Like Master, Like Servant
Ordinary 12 Year A
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Matthew 10: 24 — 33
Our Lord has been inducting His chosen twelve disciples and preparing them as His apostles, His ambassadors, who will be empowered to deliver His message wherever they are dispatched. Our reading opens during a briefing from Jesus advising they had better get used to the idea that all is not going to be a bed of roses. What we are dropping in on, is not quite a “boot camp”, but there is certainly some straight talking. There are three great fears they will have to confront. This is how they are to deal with them. Of course the same thinking is for us to apply.
Some Reflections on Our Text
First Fear: You will be looked upon as trash!
(Fear of ridicule and of not being listened to.)
Verses 24 and 25
No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master. If they have
called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more
those of his household!
Jesus opens with some common and appealing logic based on one of his favourite Jewish proverbs:
“It is enough for the servant to be like his master”.
One of the great teachers of the spiritual life was St. Benedict in the 5th and 6th centuries. He was also a significant conduit of Hebrew culture and thinking into Christianity. In his Rule he wrote:
“Speaking and teaching are the master’s tasks; the disciple is
to be silent and listen.”
This echoes our Lord’s advice in verse 24. It also contains the commandment of God given at the Transfiguration of Jesus:
“This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased:
listen to him.” (Matthew 17: 5b)
This is what St. Benedict was pointing to: “Be listening — stay listening to Him, at all times”.
Everyone agrees that the learner is a lesser scholar than his teacher, just as a servant has less authority than his employer or owner. Therefore, implies Jesus, His followers cannot expect to be exempt from the persecution and disrespect which He receives.
“I am the head of this little schola, my school of learners. If the authorities have labelled me by calling me Beelzebul, a satanic influence, they are even more likely to insult you, my followers. Don’t be surprised when it happens”.
In this way our Lord prepares His devotees for possibly the most difficult charge any follower of His will face.
Beelzebul (from Baalzebul, the dung god) was, among other distasteful things, the Lord of Idolatry: the worst devil, and the worst thing imaginable. They called him the prince of devils because idolatry is the prince (or chief) of wickedness.
By implication, Jesus was seen as a kind of whore of religion, the chief promoter of apostate religion, of utterly decadent idolatry. His disciples were therefore heading for rough waters as they would be seen by senior religious authorities as freely choosing to follow the devil incarnate.
Modern Christians need not be too hasty to condemn the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. There are well known Christian bodies who frequently, and just as viciously, ascribe certain other Christian Churches with odious titles associated with satanic inspiration. In this respect, little has changed: but we had better get our act together, the way things are heading in these perilous times.
“Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed
that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.
“So do not be afraid of them”, says Jesus, in another of His favorite sayings. “The truth will eventually emerge for all to see, even though now, that may seem impossible. You may think your teaching is so hidden and unnoticed that it will have no impact, but if you persevere, the Gospel will shine forth,” explains Jesus. “So you do not need to have any fear about your effectiveness. Leave that to me. Just make sure you don’t give up proclaiming the Gospel on account of others.”
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
In a traditional rabbinic mode of expression, our Lord explains that His private teaching to His close disciples is to be proclaimed openly, taking advantage of whatever means are available in any time or place. He is, of course, emphasising the imaginative use of opportunities and means of proclamation, as they become available. He is not advocating crude evangelism where the people have “religion rammed down their throats”. He is encouraging His followers to be creative and energetic.
Our Lord’s intention in Verses 25 — 27 is not to put the disciples “in their place” as inferior. Rather He is pointing to a critically essential frame of mind they must always keep: they must continually focus their listening on the Master, on the Word of God — Christ Jesus. That will be their chief protection from the unceasing barrage of insults, humiliations, ridicule and attempts to neutralise the Lord’s message. Jesus is equipping His followers to avoid giving any room to self-doubt, which will never overcome them if they faithfully look to Him as their Teacher. They are to persist in listening to Him in their hearts and proclaiming Him in their speech and actions. Nothing! Absolutely nothing can destroy the joy, intimacy and ecstasy of beholding the Word of God in our heart.
