In establishing the way in which Yeshua taught His disciples how to rely upon Him alone, we learned that He used a method which they were all already aware of – that of the Rabbi and the disciple. He also drew upon their experience of life in first century Isra’el to teach them about living together through the way the communities of the area around Galilee lived.
It is important to recognise that He chose these two methods primarily because, through them He taught His disciples how to have a personal, one-to-one relationship with Him, and also how to have relationships with one another. But we should also recognise that He taught them based upon what they already knew. He made use of their life experience. The reason why Yeshua went to Galilee to choose His disciples was because they already had the basics – they understood the relationship between the Rabbi and his disciple because they had been through Beth Sefer (See Part Five). They knew how to hang upon every word of the Rabbi. And, when it came to living in harmony with one another, there was nowhere else in Isra’el where a better example of patriarchal community living could be found.
That Yeshua chose to draw upon their own life experiences should be a message to each and every one of us – God doesn’t waste our life experiences when He reveals Himself to us. He reveals Himself through them. It could be argued that God causes us to go through the things we experience in our own lives in order to teach us from them. Often, people who had have learned to walk with Christ and who have come from backgrounds of abuse or addiction find themselves called to helping those still trapped in those lifestyles.
I only mention these things because I see them as the foundation stones of the church. People often refer to what happened after Pentecost as being the birth of the church, but the church was born the moment Yeshua called people to follow Him. If you like, what happened after Pentecost should be called the 2nd Generation Church – the 1st Generation was Yeshua teaching His disciples. Have a think about how He did that, and perhaps more importantly, where He did that. They didn’t have a building in which they huddled together -that didn’t start happening until much later. Yeshua would teach them as they walked along the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee. He would teach them whilst in a boat or by the shore. Sometimes He would march them forty miles just to show them the faith of a women in Tyre, and then march them forty miles back (See Matthew 15:21-29). Of course, we know that He regularly went to the synagogue and to the Temple, but these were never acts of religion. There was always a purpose He wanted show to others.
I want you to start thinking differently about how God teaches us today. I said in an earlier part of this series that the concept of a professional clergy has no place in any New Testament teaching. Until Constantine, the church managed quite well. It used Paul’s guidelines for the appointment of overseers and elders. Constantine changed everything by integrating the church with the state. The overseers became bishops and were chosen by the state in order to promote the ideas of the state. We will explore these things in greater detail as we go through. I bring the subject up now because it has become the manmade foundation upon which the modern church stands. Today we don’t look to be taught directly by the Holy Spirit as we should but, instead we allow ourselves to be taught by pastors who themselves need teaching by the Holy Spirit. What we have today was never what God had intended. He didn’t intend that men should rule over us. The role of overseers and elders was to simply live by example, not to lead. To show the way, not to rule. To be shepherds, not masters. The shepherds work for the Master, not for themselves, for if they did, they would employ their own shepherds to watch the sheep.
As I have said at the outset of this series, what was written in the Old Testament serves many purposes, one of which is to show the church the models of how individuals and groups of believers should seek to walk before Him. Take the model of Abraham’s household, for example.
As the head of the household, Abraham was responsible for looking after all who were a part of it, including any ‘aliens’, that is Gentiles. This responsibility stretched beyond anything you might consider. Besides making sure everyone had adequate food and water, Abraham would be responsible for all the tools and materials which they needed in their day to day work – no one worked for themselves or their own family, but everyone worked for the good of all. Some would tend the sheep, others would plant crops, but all that they needed to do these things with, fell to the head of the household to provide. And beyond that, the head of the household would also have to keep everyone safe. If someone was attacked or got into a dispute with someone from another encampment, it would be the head of the household who had to sought it out. In the hierarchy of the household, Abraham was head, but members of his immediate family had the same authority – with Abraham, until Isaac came of age, that authority was shared with his head servant. I hope you can start to get the picture. This model is what God intended for the church and the one which Yeshua used to teach His disciples how to live with one another. Except, in the church, instead of a man being the head, we have Yeshua who is the head of the church, and the Holy Spirit plays the role of the head servant. Yeshua is like Abraham – responsible for the care of all entrusted to Him. All should work for the good of all, and not as is currently the case, to the good of themselves. Can you see what I am getting at? Perhaps you will see more when we look at how that 2nd generation church worked together. But first, Yeshua’s final instructions to His church who was just about ready to fledge.
There is a great deal which Yeshua said to His disciples during that final week before the crucifixion. There simply isn’t time to start going into it all here, except to point you in the right direction for your own study. If you want a genuine walk which is led by the Holy Spirit, you really need to study these things. We have a tendency to like to call ourselves disciples – it has become a by-word for believer – but a disciple was different from those who simply believed. And that is why those words said in the final week were said to his closest disciples alone. We get the benefit of being able to read them today, but if you truly want to be a disciple, we need to start living them just as they did back then. Any study you do of the things He spoke during that week should be kept in context. Look at the words as if you were actually there, and what they would mean to live them and understand them in the first century. The texts that follow are just a few examples to help you see the way in which Yeshua set up His church to carry on.
