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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Making Disciples Part 4

Master Teachers -- Rabbis

Before disciples could be made in the days of the first century, there was first a need for master teachers. These master teachers would have disciples that they would raise up to be disciples and master teachers as well. Every person in Israel was obligated to set aside time during the day and night to learn Torah, without excuse. (i.e. sick, old, feeble, lame, busy, poor, etc.) The Lord told Joshua to "meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8 Success comes by doing things God's way through obedience to His Word. Joshua was to go over God's Word again and again, day and night.

The scriptures and their life application would be passed down from the master teacher to his disciples. Jesus is the Supreme Master Teacher who came to teach pure Truth and correct the distortions of God and His Word that had infiltrated His Truth. Jesus could teach pure truth because He is Truth. He is the Eternal Word of God and will ever be the Eternal Word of God. He was in the beginning with God as the Eternal Word that created all things and called forth Light and then Life. All must also return through Him to the Father. Jesus came to earth not only to save the lost but to also teach pure Truth and remove confusion. This is why we are to follow Him as the Perfect Word of God who reveals God's character and ways, as well as the devil's.

A Jewish sage called a rabbi, which means "my master of great learning (teacher)," was known to be able to answer questions on any area of the Older Testament scriptures because he had a complete knowledge of them. Jesus who is Truth answered any question that was asked of Him. Those who heard Jesus' words that He spoke with authority were astonished at His teaching. He also had those who tried to contradict His teachings. Some Pharisees and Sadducees did this. It is important not to lump all Pharisees into one category. The Pharisees were highly honored as spiritual leaders and many had outstanding character. They were not all against Jesus and His teachings. As a matter of fact, one Pharisee warned Jesus of Herod's plot to kill Him. (see Luke 13:31) Nicodemus who conversed with Jesus in John 3 about being born again eventually protested about the unfairness of Christ's trial (John 7:50-52) and brought gifts to anoint Christ's body for burial (John 19:39-40). Gamaliel, a respected Jewish teacher of the Law under whom the Apostle Paul was taught, argued the apostles' case against the Sanhedrin Council in Acts 5:33-39. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin....and addressed them.v34 As Jesus would not be silenced by those who opposed Him, His apostles would not be silenced by them either! Gamaliel had seen that those who rose up against Jesus' leadership had failed and scattered. So, he advised the Council to set the apostles free. It was Gamaliel's opinion that if what the apostles were doing and preaching was not of God, then it will not succeed. But if it is of God, then men will not be able to stop it, and they would find themselves fighting against God. Gamaliel was a wise man!

The Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke harshly were those who taught one thing and did another. They were also those who tried to trick Him, refute His teaching and take people away from Him. Jesus' critique of the self-righteous, hypocritical, trickful Pharisees reflected their own critical spirit against Jesus and His disciples. These sat in the seat of Moses but were not humble like Moses! (Matthew 23:1-2) They placed heavy burdens on the people but didn't follow their own rules. They said one thing and did another. The Pharisees that Jesus came against were prideful and wanted to standout. They also exaggerated their piety. They liked being called Rabbi, but Jesus said that His disciples were not to call them rabbi because they had only one Master Teacher--Jesus--and they were all brothers and sisters. To these self-righteous, prideful Pharisees, Jesus pronounced seven "woes," not blessings. (Matthew 23)

As the Torah teachers of the Older Testament wanted their disciples to learn from and follow them, Jesus the Master Teacher wants His disciples to learn from Him and follow Him. Mankind, no matter how much truth they may know, will have flawed Truth. We are the finite trying to understand the Infinite Mind of God. Jesus came to show us God's character through His compassion and love, the way He lived His faith and life and through His teaching and explanation of the scriptures. A disciple (student/learner) is one who is open to change and is actively seeking to learn how to live life to its fullest potential in God's Kingdom. God operates in fullness, as did Jesus. God wants to be fully known and wants to fully bless us. In order for this to happen, we must walk in obedience to His Word because we love Him. (see John 14) Jesus' great commission to His disciples was not only to "go," "baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" and "make disciples," He also focused on "teaching obedience to all that He commanded them." Why? Faith and obedience will bring us success, to a closer walk with Him and will bless us as well as others.

