Jesus Our Teacher

Many Jews of the time of Jesus thought the coming age, in which they would be liberated by God from subjection to non-Jewish rulers, would come only when all Jews were living by the Torah, the law of the Jewish people, which we know as the first five books of the Bible. So it was necessary to understand the Torah and teach observance of it to all male Jews. A sight to be seen wherever Jews formed a large part of the population at that time was an individual teacher of the Torah followed everywhere by his disciples.
    Jesus was a Jewish teacher of Jews, and he was, in fact, regarded, to some extent correctly, as a teacher of the Torah. Teachers were addressed with words translated “master” or “lord,” and this is part of what is behind such terms being used of Jesus in the Gospels.
    The teacher-disciple relationship was intended to make of the disciple a duplicate of the teacher both in manner of life and eventually as a teacher of others. The relationship was such that a joke was told of a Torah teacher whose disciples crept up to a window at night to see how he made love to his wife so that they could be like him in that regard as well, with their own wives. The relationship of a teacher and his students also meant that they had a reputation as a group: like teacher, so the student, as Jesus says in Luke 6:40 and Matthew 10:24-25.
    So when Jesus called particular men to “follow” him, as in Matthew 4:18-20, there could be no doubt of his meaning. They were to take on his way of life and to do so by living with him and absorbing his teachings.
    But there were differences, and the root of the differences was Jesus’ apparent claim to and exercise of authority. People were amazed by the manner in which he taught and by his healings and other miracles, and the questions they asked (“Who is  this guy?”) came down to the issue of authority  (teaching: Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32; John 7:15; miracles: Matthew 8:27; 9:33; Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36; both teaching and miracles: Matthew 13:54-56; Mark 6:2-3; Luke 4:22-23). Other teachers and religious leaders challenged his authority (as in Matthew 21:23). Some accused Jesus of evil doings or said that he was in cahoots with the devil (Matt 9:3, 34; 12:24). Others were more positive, identifying Jesus as one of the end-time figures expected by many Jews, whether a king (with the royal titles “Son of God” and “Messiah”: Matthew 14:33; 16:16; 21:9; Mark 8:29; John 1:34; 1:41; 12:13), a prophet (Matthew 16:14), or both (John 6:14-15, 68-69).
    Jesus endorsed both of these end-time answers to the question about his identity. He placed himself among the prophets (Matthew 13:57), but rejected the idea that he was one of the prophets of the Old Testament come back to earth or John the baptizer come back to life (Matthew 16:14). He claimed, rather, to be the end-time prophet described in the vision of Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet (Luke 4:17-21, quoting Isaiah 61:1-3).
    As for the royal titles, he selected a core group of twelve disciples and gave them special authority to teach and heal, their number representing their future leadership of the twelve tribes of Israel, with himself as the principal leader (Matthew 10:1-4; 19:28; Luke 6:13-16; 22:28-30). His disciples James and John asked for the privilege to sit at either side of Jesus’ future throne and thus presupposed his end-time coronation, as did his promise of reward for those who accepted him (Matthew 10:40-42; 20:21; John 12:26). When asked to silence those giving him a royal welcome into Jerusalem, Jesus responded that, if those people were quiet, the stones of the city would cry out, presumably giving him the same welcome (Luke 19:39-40). And at his trial Jesus accepted the accusation that he considered himself Messiah/Son of God/King of the Jews (Matthew 26:63-64; 27:11; John 18:33-37).
    That Jesus had either end-time identity, the final king or the final prophet meant, of course, that the end time had in some sense come, and that it had come because he had come. He confirmed this by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 and then saying “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). He called his disciples “blessed” because they were seeing and hearing what “many prophets and kings” had wanted to see and hear but had not (Luke 10:23-24). Asked “when God’s kingdom would come,” Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is not coming with observable signs, nor will people say ‘here it is!’ or ‘there!’ since God’s kingdom is in your midst”; that is, it was present already (Luke 17:20-21). He might have told the parable of the banquet (Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24) as a rebuke against those who did not recognize his ministry as the coming of the kingdom since in Luke he tells it in response to someone speaking of the blessedness of those who will eat in the banquet celebrating the coming of the kingdom (Luke 14:15).
    The upshot of this identity and authority is that, for people who acknowledge Jesus, there is no other teacher. So it made sense for Jesus to tell his disciples not to let other people call them teachers (Matthew 23:8-10). For his disciples, the authority of Jesus is over all that is in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

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