Christ's Sovereignty Over Education, Family, and Human Values
In the span of five verses, Jesus overturns three major human institutions, namely, the education system, family, and the human value system.
This is a continuation from last week’s message of which five instructions are given from the greatest teacher in history. We observed two last week: (1) Do what Biblical hypocrites tell you to do, and (2) don’t do what Biblical hypocrites do (see Matthew 23:2-3).
Let me briefly reiterate why those verses are so important as we consider Christ. Christ not only tells us what to do, but he lived what he tells us to do. He lived it perfectly. That’s why he’s Lord; because he gave a good command, and he wasn’t a hypocrite. Therefore, when Jesus overturns our thoughts on, say, education, family, and human values, he should meet no hurdles doing so. There is no process of approval needed to make those assertions. Some of our educators will tell you of the endless protocol and procedure required to make one simple change in the school system. Christ doesn’t go through any of those channels. He’s at the highest point.
“8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12).
This morning the aim is to extract three commands from Christ, and the longterm goal is that each command would overturn in our minds and conduct the human elements of certain institutions we take for granted.
1. Neither Call Yourself Nor Be Called “Rabbi”
For this command, there are two statements bearing the same basic meaning: “you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher…Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” (vv. 8, 10). These are near synonyms, so we will treat this as one instruction, though there’s a slight nuance between the two.
First of all, be mindful of the two sides to the instruction: (1) If you’re a teacher or preacher or educator, know that you aren’t the actual instructor. You aren’t rabbi. And (2) if you’re not a teacher or preacher or educator, know that nobody besides Christ is.
Now, I think Jesus’ direct application concerns religious teachers; however, the applications run into secular education, public schools, colleges, and so on because Jesus mentions “instructors.” He first says, “Don’t be called Rabbi,” then he says, “Neither be called instructors.” So before we get a religious flare, I want to make a couple of comments concerning the secular arena of education, which Jesus desires to overhaul.
I’ll begin with a question: What is the ultimate goal for education? Education should always have, in its purest form, the aim to enlighten minds to what is true. If truth isn’t promoted, it. is. not. education. It is propaganda.
And therefore, what changes in a teacher’s frame of mind when that teacher comes face to face with the knowledge of Jesus Christ? “You aren’t the instructor!” he said. If he’s Christ to that teacher, they won’t be willy nilly in life instruction. They won’t be lax on moral perspectives. They’ll risk losing their job by refusing to read to children a book about a boy with two daddies. They’ll skip over unfounded pseudoscience teaching children we came from monkeys.
Christ certainly has aim to grab the attention of the whole world by saying, “I’m the only teacher in existence. I’m the only rabbi. And therefore, you aren’t the teacher. And therefore, my curriculum is supreme, not yours.”
Having established that food for thought, let’s come back to the immediate focus, which concerns preachers, shepherds, Bible class teachers, pastors, and so on. Does Jesus mean to say there should no longer be preachers? No. And here’s why: He just established the value of a teacher who promotes the truth of the ultimate teacher—even if that person is a hypocrite. Verse 2: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you.”
In other words, if a teaching is merely an echo of God’s word, then it possesses value. The instruction, then, is primarily a warning against apostasy. When a preacher or shepherd loses sight of the one true rabbi, he starts taking liberties in his exegesis; he emphasizes personal preferences and neglects divine decrees; he receives contradictory “revelation;” he forgets Christ; he wanders off a cliff. And likewise, when the church forgets who is truly rabbi, they wander off the cliff with the preacher, and they all perish together.
Jesus, by the way, did not give clear warnings like this on the off chance that the church would forget her rabbi. He gave this warning because he knew the future. He gave this warning because he knew that in 2017 Miranda would be in conversation with a fellow educator about the Bible, and after Miranda quoted a verse, her colleague would say, “Hmm…I’ll have to ask my pastor about that.” Jesus knew countless others would hear Scripture and defer to their pastor. I wish somebody would say, “I’ll have to consult Christ about that!”
