Take Notes If Necessary (Matthew 15:14-16)

Photo by Daniel Stuben. on Unsplash

Although Peter would eventually become the leader of the early church, in his younger   days he was a bit of a hothead. What follows Jesus’ teaching about uncleanness is a textbook example of Peter’s “engage-mouth-then-think” personality, “Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.””  Jesus’ response captures His reaction perfectly,  “Are you still so dull?”  

To the reader who picks up at that point, Christ’s reaction is a bit unnerving; He accuses His disciples of being ‘dull’. The Greek word He uses denotes the lacking of ability to understand meaning or importance. Effectively, Jesus is calling Peter immature (at best) or mentally challenged (at worst). It is a very unflattering comment. But Jesus’ frustration is understandable. His disciples – the few that have made it their mission in life to be Christ-followers – have not thought through the teaching He just did. One might not have such a high expectation of the crowd or the curious, but one does rightly have this expectation of the disciple. This isn’t just an option for them. It is their responsibility. They know that and Jesus knows that. Jesus is just letting it be known that He takes a pretty dim view of having to spoon-feed His disciples. 

It is the responsibility of the spiritual leader to teach truth. They are accountable to the Lord to do so. As Jesus has just made clear (“Leave them; they are blind guides.”), spiritual leadership will be judged for both what they do (the quality of their leading) and/or do not do (the fulfillment or abdication of duty). This is the leader’s lot. It is a place of high privilege, and with it, high responsibility. To that point James said, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Jesus knew that the Pharisees who criticized Him knew that, because the scroll of Ezekiel made it clear: those who hear from God cannot avoid their calling or the responsibility that comes with it. They would’ve read it many times over the decades. 

But the disciple also has a responsibility. It is the responsibility to apply the truth they are taught to their lives. A disciple cannot legitimately be called a disciple and sit though the teaching they are given and ignore it. To do that is to consciously and deliberately choose to set the calling to discipleship aside and become a mere bystander. It is to no longer walk in truth. If the teacher is judged for abdication of duty, then the disciple is too. 

The best way to fulfill our responsibility as disciples is to think through what was taught (that is, to verify that that what was said is God’s truth), and then to think through the personal application. Obviously, that is best done while the thought is still fresh in one’s mind – immediately upon hearing the preacher/teacher, as the Bereans did in Paul’s day. We are wise to follow their example; “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

APPLICATION: Intentionality

To apply wisdom gained takes not only determination, but a good deal of spiritual and mental/emotional strength. Without margin in your life to gain such strength, you will not be able to apply what you learn. Therefore the first step in any concrete action plan to better yourself is to ensure you have the margin to follow through.