A Disciple and His Rabbi

If the goal of discipleship is to become like the teacher, should we expect to be treated better than our Master was treated?

Rabbi in a first-century synogogue. (Image: credit freebibleimages.org)

To what can we compare the relationship between a first century rabbi and his disciples? Yeshua used different metaphors to describe it. He compared it to that of a shepherd and his flock. He compared it to a bridegroom and wedding guests. In one place, he compared it to a vine and branches. In Matthew 10, Yeshua expressed the relationship between a teacher and his disciples in terms of a master to a slave and a head of household to the members of a household.

Because of that close relationship, Yeshua knew that His disciples would face persecution for being identified with Him. He told His disciples that they could expect the same treatment He received:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! (Matthew 10:24-25)

This warning quotes a rabbinic axiom a rabbinic axiom about the relationship between a disciple and his teacher which explains that a true disciple endeavors to become like his teacher: “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). A disciple’s highest goal was imitation of his master, and therefore, a disciple could expect to receive the same maltreatment and difficulty that his master received.

Rabbi Yeshua compared Himself to the master of a house and his disciples to members of the household. Since people had already maligned the master of the household, the members of the household could expect the same type of defamation.

He urged His disciple not to let fear of persecution intimidate them from proclaiming His teachings:

Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. (Matthew 10:26-27)

The rabbis of that day transmitted mystical teachings as a secret, esoteric tradition. Certain mystical secrets could not be taught publicly or even in a private setting unless the teacher did so one-on-one with his disciple. Even then, the sage passing on the secret mysteries whispered his teachings to his pupil lest others overhear. Likewise, our Master taught His disciples “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:11), but He told them to fearlessly proclaim those mysteries publicly.

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