From the gospel of Matthew:
The final week up until the crucifixion runs from chapter 21 until the end of chapter 27. If you were to pay particular interest to the following items, then you would grow in the understanding of how He wanted the disciples to continue after He returned to His Father’s side.
1. Matthew 21:12-17 – The Cleansing of the Temple
It will always start with reform. Unless there is genuine reform – the clearing out of the old traditions which are meaningless and do not respect God, then nothing new can grow. Look at Hezekiah, the last reforming king of Judah. His example is there for today’s church.
2. Matthew 21:28 – 22:14 The Three Parables
Yeshua once more returns to a parable to help His disciples understand who the kingdom is for. Only God chooses who comes in.
3. Matthew 23:1-36 Woes to the Pharisees and Scribes
A careful study of this section reveals a mistranslation of verse 3 which should read “Therefore whatever he (Moses) told you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their (the Pharisees and the Scribes) works; for they say, and do not do.” Here Yeshua is saying for His disciples to trust in what God said through Moses for it is God’s words that bring life. We are not to trust in those who add ritual and traditions to God’s word to make new laws.
4. Matthew 24 The Signs of the End of the Age
This is vital we understand the message He gave to His fledgling church. The very first thing He says when they ask Him about His return is “Do not be deceived.” This is no off-the-cuff remark. He said it because He was warning them about what is to come. Deception in the church is the very mixing of the seed – mixing God’s word with Satan’s word. They appear to be the same thing – particularly when it comes to religious observance, but Satan’s is counterfeit and leads only to death, not to eternal life. The church then needed to be on their guard from false teaching. Today, false teaching is rampant across the church.
5. Matthew 25:1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins
I believe this to be about the church. All had the oil of the Holy Spirit to start with but half were refused entry to the kingdom because He didn’t know them. This shows that a personal relationship with Yeshua is far more important than getting on well with your pastor and following what he tells you to do.
6. Matthew 26:36-46 The Garden
Yeshua here pleaded with God for another way but there was only one way. He remained obedient even when His flesh was unwilling. Notice that the disciples fell asleep when He asked them to stay awake and watch. We must always choose God’s will over our own. Obedience always pleases God above all other things.
From the gospel of Mark:
You can find the events of that final week up to the crucifixion from Mark chapter 11 through to the end of chapter 15. Notice that there are several occasions in which He gives one or more disciples instructions. They simply obey. They don’t ask questions. They don’t do what they think is best. They do what He says.
1. Mark 11:25-26 Forgiveness
By now they would have known this, but Yeshua still felt it prudent to remind them. If we don’t forgive those around us or continue to hold resentment towards anyone, how can we expect God to answer any of our prayers?
2. Mark 12:28-34 The Greatest Commandment
Part of the Rabbi’s role was to put in order the commandments according to their understanding of importance. Here, He is challenged by a Scribe (a teacher of the law) about just this, and we have God’s view on how we should live our lives.
From the gospel of Luke:
Luke’s gospel has the final week up to the crucifixion between 19:28 and 23:56.
1. Luke 22:24-27 How The Church Should Work
Here we have the disciples arguing about who is the greatest. How typical. We see this often in churches – people trying to appear more spiritual or more in charge than others. Yeshua tells them straight – that’s the way the world works, but it’s not to be that way with you (the church). We are not to look to the model of how the world works when we are in a church (not the building but the people); we are to use the model of Abraham’s household with Christ as the Head. Everyone else is His servant.
From the gospel of John:
There is a great deal in John. Read the whole book if you can, if not concentrate on what he writes between chapters 12 and 19. There is so much here that I’m only going to point you to a couple of things. This whole book should be any church’s go-to read.
1.John 13 Humility
Before He speaks His final message to them on the eve of the crucifixion, He starts by washing their feet. Humility first, He is saying. And that must be our mantra today. Unless we are prepared to be humble before both God and man, how can we be like Him? If we are to be His disciples then we must want, not only to know what He knows, but to be as Him. In verses 34 and 35 He reinforces this point by a new commandment. Remember this is a commandment – we have to obey, no questions asked. This is all He ever says on evangelism, by the way, that the world will know that we are His disciples by the way we love one another. How simple is that?
2. John 14:23-24 The Keeping of the Word
Perhaps the most important verse in the entire New Testament. The key to having the ongoing presence of God in our lives is to keep His words dwelling within us. That means to have our hearts ready to listen (the good soil) and to not harden our hearts as the Hebrews did in the desert.
I know that is only a brief overview of what He said during those few final days but I strongly encourage you, if you are determined to be His disciple, to look again at the gospels for yourself, and not to simply listen to what is preached on a Sunday morning. Yeshua never taught a one-size-fits-all gospel. He dealt with people as individuals. That is why He chose to come to His disciples as a Rabbi. Now, I appreciate that there are many who won’t like the idea of Yeshua being a Rabbi – it makes Him sound too Jewish is the remark I have heard. Whether we like it or not, Yeshua wasn’t blonde haired and blue eyed. He came as a Hebrew and lived among Hebrews and spoke Hebrew. Please always keep this in mind.
That brief synopsis of the final week leading up to the crucifixion gives us an important insight into what He said to His disciples to ready them for building the church. But I want to turn your attention to the events between His resurrection and His ascension. For here we see His final instructions to them on how they were to live according to His Holy Spirit. The gospel of John contains a great deal about the coming Holy Spirit but imagine how hard that would have been to understand at the time. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit fell upon them in power that they could even grasp what Yeshua had previously said. So, let’s take a look at some key events that took place after the resurrection.
In Matthew 28 we see the account of the two Marys at the tomb who encounter the angel. The angel tells them to head to Galilee for they will see Yeshua there. When they return to tell the others, He appears amongst them and tells them again to go to Galilee. He wanted to take them all back to where it started. He wanted to remind them how far they had come.
When they catch up with Him in Galilee, there on the mountainside, He instructs them on what they need to do now. As any Rabbi would do when his disciples were ready, Yeshua sent them out to make their own disciples. He didn’t send them out to be Rabbis (see Matthew 23:28), He sent them out to make disciples for Him and not for them. We have got it into our heads that making disciples doesn’t mean getting more people to attend church meetings. It means nothing of the sort. Here’s what He said to them:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth.”
– God has given Him the entire household to be responsible for. Just as Abraham gave it to Isaac.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Because God has placed Him as the Head of the church they are to go and make disciples (not believers) of everyone. He didn’t say to employ an evangelist to do this work. Anyone who would be His disciple has no choice but to go and make disciples of others. We don’t do this anymore. If you were to go back a little over a hundred years to Spurgeon’s time, churches ran discipleship courses. They taught people how to obey His commands. Today we are taught to follow the pastor, not Yeshua. It has to change. We have to reform our ways and get back to what we are all commanded to do.
It is important to note that they did what He said to do. They went to Galilee. He gave them no reason other than that they would see Him there. We shouldn’t need a reason to obey either. We should just do it. The gospel we hear today has been diluted. We need to get back to what Yeshua said we should do, not what some sun-kissed Californian tells us to do.
In Luke 24 we have the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They failed to recognise Yeshua even though they walked with Him. He proceeds to explain everything from Moses through the Prophets and how it all concerns Himself. We must take note of this. The Old Testament isn’t simply the history of Isra’el and their on-off relationship with Yehovah. It is full to the brim with teaching not only about Yeshua but about how the church should function. Soon enough, attention will turn back to Isra’el. Let us be ready when it does. Let us be there to teach the Hebrews discipleship as Yeshua is teaching us. Unless we are willing to hear what He is saying and see what He is teaching us, we will remain as deaf and blind, spiritually, as the nation of Isra’el. Let us be like those two disciples on the Road to Emmaus and allow our ears to be opened. For when we hear and accept His words as truth then our eyes will be opened too. From verse 44 Yeshua empathises this point and explains that they are now witnesses to the truth contained with the Scriptures.
Before He leaves them He gives them another instruction – to stay in Jerusalem until they receive power from on high. Once again they obey. But before we look at what happened at Pentecost and beyond, let me take you back to Galilee to one of the most important lessons of all.
In John chapter 21 we have a wonderful description of an encounter with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Note that even when they didn’t recognise Him, they were still obedient to what He said. This is important. It shows that they were living lives of humility, ready to take advice, even when it didn’t make sense.
The passage goes on with the wonderful restoration of Peter. Note also that the sheep are Yeshua’s and not Peter’s. And then we have Peter asking about John. This is really vital we understand what Yeshua was telling Peter. The details of what Yeshua chooses for John to do are not for Peter, they are for John alone. Yeshua was telling Peter to mind his own business. I think He is telling all of us the same – to mind our own business. We shouldn’t be concerning ourselves with what others are up to. We need to concentrate on our own walks with God. The moment we start to look at others, we take our eyes from the Teacher and we miss what He is trying to teach us. Today’s church fosters an environment where people are quick to judge others but slow to judge themselves. We have to get our relationship right with God first. When we do, all other relationships will fall into place. That is why Yeshua taught His disciples as a Rabbi. The one-to-one relationship is the highest concern. A community works best when a series of such relationships, all with the same purpose, all focussed upon Yeshua, come together.
In the next part of this series we shall look at what happened next, when they received power from on high.