Second Fear: You are in for a hard time!
(Fear of what others can do.)
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot
kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Now Jesus gives His second reason for not fearing what others can do to one’s witness. The worst they can do, explains Jesus, does not match the worst God can do. “You should be more afraid to disobey God, who through me is commanding you to preach the Gospel, than to be put to death by persecutors”.
Verses 29 — 31
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of
them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Jesus further reinforces his teaching that they are not to be afraid, drawing again on rabbinic style.
“Is not God’s providence so all-encompassing that just as not a single sparrow falls to the ground without God allowing it; therefore nothing will happen to you unless God permits it! So, do not be afraid. Each little sparrow is very valuable in God’s eyes, and you are even more valuable“.
We have much to learn about the mysterious form of God’s care for His creation, which is not based on human logic.
We are now in the thick of head-on rabbinic teaching, which is not for the faint-hearted! “I may well be worth more than ‘many sparrows’, but what is the Lord going to let me experience?”
The Christians of the early centuries following our Lord’s ministry were amazingly full of the zeal and courage displayed by Jesus Himself.
In the year C.E. 258, the Emperor Valerian, whilst away at war with the Persians, sent a very specific command back to Rome:
“Episcopi et presbyteriet diacones incontinenti animadvertantur!”
“All bishops, priests and deacons are to be put to death immediately!”
The command was very effectively carried out with indescribable brutality and sheer cruelty. As with the many previous savage persecutions, the Bishop of Rome, Pope Sixtus II, and his presbyters were the first to go. As they were tortured and then executed, authority to administer the Church there was passed down, until it came to the Deacon, Lawrence, who was the last known living cleric in the city.
On the 10th August of that year, the Governor commanded the Deacon Lawrence to appear before him for execution, and to bring all the money and valuables placed in his care after more senior clergy had been executed.
Lawrence duly appeared as required; but unexpectedly, empty-handed. However, he had brought with him a large number of people: crippled, disfigured, maimed and disabled, and declared before the court: “Everything has been spent on these poor people, and others like them. These are the treasure of the Church! There is nothing else left to hand over to you.”
In the frenzy, the Governor ordered Lawrence to be cast into an iron cage and held above a fire until he expired. To the chagrin of his executors, Lawrence called out as one side of him was charred: “Why don’t you turn me over and roast the other side!” To add to their fury, he taunted his executors with comments such as, “Step up the heat and do your worst!”
Even they could hardly believe their ears, and asked, “How can anyone suffer like this and ask for more?” When later relating this story, the Christian onlookers simply commented, “The warmth of the love of Christ in Lawrence’s heart was far greater than the heat of any fire the persecutors could build.” This remained an inspiration for many Christians who died for Christ, especially during the intense persecutions after the death of the Emperor Constantine, when Rome again became ruled by cruel pagan emperors determined to destroy Christianity by any means.
Third Fear: You will be tortured until you deny me!
(Fear of what you think you may not be able to resist.)
Verse 32 — 33
Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will
acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others, I will deny
before my heavenly Father.
The apostles were well aware of the probability that they would be identified as disciples of this young upstart of a rabbi, who was Orthodox, but unorthodox! In this couplet of two verses, Jesus may seem to be harsh and unrealistic. However, we will not get the gist of what He is saying unless we perceive His rabbinic mode of expression. He is applying a kind of reverse form of logic. The negative element is designed to magnify the supreme beauty of the positive.
To “acknowledge,” as in verse 32, is not just to answer, “Yes”, if asked, “Are you a follower of Yeshua”? Rather the Word “acknowledge” sums up the whole of your witness that Jesus is Messiah. You acknowledge Jesus Messiah in the way you speak, act, pray, work, nurture, help, uplift, reverence, and reflect the graciousness of God. If you fail to do all these, and have no regrets, then — and only then — you deny the presence of Jesus Christ in your life. If that is the case you prohibit the Lord Jesus from presenting you before God as one of His own.