A Master Teacher was a mentor whose purpose was to raise up disciples who would live out the teachings of their Master. The disciple walks with God by living out in practice the teaching of his Teacher. When Jesus called His first disciples, He said, "Come, follow Me." This would require sacrifice, full commitment, hard work and risk. They had to put Jesus and His Kingdom first in their lives, above all others including mother, father, sister, brother, children, job, etc. (see Luke 14:26) When told that His mother and brothers were outside, Jesus said in Mark 3:33-34, "Who are My mother and My brothers? Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God's will is My brother and sister and mother." Jesus did not teach His disciples one thing and then do another. Jesus was born to an earthly mother and had earthly brothers, but His true and everlasting family was His spiritual family composed of those who did His Father's will. Those sitting in a circle around Him were His disciples who were learning from Him and then applying what He taught to their lives. Disciples committed to learning from their master put this first and foremost in their lives. In days of old, it was a great honor to be chosen a disciple of a master teacher of Torah. The family and community would rally around this disciple and encourage him. The family would not be offended or feel neglected by one who had chosen to sacrifice to learn and follow an honored and respected Torah teacher.

Often a Jewish rabbi's teachings took place in an orchard or vineyard or the portico of the Temple. The Jewish rabbi would sit with his students around him. Jesus did this also. He taught in the synagogues and outside the Temple, but He also taught in open places as He walked the Land. Jesus used the things of the earth to teach supernatural truths. He might have been in or near a vineyard when He said, "I am the Vine, you are the branches." John 15:5 Jesus could have been near the Sea of Galilee where the fishermen were emptying and cleansing their nets when He spoke the parable of the Net. (Mt. 13:47-50) Perhaps a farmer was sowing seed when He told the parable of the Sower. He might have been near a wheat field when He taught about the wheat and the weeds. (Mt. 13:24-30) His disciples would have a visible image in the natural of the supernatural truth Jesus was teaching them. The Bible says that the "whole earth is full of God's glory." Why? He created it all. It is all the work of His Word (Jesus) and Hand, so it all has a Divine message from Him.

Torah is from the Hebrew verb yarah which means "to shoot at a target with force and accuracy." In other words, to hit the mark accurately and with force! It is an action verb. Yarah also means "revelation." This revelation is the revelation of the nature and character of God and how to live a spiritual life with God in its fullest measure and in a way that is pleasing to God. The Torah points to Jesus. Jesus says His disciples are to take the Kingdom by force. It is a spiritual Kingdom in a spiritual battle with the kingdom of darkness. Jesus by His shed blood gave us the power of the Holy Spirit of God and the Truth of His Word to defeat the forces of darkness.

Jesus brought the Torah alive in Him. He is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. The Jewish rabbis considered the first five books of the Bible written by Moses to be the Torah because God spoke these to Moses face-to-face. (Exodus 33:11; Dt. 34:10) The prophet greater than Moses--the Supreme Prophet of God Jesus--also spoke with God face-to-face. The Father and Jesus were united in thought, word and deed. Moses was a type and shadow of Jesus as the one with whom God spoke face-to-face, the servant-deliverer and leader of God's people, the lawgiver, the mediator and intercessor between God and His people. Moses also acted as judge over the affairs of God's people.

The Torah was the beginning of God's revelation to a chosen, small nation. This humble, nation of Israel was to be the light of the world until the real Light of the World Jesus came into the world to be its Light. Jesus expanded His grace and truth to the whole world. Jesus is the Beginning and the End and all in between! God began with the Torah spoken to man but He brought the Torah alive in Christ who is both fully God and fully Man because He is without sin. It is in allowing Jesus to put our sin to death that He comes alive fuller and in greater measure in us. Christ is the full embodiment of the Torah, the Law, Prophets and Writings. He is the Living Word in its fullness and completion. As Jesus walked the earth, He continually showed that He was fulfilling the Older Testament scriptures. He quoted the Older Testament continually, and His Jewish disciples understood that He was fulfilling them. When John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was the One, Jesus said to tell John, "the blind see, the lame walk, the sick are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." This was the fulfillment of the prophetic message of the prophet Isaiah in 35:4-6; 61:1. Jesus used Old Testament scriptures to show John the Baptist that He is the One. Keep in mind that John the Baptist and Jesus were connected Holy Spirit to Holy Spirit in their mothers' wombs. The Holy Spirit in John would testify of the Truth of Jesus' Words through scripture. It is the Word and the Holy Spirit that testifies of Jesus--from beginning to end.

