Content to Be Like the Master

Matthew 10:24-25

Audio Version

I have a poem to start us off today. It is by John Rice, from his book Poems That Preach.

I had walked life’s path with an easy tread, I had followed where comfort and pleasure led; And then by chance in a quiet place- I met my Master face to face. With station and rank and wealth for goal, Much thought for body but none for soul, I had entered to win this life’s mad race- When I met my Master face to face. I met Him and knew Him, and blushed to see That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me; And I faltered, and fell at His feet that day While my castles vanished and melted away. Melted and vanished; and in their place I saw naught else but my master’s face; And I cried alout: “Oh, make me meet To follow the marks of Thy wounded feet.” My though is now for the souls of men; I have lost my life to find it again, Ever since alone in that holy place My Master and I stood face to face.

What is so sad is that this poem’s beginning is often true of Christians. We sit in our comfortable armchairs and watch the news while Christ’s disciples are being persecuted all over the world. Am I trying to make us feel guilty about having comfortable armchairs to sit in and watch the news? No, it’s a tremendous blessing to have peace in this life, lack of persecution. However, there is a difference between recognizing that our freedom from persecution is a blessing on the one hand, and thinking or saying that such blessings are our rights.

Christ says here that it is sufficient if the disciple or student is like the teacher, or the master. The word “sufficient” implies contentment. In other words, it is sufficient for the disciple if he be like his master. It ought to be enough if we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus is drawing on the common knowledge of the day as to how disciples followed their rabbi. A student usually chose the rabbi he wanted to be like. Then he would follow that rabbi around and learn from him. Of course, Jesus is a rabbi, although He is a little different, since He was the one who chose His disciples. His disciples did not choose Him. But they did follow Him around wherever He went. What Jesus is getting at here is that disciples want to be like their Master. Furthermore, they generally do look like their Master. I know, for instance, that I teach piano a great deal like my teacher used to teach me. I saw so much that was good to imitate, and so I do imitate him quite a bit. Imitation is one of the main ways we learn. For instance, if you see someone doing some mechanical thing on a tractor that you don’t know how to do, and you want to learn how to do it, you watch that other person do it, and then you try to do it. It is a very hands on learning kind of thing. And that is what is happening here. The disciples follow their Master around and try to imitate Him.

This is true for us as well. We are to be like our Rabbi Jesus. We are to follow in His footsteps. We are also to follow Him into suffering when the need arises. Remember that Jesus is giving us these instructions in the context of talking about suffering and persecution. Jesus has been persecuted, and He knows that His disciples are also going to be persecuted. Fortunately for us, the principle of imitation does not stop with the suffering. We also become like Him in His death, so that we will also be like Him in His glorious resurrection. This becomes gloriously true of us when we come to faith in Christ. Faith means that we follow in Christ’s footsteps. We enter with Him into the pain of Golgotha. We enter with Him into the pain of the cross and death in the tomb. But then our soul comes through the other side into glorious resurrection light. Jesus is always one step ahead of us. For now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. We will one day sit there, too. But Christ has gone there to prepare that place for us.

If the rabbi is misunderstood, then the disciples of the rabbi will be misunderstood as well. Jesus tells us this principle as encouragement: we are not going to experience anything which Jesus hasn’t gotten in a much worse way. You will remember in chapter 9 that after Jesus had finished casting out demons, the Pharisaic miracle inspector came by to pronounce that Jesus had done this deed by the power of the prince of demons. They said, “It is by the power of the prince of demons that he casts out demons.” Apart from being an absurd answer (which Jesus will demonstrate in chapter 12 by noting that if a demon casts out a demon, then the demon has shot himself in the foot. Or at least the kingdom divided against itself will not stand), it is also blasphemy. They blasphemed the Son of Man by saying, in effect, that Jesus was in cahoots with the devil. Satan is the demon that Jesus is talking about when He uses the term “Beelzebul.” The term literally means “ruler over the air.” Satan is called that in Paul’s epistles, too. So, if Jesus is being called Satanic, then we can expect to be called Satanic as well. It is interesting to note what the ancient Roman authors thought of Christians. They called them atheists, since, if they only believed in one God, they must reject all the other gods, and so they must be atheists. They also called Christians cannibals, since they ate the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. There were also rumors of incest, since Christians called each other brothers and sisters, and had “love feasts,” (which were actually only like our potluck dinners).

The fundamental misunderstanding, though, was about the nature of Christ’s kingdom. No one understood at the time that Christ’s kingdom was not of this world. It was a spiritual kingdom. Christ the Messiah did not come to free the Jews from the power of Rome. That was not His intent. His intent was to free humanity from the power of sin and death. But the way He went about doing that meant that He would be misunderstood. To this day, the Jews reject Him because He was crucified on a tree, which means that Jesus was cursed. But Paul already has answered that by saying, “Amen. He became a curse for us. The crucifixion of Jesus was in our place, and was what we deserved.” Paul turns the very point that was a problem for Jews into the greatest selling point of Christianity: Jesus became a curse so that the blessing of eternal life might be ours. That involved persecution and misunderstanding for Jesus. But the end of that process is glorification, the new body, being out of reach of persecution forever. That is true of Jesus, and it is true for us. What we too often want is to have the life of comfort followed by an eternity of comfort. That is not the life that Christ envisions for us.

When Christ says, “how much more,” He is referring to the fact that even our best efforts will be tainted with sin. So, if Jesus the sinless one could be called Beelzebul, then how much more will we, whose efforts are never perfect in this life, be called Satanic. Richard Dawkins calls Christianity Satanic, since it supposedly blinds people to the truth that we are mere animals and that there is no God. It is the same thing that has always happened to Christians. The world is not worthy of true Christians. Fortunately, there is a new heavens and a new earth that is worthy of Christians. Understand that we are only worthy in Christ, not in and of ourselves. But the truth is that the new heavens and the new earth are the answer for us. That is why we can endure hard times now. We have a better land awaiting us. Then, we will indeed meet our Master face to face, as the poem said. Only there will be no shame then. Instead, it will be the greatest joy imaginable. In fact, it will be as beyond our imagination as we will be beyond the reach of persecution.

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