Daily Devotions


Day 285

Strict Instructions for the Disciples

Text: Matthew 23 : 1 - 39

Lest there be any misunderstanding, Jesus spoke plainly and sternly to His disciples.

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’;
For One is your Teacher, the Christ,
and you are all brethren.
Do not call anyone on earth your father;
for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher,
the Christ.”
MATTHEW 23:8-10


The term “rabbi” may be translated literally as “Exalted” or “High One”. This term was used to describe people of great learning. What was Jesus against?

a) The seeking of pretentiousness

Jesus did not want any of His disciples to be caught up with things like pretentiousness – at any time!

b) The sense of being “brothers” with each other

It was important that the disciples never forget that first and last they are “brothers”. There was every danger of destroying the sense of the brotherhood of believers, once pretentiousness is sought for!

c) Who could be greater than the Christ Himself

Who could lay claims to greatness better than the Messiah Himself! Who was the greatest Rabbi that ever lived? Surely that Person was Christ Jesus! If He did not seek fame and glory from men, why would anybody else attempt to claim greatness?


The term “father” in this particular context is not a reference to a biological or familial relationship. Of course Jesus was not forbidding children to address their fathers appropriately. What then was the meaning?

a) Exaltation of personal status

Again, we see Jesus warning His disciples against the vanity of wanting public acclaim. The status of “father” was like that of an exalted rabbi.

b) God as Father

If there is to be any exaltation at all, why not focus that energy to exalting Someone who deserves full adoration? Surely the Person who deserves full adoration is God Himself! Why exalt a mere human being at any time?


The term “teacher” was an ordinary one. Yet, the danger of wanting to be recognized as someone special lurked inside the use of this word.

a) Craving Recognition

Jesus wanted His disciples to recognize this danger. The mere address is not in itself wrong. It was the hidden desire for recognition that was dangerous.

b) Remember the Greatest Teacher

Who was the greatest Teacher ever? Surely that Person was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! He alone deserved this title “Teacher”. Yet, He never drew attention to Himself at any time!


Jesus had taught this lesson before! He wanted to emphasize this lesson yet again! If ever the disciples were to seek greatness, they must find it in the following paradigm.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
And whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
MATTHEW 23:11-12

1. Two vastly different paradigms

The paradigm of the scribes and Pharisees differed vastly from that described by Jesus.

a) Paradigm of the scribes and Pharisees

i) Titles

ii) Public acclaim

b) Paradigm of Jesus

i) Remember God

ii) Humble service

2. A great spiritual paradox

In Jesus’ paradigm, the person who exalts himself will be humbled!

a) When one exalts self

i) Life’s circumstances could humble him.

ii) God could personally humble him.

b) When one humbles self

i) God would exalt him as he deserves.

ii) His deeds of humble service would be remembered with due honour.

Jesus left no room for the disciples to maneuver at all! It was either His way, or the way of the scribes and the Pharisees!