The scribes and the Pharisees

have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,

but do not follow their example.

For they preach but they do not practice.

They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry

and lay them on people’s shoulders,

but they will not lift a finger to move them.

All their works are performed to be seen.

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’

You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

Call no one on earth your father;

you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called ‘Master’;

you have but one master, the Christ.

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

This part of Matthew’s gospel is set in Jerusalem, far from the quiet hills of Galilee. As Jesus and his disciples come into the hostile city, they’re confronted by its leaders and therefore,  in this passage. Jesus instructs his disciples how to deal with a world that’s pitted against them.

High-ranking priests and temple authorities controlled almost everything in that city then. Later the pharisees became the leading authorities in Judaism and, anticipating the future, the evangelist sees them as the main adversaries of Jesus and his disciples.

In unfriendly Jerusalem, where he would  go to his death, Jesus tells his disciples to remember their teacher.  His message is meant for us too.

We may not live in Jerusalem under a religious elite, but we live in a society that shapes us more than we know. Our elites are of another kind–who love honors and privileges too, and like being seen. We imagine ourselves free, yet we face steady pressure from so much around us to turn from the teachings of the gospel.

“Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example,” Jesus says to his disciples in Jerusalem.  They’re not to leave the challenging world they live in; they’re to be “the light of the world.”  They’re to engage their time, but not follow its lead. They have their Teacher.

Neither should we to turn from our world. We’re to shed light on it too, and we will, if we listen to Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to turn to our one Teacher.