This passage in Matthew is about a sharing of ideas. Sharing ideas is always an exchange. Let me explain. I understand why the disciples thought the teachings of Jesus had changed their lives for the better. I also understand how Jesus and his teachings represented something beautifully novel to them, something that had impacted their own lives in immeasurably positive ways. This excitement can easily translate into feeling like you have something to share with everyone else and assuming they don’t know what you have just learned.
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(Read this series from its beginning here.)
But my guess is that if the Matthean community had been humble enough to listen to others, they would have soon discovered that Jesus’ teachings contained universal truths that other communities outside of Galilean Judaism already also practiced. The disciples’ feelings of exceptionalism, possibly influenced by the exceptionalism found in some sectors of their own tradition, were compounded by their feelings of exceptionalism from being a follower of Jesus.
To be clear, Jesus’ teachings were good news! The ethics and values in the Jesus story had the potential to change the world of others in the same positive way they had changed the disciples. It just seems to me that Jesus’ story can encourage us to listen and learn from others rather than first show up in their worlds to teach them something. Change is a two way street, and those we meet, share with, and listen to leave us forever changed as well.
As a Jesus follower, I often bump into wisdom in other traditions that I feel resonance with. What has moved me about Jesus resonates with the wisdom I find already present in the lives of others. Sometimes their wisdom challenges me to rethink my own ways of considering our world. Sometimes it confirms wisdom I already possessed. And sometimes, I have something to give to them. But it is an exchange of ideas, a practice of listening and learning alongside any sharing we may do that leaves all parties positively impacted for having had their paths cross.
One way we can redeem our reading this week from the way it has been harmfully used through Christian history is that the passages speaks of making disciples, not believers: followers not merely worshipers. We’ll unpack that, next.
(Read Part 3)