True Discipleship

Matthew 23: 1-12
Ru 2:1-3-8-11,4:13-17 / Ps 128

The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:12)

Let me not seek fortune or fame,
Or even the world’s greatest prize;
A simple request, let me claim
Discipleship of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have One Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23: 1-12)

Reflection

Our Lord’s message in today’s Gospel passage of Matthew concerns how stewardship should be practiced by all His followers. He exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who used their authority to burden the Jews with preposterous laws which they themselves cleverly avoided. And yet Jesus urged them to “obey them and do everything they tell you” – if only to practice the virtues of obedience and humility – but not to imitate them, “for they do not practice what they preach.” Jesus set the standard for all His true disciples to follow. He walked His talk, and practiced what He preached. As He was faithful and obedient to the Father’s plan, so must His disciples follow His example of servant leadership, the antithesis of all that the scribes and Pharisees stood for. They were to be humble unlike the Pharisees who were proud; to be obedient to God’s Word, unlike the scribes who circumvented the Mosaic laws according to their interests; and seek to be servants, rather than strive for places of honor or high positions that the scribes and Pharisees desired. The more important our tasks and goals, the more we should assume the role of a servant or slave. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “Let each of you humbly consider the others as more important than yourselves” (Phil.2:3).

Today’s Gospel message also conveys the warning that we must guard against becoming ‘disciples of men’ rather than disciples of Jesus Christ. Due to ignorance of Scripture, many have been led astray by self-styled evangelists and cult leaders who profess ‘divine appointment’ or even anointing by the Father. One even claims that he is the ‘Son’ of the Father, and has attracted hundreds of thousands to his ‘church’. You can see him in his own television network basking in the adulation of his ‘disciples’. The rise of these ‘anti-Christs’ is the result of many deluded Christians who have not exerted serious personal study of Christ’s teachings, thus failing to understand the real essence of discipleship.

Lord, may we never consider Your discipleship as a stepping stone to “high places” of authority, but rather as an opportunity to serve You and Your other servants. As ‘pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Prov.16:18), help us to grow in Your example of humility in service to be worthy of You. Amen.

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