Jesus’ prescriptive teaching is clear. It doesn’t need a lot of explanation. The only additional point is to clarify is that Jesus’ teaching in this area needs to be brought together with any ideas about church leadership. The approach to church leadership should not subvert Jesus’ prescriptive teaching.
It is possible to administer a gathering of believers in a manner that implements Jesus’ teaching and takes care of the practical needs of administration.
Bad Example: Scribes and Pharisees (Jewish Leaders)
The scribes and the Pharisees held sway over many of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. The Pharisees are credited with having strong interpretive skills of Scripture. They are also credited with adding doctrines that went beyond what Scripture taught. Jesus instructs his disciples to pay attention to their teachings that were healthy, but not to behave as they did.
Rather than seeking to lord their knowledge of Scripture over others, the disciples were encouraged to be servants to everyone including each other.
Rather than seeking to be seen and acknowledged for their importance and standing among their peers and the average Jew, they were encouraged not to seek this type of recognition.
Bad Example: Gentiles in Positions of Leadership
The Gentiles who led in Jesus’ time did so exercising “lordship” over other people. I believe “lordship” in this situation can be understood to be exercising coercive control over the will of individuals under the authority of the Gentile leader. The coercive control may have ranged anywhere from mild to extreme, but it was an exercise of control over another individual regardless of their willingness to cooperate with the leader.
Jesus clarifies this is not what he wants to happen among the disciples in how they relate to one another.
The Do’s of Matthew 23/Mark 10
- Do – labor to serve others and labor to be the lowest slave for the most recognition from God
- Do – treat Jesus Christ as your teacher
- Do – be a brother (i.e. peer) among brethren
- Do – treat only God in heaven as your heavenly father
- Notes: Just as a son under the authority of his earthly father should grow up and mature, so you should only be under your heavenly father in regards to your growth and maturity in life. This becomes 100% true once you reach full adulthood or are married and stand before the Lord apart from your earthly father.
The Don’ts of Matthew 23/Mark 10
- Don’t call anyone ‘Rabbi’ (i.e. the person you want to follow, learn from and become like)
- Don’t call anyone father (apart from your earthly father) who is on earth
- Don’t be called a teacher by others
- Don’t operate like the Gentiles who exercise leadership as lordship over other people
Matthew 23:1-12 (LEB)
1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Moses. 3 Therefore do and observe everything that they tell you, but do not do as they do, for they tell others to do something and do not do it themselves. 4 And they tie up heavy burdens and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing with their finger to move them. 5 And they do all their deeds in order to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries broad and make their tassels long. 6 And they love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and the greetings in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people. 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because one is your teacher, and you are all brothers, 9 And do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your heavenly Father. 10 And do not be called teachers, because one is your teacher, the Christ. 11 And the greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Mark 10:42-45 (LEB)
42 And Jesus called them to himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their people in high positions exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not like this among you! But whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be most prominent among you must be the slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.