Jesus fulfills all of the requirements of the Law, Prophets and Writings in all who love and serve Him also. We are under grace and truth through Jesus Christ, not Law. The Law could make no one spiritually alive. The Law could cover sin but not take it away. Where there is sin, there is death not life! The Law actually brought death because mankind could not live up to its holy standards. The Law must remain on earth until every jot and tittle has been fulfilled. Jesus has partially fulfilled the requirements of the Law, but still has some to complete when He comes again to finish the restoration of all things to its holiness as it was in the beginning. Jesus did live up to the holy standards of the Law and prophets because He is God. Jesus didn't cancel the Law and the Prophets, He fulfilled them. To fulfill means to "satisfy" or "carry into effect, as a promise." Jesus is all of the promises of God in fullness. They are all "yea and amen" in Him. Jesus preserved, maintained and obeyed perfectly the will of God revealed in shadow and type in the Torah. Only Jesus can make anyone or anything spiritually alive because He is the Eternal Word who is alive forevermore. Even the Older Testament saints couldn't come into the spiritual realm eternally until Jesus was resurrected and ascended to the Father. The Older Testament saints followed Jesus as He ascended to the Father in His resurrection.

Jesus perfectly showed us the character and will of God. The Law came alive in Him! He is the Law brought to life. Fulfill also means to "perform as a duty." Jesus did this for His Heavenly Father and for us. Our righteousness is in Him not in doing the Law. He did it for us. There was a measure of grace in the Law and the Prophets, but the fullness of grace and truth came through God's Son Jesus. Because the Law is alive in Christ, when we have faith in Christ we have also obeyed the Law fully in Him. Jesus said at the cross, "It is finished." The blood of Jesus is the only way to the Father. He took away the penalty of the Law for disobedience by His death.

The Torah, Law and Prophets should be taught showing Jesus in all of them. God used the Older Testament scriptures to paint a picture of His redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. All truth must be taught to lead all to Jesus, the Author (Beginning) and Finisher (End) of of our faith. Jesus brought the Torah to its greatest expression in Him. Because Jesus is the Word from beginning to end, He knew the purpose of the Torah. Jesus brought the Torah to an even higher standard. "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Mt. 5:20

Jesus taught His disciples similar to that of the Jewish Rabbis of biblical times.

Jesus' disciples were to:
1. "Come, follow Him." Mt. 4:19
2. Must conduct themselves like a disciple who "hears these words of mine and does them." Mt.7:24
3. Learn by observation and follow the example of their Master Jesus. Mt. 16:24-28
4. Learn by working alongside of Jesus as an apprentice hearing and obeying. Mt. 10:1-4; Mk. 3:13-19
5. Be sent on assignment and report back to Jesus what they had done. This must be done also with the Pastor and leader of His Church. Mt. 10:5-25; Lk. 10:1-20
6. Disciples are accountable to their Master's supervision as well as God's chosen leaders of His Body. Jesus evaluated the work of His disciples and encouraged them to achieve a more meaningful spiritual life by seeking first the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 6:33
7. Jesus loved His disciples and was patient with them as He taught them His ways. When they erred, He called the evil one to account recognizing who had tricked them. Satan wants to undo God's work and turn people away from God. (see Luke 22:31; Mt. 4:10; Mt. 16:33; Luke 22:3 ) Jesus wants to draw us closer to Him and take us higher.

Jesus wants those He has taught to raise up others who will also be "fishers of men." Mt. 4:19

May we all with unveiled faces come before Our Master with love and a desire to be all that He desires for us through obedience to His Father's Word and Will so people will be drawn to Jesus for salvation and eternal life.

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