Names of Jesus Week Ten, Day Four
In Jesus' day, the name "rabbi" or "teacher" was normally reserved for someone who had studied under another rabbi for many years. Jesus offended the religious leaders of his day by ignoring this system. Instead of apprenticing himself to a rabbi, he simply laid down his carpenter tools and called twelve ordinary men to become his disciples. Unlike other rabbis, who merely passed on the teaching of the rabbi under whom they had studied, Jesus spoke with an authority that startled many of his listeners.
Two thousand years later, we are called to become his disciples, to stay as close to him as a disciple would to a rabbi, studying his life, examining his teaching, and allowing his Spirit to remake us in his image. When you pray to Rabbi Jesus, remember that you are praying to the only Teacher who is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful, able to transform not only your mind but also your heart.
[Jesus said to his disciples] "But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,' for you have only one Master." Matthew 23:8
Praying the Name
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." John 12:23 - 26
He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." Matthew 13:31 - 32
Reflect On: John 12:23 - 26 and Matthew 13:31 - 32.
Praise God: For his ability to bring good out of evil.
Offer Thanks: For the ways Christ has called you to bear fruit.
Confess: Any tendency to lose heart when life gets difficult.
Ask God: To increase your spiritual vision.
Throughout my professional life, I have found myself coaching authors on the importance of storytelling, trying to convince them that showing is often more powerful than telling. Occasionally an author objects, fearing that telling stories will somehow "dumb down" his or her writing. But human beings crave stories, just as we crave art and music. Good stories compel us in ways that simple statements of fact or truth often do not. They connect to us at every level — emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
Jesus was the last person to overlook the power of a story well told. His favorite form of storytelling was the parable, a form described by William Barclay as "a sword to stab men's minds awake." Drawn from everyday life, Jesus' parables convey spiritual messages that often both reveal and hide the truth. Once, when his disciples asked him the meaning of a particular parable, he replied: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand' '' (Luke 8:10). The "secrets of the kingdom" can only be grasped by hearts that are open to faith and truth.
One of the most popular of Jesus' parables is that of the mustard seed. With its thick-stemmed branches, the mustard plant is an enormous herb, growing to a height of ten to fifteen feet. A favorite nesting place for birds who eat the seeds, its seeds were ground into a paste or powder and used as a spice or medicine. So when Jesus compared the advance of his kingdom to the smallest of seeds that grows into the tallest of plants, he immediately created a vivid and encouraging image for his disciples. He and his followers were the small beginning that would grow into the greatest kingdom the world had ever known — a kingdom that would nurture, heal, and shelter all who would take refuge there.
Jesus intended this comparison to impart vision to disciples who needed it. At first it may have seemed easy to be his disciples — when the crowds wanted to proclaim him king. But what about when the opposition grew stiff, when other rabbis denounced him, when Pharisees linked him to Beelzebub, the prince of demons? Wouldn't his disciples, called to walk the downward path along with their rabbi, need the encouragement of this parable?
The parable of the mustard seed must have bolstered the disciples' faith, helping them see what was taking place in the spiritual realm despite the reverses they suffered in the natural realm. It is a parable that is still fresh thousands of years later, for to follow this Rabbi means that we too will walk the downward path. Like the first disciples, we need encouragement to remain faithful when we are tempted to despair.
Perhaps your efforts to serve Jesus seem small or insignificant. You may have encountered opposition as you have tried to do his will. Or perhaps the opposition is indirect. You may be facing declining health, financial trouble, conflict at work, strife at home, a child or a parent who is ill. Whatever difficulties confront you, Jesus is calling you to plant your hope, not in the circumstances of this life, but in the soil of his faithfulness. Pray today that he will open your eyes to the way he is advancing his kingdom in and through you, blessing you with greater fruitfulness than you can imagine.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com.