So how do you know when the preacher’s word is merely an echo of Christ, and therefore Christ is still your rabbi when you obey the preacher? A hint was given last week. The Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. Therefore, if the preacher is sitting on the Bible, then when he preaches, Christ is your rabbi. And the only way you can know if he’s sitting on the Bible is to know the Bible.
Jesus said in John 10, “The sheep hear my voice.” What that means is, if you know Christ, you’ll be able to hear a sermon and say, “You know, I’ve never heard that particular application until now, but that’s Jesus’ voice. It sounds just like what I heard him say here, here, and here.”
2. Call No Man Your Father
This command is crucial for the 67% of the globe who profess zero allegiance to Christ and will therefore be tempted never to obey him because daddy disapproves.
Why did Jesus say, “Call no man your father?” Why didn’t he say, “Call no woman your mother?” Of all the earthly relationships, which one is most revered? Which one packs the heaviest command? Which one leads and orders? Is it not fathers? Let me illustrate that idea as being more than simply true for Christians…
In secular culture, from whom do men ask for their wife’s hand in marriage? Fathers. When a child is in trouble, whose voice strikes greater fear? Fathers. Never once did my dad say, “Just wait till your mother gets home!” But many times my mom said, “Wait till your father gets home.” And I trembled. When a window breaks at 3:00 in the morning, will the mother or father respond aggressively? It better be the father.
Are these not the reasons why Jesus said, “Call no man on earth your father?” Of all earthly relationships, fathers potentially maintain the biggest barrier to Christ—simply because of the way fathers are.
The essential encouragement to the world on their journey to Christ is to be born of God, despite sins of the father before you. Be born of God, and thereby let him command. Let him instruct. Let him determine your conduct. Had my dad not listened to this, I wouldn’t be here. My dad didn’t know life until he found out about his Father in heaven. Had he followed in his biological father’s footsteps, I’d have been raised by an abusive drunk. Or I wouldn’t have been raised at all.
We call God Father because it means, “I look to you for sustenance, Father. I look to you for moral guidance. I look to you for how to walk. I look to you for permission. I take my identity from you. I was made in your image before I was made in my dad’s image.” There should be no father on earth who overrides that conception.
3. Be Great in Service, Be Exalted in Humility
“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
History is plagued with racially motivated human value systems. Chattel slavery was common throughout the world until recently. The Indian caste system, though less pronounced now, has roots as far back as 1500BC when it is believed Aryans from southern Europe and Asia invaded India and began ranking people based on class, skin color, education, and so on. China—right now—sees women as liabilities, and so baby girls are aborted with frequency. Americans wanting to adopt Chinese orphans are not able to do so unless the child has a handicap of sorts.
These despicable human value systems, Jesus came to obliterate them. You want to be great? Then be part of the Brahman caste in India, and instead spend your time among the untouchables, serving them, and proclaiming to them the gospel of life! That’s greatness.
You want to be great? Adopt a Chinese girl who was rejected on the bases of her gender and handicap. We’ve got some friends who are doing this right now. Greatness. The whole nation of China says, “We don’t want her.” But some beautiful Christian souls from America saw her from afar, and they declared, “We want her. Christ wants her. We will love her as our own.” Isn’t that beautiful?
Greatness is being the very best and telling nobody. Greatness is the first stone laid for the pyramid. Greatness is the bedrock beneath a mountain. Greatness is the sole on the bottom of your dirty foot, which is why Isaiah said, “How beautiful are the feet of those upon the mountains who bring good news!” Greatness is the dirty feet which run with haste to declare aloud the mercies of God to all mankind. Greatness is seeing every color of skin and seeing them equally beautiful.
Jesus Christ touched lepers. He befriended outcasts. He ate with drunken screw-ups who had no hope beyond the skin of wine between their hands. He honored women. He defended children. He forgave prostitutes. He was God—literally—and he humbled himself to so great a degree that most of the world didn’t even know he was God. And they killed him.
There’s no one like Jesus. Let him systematically uproot every human conception in your heart. Let him change your thoughts on education. Let him change your thoughts on family. Let him change your thoughts on human value. Praise him.