“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,”The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” ( Matthew 23:1 – 4)
It is good to know, at least, that the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time did teach the congregates how to live a religious life – even if they did not live out the example. I guess that only makes them semi-politicians. Jesus said by contrast that his burden is light and his yoke is easy. That says to me that Jesus goes one, if not more. “better” than the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish clerics. I was thinking about that concept today, that Jesus said his way is easy. I have in the past (not as much now) supervised others and been called their “boss”. I have always tried to make my employee’s burdens light and easy. I have never stint in saying how much I appreciate their good work. I once looked up the word “politics” and it basically means the “affairs of the city” or of a group of people. When did the concept of politics go so astray?
“They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.” (Verses 5 – 7)
Now that does sound pretty political, the way it is practiced in our modern times. But be aware, beloved reader, that not all politicians are like that. I will not note here those who practice the original concept of politics. But I invite you to name for yourselves who those worthy individuals might be.
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father–the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Our modern English does not do these verses justice; the words “Rabbi”, “Father”, and “Instructor” are not just nouns but honorifics that denote Someone with authority. Of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time there may have been no one who was deserving of such an honorific. Again, beloved reader, you may know some that are – in the tradition of leaders that the Apostle Paul talks about.
“The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Verses 11 – 12)
The dividing point in time may well have been the coming of the Holy Presence. With that Presence of the Divine came the imbuing of leadership that reflect Jesus Christ & the Lord God, and reliably pointed the way to the Lord God & Jesus Christ, and leaders that lived out the traits of the authentic Christian life.
We may use the terms rabbi, father, and instructor in our day to day parlance, just as we use the term politics to talk about the decision making policy that countries use. But let us not forget that these terms are a reflection, and only a reflection, of the shalom that the Divine envisions humanity living in. Until that time let us use the terms carefully, apply them carefully, and make decision carefully of who and what systems are worthy of the names. Shalom & Selah!