Becoming Like Our Master and Teacher

“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.” (Matthew 10:24-25, ESV)

Several years ago, I traveled to the Middle East and spent some time in Jordan, the West Bank of Israel, and Lebanon, visiting and speaking at a few seminaries. It was my first time in these settings, and there was much for me to learn. I have lived most of my life in the USA and have enjoyed support for my involvement in ministry in churches, even from those who do not profess to be Christians. Being on pastoral staff is seen as a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. Being a professor at a seminary arouses no animosity from anyone, sometimes just curiosity. However, there are some settings in the Middle East, and other parts of the world, where being a teacher of the gospel may stir up a negative reaction, even persecution. I met several Muslim-born believers who were studying to become ministry leaders and heard their own stories of negative reactions and persecution.

In this chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, heal the sick, and carry out other demonstrations of the power of the Kingdom. In sending them out, Jesus also warns them that they may not always be well received. They may be taken to court, flogged, and delivered to the civil authorities for punishment. Jesus says that they will be hated by all for His name’s sake—not a very encouraging forecast of what is to come!

As Jesus draws this discussion to a close, He offers this observation: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is good enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” Now, by itself, this seems like a harmless enough observation. It makes sense that disciples or students should strive to learn and grow to be like their teachers, at least in ways that demonstrate they have learned what they ought to learn. I can even see how this relates to the goals of our teaching in the church. With Jesus as our teacher, we are seeking to grow to be like Him, to be transformed into the character of Christ as God works within us. This is a great goal, and I wish this is what the passage is about, but I’m afraid it is something much more challenging.

Many of my brothers and sisters in some parts of the world understand better than I do Jesus’ last statement in this passage: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” If Jesus was persecuted, and hated by some to the point that they identified Him with Satan and sought His death, we should not be surprised if we arouse a similar response when we teach and preach the same gospel of the Kingdom. Some of our brothers and sisters have experienced this and know, that in this way, they are like their teacher and master – they have received the same kind of persecution Jesus experienced. For those of us who have not yet experienced that kind of persecution, we must remind ourselves it is an inherent risk of following Christ and teaching in His name.

In my own context there are tectonic shifts taking place within our culture, and resistance is growing to some of the basic social teachings of the Christian faith. It appears that identifying as a Christian and a teacher of the Bible will increasingly be seen in a negative light. Many of these shifts are happening in areas related to sexual morality and pro-life/abortion issues, with Christians being perceived as intolerant of others, forcing their religion and its moral code on others, and creating an environment of hate for those who differ from them. We must take these perceptions seriously and demonstrate love, care, and respect for others, even as we disagree with them (see 2 Timothy 2:24-26 for Paul’s exhortation on this). We also must recognize this can be part of the cost of following Christ, and we need God’s guidance, grace, and strength to continue teaching the gospel in difficult circumstances.

You are not alone in being a teacher of the Bible. You have many brothers and sisters who share your calling to teach, your passion, and your desire to do this well. Would you please pray for those who do so in the face of persecution, that God would protect them, and give them the words they need to respond when challenged? Pray that God would be present in ways that give them courage and strength. Pray also that God would make you wise and gracious in your responses to those who object to what the Bible teaches. Being like Jesus is not always easy, and we need His transforming work within us to rise to the challenges we will face!

Father, please give me courage and strength to teach your Word in settings where it is not always welcomed and may cause others to turn against me. Please strengthen and encourage my brothers and sisters who teach the Bible in spite of persecution. May they know your comforting presence, and your protection. Help us all to be like Jesus in His commitment to obey you, no matter the cost. Thank you for the grace you give for every difficult situation. Amen.

Join the Mailing List

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Purchase the Book

Buy Now