But if you earnestly try to reflect these Christ-like virtues, even imperfectly, and with many sad failures to confess, then you can be confident the Lord Yeshua will be proud to name you before God the Father, as one of His priceless treasures!
Our Lord has been dealing with ever-present sources of fear His apostles must be ready to encounter. Each of these could cause them to hesitate to acknowledge Him “before others”. Thus He declares His ultimate reason for them to proceed with confidence and composure in the face of any opposition:
“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will
acknowledge before my heavenly Father.”
What greater honour could they hope to receive! The warning, which follows, is not so much a threat as a rabbinic way of highlighting the special honour reserved for those who choose to be faithful to the commission God gives them. The remembrance of that, persistently contemplated, will far outshine the fear of persecution for proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
Three times Jesus tells his twelve chosen apostles “Do not be afraid.” The language towards the end of this passage suggests He is widening that promise to those whom the apostles, in turn, send forth, and so on, down the line. We, therefore, who are committed members of His Church, and who earnestly seek to respond to His call and try to witness in a worthy way in our own time and space, can duly count on sharing in the blessing our Lord has for His loyal disciples. We will certainly need it, to “keep on keeping on,” in a rapidly disintegrating culture. Our Lord has provided for every need and we can share in the confidence He imparts to those who enlist in His service.
It would be easy to view this reading as somewhat brusque and matter of fact, and even leave us feeling a little chilled and remote. It may help us to view it as a kind of synopsis, the contents page of a longer, verbal teaching session. The Apostles were not fragile little flowers — at least our Lord didn’t treat them as such. They needed to be raised to a high level of spiritual fitness and toughness — and so do we all in our precarious times. But we also need to remember that our Lord, even in this passage, was strengthening His relationship with these future leaders with His own warmth and insistent lovingkindness — but He does so in traditional rabbinic style. When this is understood, our passage becomes a radiant affirmation of these great Apostles, who know how to interpret the Master’s teaching, and who thrive on it. We can be confident, therefore, that our reflection on His Holy Word will engender in us the same spiritual response of warmth, resilience and faithful service.
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Agape Bible Study — Ordinary 12 ― Year A
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Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
Like Master, Like Servant
Ordinary 12 Year A St. Matthew 10: 24 to 33
1. First Fear: We will be looked down upon as trash — out-dated, behind the times
Our Lord was seen as too radical — not respectful of tradition. This was totally
2. Second Fear: Torture, extreme cruelty towards Christian women, men and their
3. Third Fear: Most of us wince when we picture ourselves confronted by cruel
Let us pray for one another that whatever happens to us between now and then, we may all be reunited in Heaven as we take our place in the Household of God for all eternity.
Matthew 10: 24 — 33
Ordinary 12 Sunday Year A
24 No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.
25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the
26 “Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not
27 What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear
28 And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to
30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
31 So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 (14) Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge
33 But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly
(12)  Beelzebul: see ⇒ Matthew 9:34 for the charge linking Jesus with “the prince of demons,” who is named Beelzebul in ⇒ Matthew 12:24. The meaning of the name is uncertain; possibly, “lord of the house.”
(13)  The concealed and secret coming of the kingdom is to be proclaimed by them, and no fear must be allowed to deter them from that proclamation.
(14) [32-33] In the Q parallel # (⇒ Luke 12:8-9), the Son of Man will acknowledge those who have acknowledged Jesus, and those who deny him will be denied (by the Son of Man) before the angels of God at the judgment. Here Jesus and the Son of Man are identified, and the acknowledgment or denial will be before his heavenly Father.
Note: # Q parallel — from the word “quelle” = source. Reference to the “Q” Source means the evangelists were possibly drawing from the same source of material. Thus their texts appear as parallel.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition