Michael Richmond Duru offers a reflection on multiplying good deeds and values, based on Jesus' teaching to 'Be like your Teacher'.
Rabbuni - Teacher
Who is the Nazarene?
In northern Israel there is a small town called Nazareth. People from this small town – people from Nazareth – are ordinarily called Nazarenes. Nazareth was such small and insignificant, that people of the bible time, were wont to say in rhetoric derision: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ (Jn 1:46). This served to show how inconsequential Nazareth was! Then providence came to their aid. A great prophet and teacher arose from among them, who was the Messiah of ancient prophecy and who has become the greatest man in human history. His name is Jesus, the Christ. Jesus Christ is the Rabbi of Nazareth, he is the Messianic prophet, He is the Anointed Nazarene. They also call him, the Galilean!
Jesus the Nazarene
Jesus of Nazareth!
But, how come we now call him the Nazarene instead of a Nazarene? Why do religious Jews acclaim him as the ‘Rabbi of Nazareth’? It’s because Nazareth was of the lowliest of the cities of Judah and Jerusalem when he was born; it was his birth, his work, his teachings, his prodigies, his death, his victory, and his person, that lifted Nazareth from the condemnation of lowliness to the place of illustrious, enduring memory. It was in the Synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-22) that he confirmed his Messianic mandate; then he taught the people with authority an authority never seen before and confirmed his words with prodigious power, such that the people were greatly astonished (Mark 1;21-28; Matthew 7:28-29); and they called him ‘Rabbuni’, Rabbi, Teacher. He is the most distinguished and illustrious of all Nazareth! It was his fame that rubbed-off on Nazareth; or we can say: the famed of Nazareth was on account of his person. So, we have Jesus of Nazareth – like Clement of Alexandria or Augustine of Hippo or Francis of Assisi Catherine of Siena or Theresa of Avila – when people remember him, they remember Nazareth.
The Rabbi of Nazareth – What is He Teaching Here?
The Rabbi of Nazareth, one day, said to his disciples: ‘Be Like Your Teacher!’ This is the way he said it: “Everyone who is well trained will be like his Teacher” (Luke 6:40). In this way, the Rabbi points out that everyone who has been well instructed or prepared in any given task or art, would ordinarily - all things being equal - be like his teacher. Jesus wishes to remind us that it is expected that a student or a disciple will be like his teacher; a servant like his master; a mentee like his mentor. The teacher knows better, so she teaches her students how to do what needs to be done. The master knows the way, so he not only instructs his followers, he exemplifies in action, what he teaches in theory. The first goal of every student, disciple or follower. should be to be like her teacher; that is, to do it the way the teacher does it. But indeed, it means to act after the example of the master, to perpetuate and to multiply the values and goods of the teacher, the master.
Jesus of Nazareth
But Can a Blind Man Lead a Blind Man?” Teachers Must Also be Models!
Here the Rabbi of Nazareth proceeds to give his disciples an allegory – which is called the Parable of the Blind Guide! Quite fittingly, the admonition to ‘be like your teacher’ was given in the context of the Parable of the Blind Guide. Here the Nazarene warns that the blind should not lead the blind – of course he does not refer of physical blindness but of mental poverty and moral bankruptcy. Otherwise, he says, both will fall into a ditch. Jesus uses this fable – the allegory of blindness – to show us that one cannot give what he does not have. The one who leads the way, must first know the paths! The one who has no light in him cannot give direction to others. The Rabbi was referring, now to teachers, not students! He was reminding teachers and masters, that to be followed they must first be models. Insight qualifies one for followership! The blindman is a bad master, a rotten mentor, a clueless leader, an uncultured tutor. Leaders must be lights! Masters must be exemplars! Teachers must be portraits of inspiration! The teacher to be followed must be a beacon of light, a bearer of value, a fountain of insight. The master that must be emulated must first be a pathway to excellence, a paragon of ideals, a pattern of enduring values. This is a debt the teacher owes his students and the price she must pay to be followed.
But Cannot a Disciple be Better than His Teacher?
Surely she can! When – paralleling the words of Jesus – one say ‘be like your teacher’, she does not say ‘do not do more than your teacher’ or ‘do not go higher than your teacher’ or ‘do not perform better than your teacher’ or ‘do not perfect the pathways of your teacher’ or ‘do not expand what your teacher began’ or ‘do not surpass the achievements of your teacher’ or ‘do not do things your teacher could not do’ or ‘do not aspire higher than did your teacher’ or ‘do not set your starting point beyond the skies’. No! To be like your teacher is to hold the fort after your teacher, to pick it up from where your teacher left it off, to consummate what your teacher began. And this is the point that Jesus wishes to get across to us in this meditation. Jesus wishes his friends and followers to take after him, to do what he does, to multiply his actions, to learn from his ways (Mt 11:29) and to do even greater things than himself did (Jn 24:12). But just that you’ll need to begin by being like him, so you will not run off from his track or derail his project. Yes, one can go higher than his teacher, but one cannot be greater than his teacher!
We Are Lucky, Our Teacher is the Light!
James and John, Peter and Andrew and the rest of the twelve, were lucky, because their Rabbi was the light of the world (Jn 1:4;3:19;9:5;12:35,36,46) But we are privileged, in that our teacher is the anointed Messiah, the Rabbuni who teaches ‘like one who has authority’ (Mk 1:22). We are blessed that we have a teacher, a leader, a master who himself is the light of the world, the light of life. (John 8:12) He is the light that enlightens all men. (John 1:9) He is not blind – for he is full of virtue and insight! Rather he is the light – for he knows and teaches the way. We are blessed, for whoever follows him will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life. So, we can follow him! The one who wants us to be like him, is the Son of the Most High (Lk 1:32); who goes about doing good (Acts 10:38); the One who makes all things well (Mk 7:37). We are lucky, that this same teacher is asking us to be like him, to do as he does. He wants us to be the light to other people. He is saying to us: be like me! A student should be like his teacher, a servant should be like his master; therefore, be like me! Jesus wants us to be like him. What a joy, what a privilege to be like unto the Messiah!
Be Like Your Teacher Every day and Everytime that You Can!
Today, tomorrow, everyday, let us be like Jesus, our teacher! Let us act like Jesus, our Master! Let’s redeem like Jesus, our Messiah! Jesus obeyed the Eternal Father in all things – today, everyday, let’s respect the laws of God, the laws of nature and the laws of society. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom in words and in works – today, everyday, let’s be a sign of that life of the world which is to come; let’s live like citizens of a new kingdom, heirs of heaven! Jesus touched people everywhere he went, not with bare hands, but with his words and his deeds – today, everyday, let’s touch a dying world, let’s touch our neighbour, let’s touch our environment. Today, touch someone in difficulty or depression or confusion or despair; - but don’t go touching the body, touch rather the heart, the soul, the emotions, - with your deeds and your words.
You Too Can be a Messiah!
Here, the Nazarene – the one who taught us to be like our teacher – is the Messiah promised us by the oracles of the ancient prophets. He is asking us to be a Messiah to, like himself. He is asking us to be like the Redeemer, the Saviour. So now, let us see in what ways we can be like him. He is the Messiah. The Messiah is the one who saves. Let’s see if we too can be other Messiahs.
Like Jesus, be a messiah to someone today; be the saviour of someone today. Like Jesus, be turn water into wine; turn sorrow into joy for someone today. Like Jesus, cast out demons today; cast out the fear or fault of someone today. Like Jesus, heal diseases; heal the wound of unforgiveness; forgive me today. Like Jesus, multiply food; multiply joy and peace in your workplace today. Like Jesus, be the light of the world; enlighten us with good examples today.
Like Jesus, raise the dead; lift people out of pain, shame, failure, darkness.
Like Jesus, give your life for others; your spouse or siblings or a given cause.
Like Jesus, drive out devils; the devils of hatred, racism, fraud, incontinence.
Like Jesus, have disciples; work with others, team up, don’t do it all yourself.
Like Jesus, forgive others; forgive yourself, spouse, friends, forgive everyone.
Like Jesus, teach others; teach others the way to succeed, survive, excel.
Like Jesus, speak up; oppose, don’t let evil have a field day, do something.
Like Jesus, empower others; empower others to know and do what you do.
Indeed, there’s so much we can learn to do from our teacher, the Nazarene!
Do You Have a Mentor? – Be Like Him!
The purpose and essence of this rabbinic lesson is to challenge ourselves, to challenge everyone to follow someone, to learn from someone, to study some pioneer or pathfinder; and to aim to do even more than him or to do better than her; to go farther than she went, to reach the depths they could not arrive at. It is the task of the disciple who has been well discipled, the student who was fully tutored, to trace and to perfect the paths that their teachers and mentors created. Therefore, everyone, find a mentor, get a teacher, follow a master! You need one! When you find him, listen to him, watch her modality and follow after the good you have learnt. Then do like the disciples of the Nazarene – the Rabbi of Nazareth – take the gospel of your teacher to all the confines of the world and there, make disciples of all the nations.
And your days shall be full of fulfilment! Amen!
Michael Richmond Duru
30th of July 2020
© 2022 Michael Richmond Duru