God’s Word for You
Luke 6:39-40 Your teacher and your students
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 26, 2018
39 He also told them a parable: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit?
This is not a typical parable; one objection is that it is too short. However, some of the ‘regular’ parables are almost as short (such as the pearl of great value, Matthew 13:45-46). This verse has been described as a “compressed parable” since it would be easy for anyone at all to embellish it with some details without obscuring the point.
The word parable means “something set beside another.” The ancient pastor Jerome called the parables “shadows of the truth.” Since each parable in the Bible has a single important truth, this one is particularly easy to understand. The blind guides of the people were the Pharisees, who put all their attention in the wrong place. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). The danger of such a blind guide was evident all over Judea and Galilee in Jesus’ time. Road maintenance is always a problem because the traffic on any road minutely but continuously wrecks the material the road is made of (no matter what the material), so repairs are always necessary. Since Israel is so rocky, the Romans saved time and labor by digging out replacement stone from the ground alongside the roads, leaving many pits and holes along the way. A blind man walking alone might not notice if he wandered off a road, and could easily fall into one of these pits. Would a blind man be wise to choose another blind man as his guide? The Pharisees had dug all sorts of holes alongside the path of God’s word, and constantly led the people into those pitfalls.
There are many teachers and preachers today who do the same thing without knowing it. The Holy Spirit preaches to us through the Epistles of the New Testament that we should fix our thoughts and eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1, 12:2). So when someone comes along and says, “No, we must fix our attention on the Holy Spirit,” he is really clamping his hand over the Holy Spirit’s mouth. He is saying, “I’m going to pretend what I have to say is from the Holy Spirit, but I’m surely not going to listen to what the Spirit actually says. I’m going to go into convulsions or quote from the most mysterious parts of the Bible and claim that I and only I have the correct understanding. So be quiet, Spirit! I will speak for you!” But the Spirit says through Paul, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you (faith and love in Christ Jesus)—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:13,14).
40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
A disciple is anyone who has learned his lessons from his teacher. Some teachers do not teach lessons very well; other teachers teach far more than their narrow subject matter. But no matter how far advanced the student becomes, he remains a disciple of his teacher. Plato had many pupils, including Aristotle, yet it is never wrong to speak of Plato as a student or disciple of Socrates. So Plato is both a disciple of Socrates and a teacher like Socrates. So it is on a far greater scale with Jesus and his disciples. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus, and Matthew may have thought of himself as the least of Jesus’ disciples because of his background as a hated tax collector. Yet Matthew wrote a beautiful, wonderful Gospel. Matthew’s Gospel makes pupils of us all. Two or three steps away from Matthew we find Luke, the disciple of Paul’s, who wrote the Gospel before us. We are disciples of Luke as well—but truly we are disciples of Jesus through these men. And so the list of your teachers progresses, sometimes in a connected line, sometimes with gaps, from the Apostles to the pastors who served with the ancient Church Fathers to the priests of the Medieval Church to Martin Luther and the other reformers like Philip Melanchthon, Martin Chemnitz, and others, to the evangelizing Lutheran churches of Norway and Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They brought the Gospel to America, and your pastor and I learned from those pastors. Now you learn from us. Yet I am not only a teacher. I remain a disciple of Pastor Sturm who taught me my Catechism. But we are all disciples of Jesus.
When you learn from your pastor, you learn as if from Jesus himself, because your pastor uses the words of Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. If your pastor doesn’t preach and teach from the Bible, that’s another matter. But when your pastor raises his hands to speak the absolution, saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” he stands in the place of Jesus, forgiving you just as surely as if Jesus himself were speaking that forgiveness. So Martin Luther teaches in his Small Catechism:
“A Christian congregation with its called servant of Christ uses the keys in accordance with Christ’s command by forgiving those who repent of their sin and are willing to amend…. I believe that when this is done, it is as valid and certain in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us himself.” (Ministry of the Keys, secondly). If anyone disagrees with this, he is answered by the Gospel, as Luther points out: “Where is this written? Jesus says in Matthew, chapter 18, ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven!’”
If you are a student, don’t be satisfied with knowing your lesson only mostly. Embrace it, devour it, and know it so well that you could turn around and teach it yourself (someday, you might find yourself doing just that). Paul said to his pupil: “What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
If you are a parent or grandparent, be sure your children know their Catechism lessons and their Sunday School memory work. Review it with them and make learning it a joy rather than a shouting match. Remember Solomon’s wise words: “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning” (Proverbs 9:9). Use actions or music or a silly voice to help the children memorize. Make them laugh as they learn instead of making them cry, and they will remember their Catechism forever. I have sat at the bedside of many elderly Christians who had lost much or most of their memories, but I have found that almost all of them remembered the things they learned in childhood—including their Catechism, the creed, their prayers, and many hymns. If you are a parent, don’t deprive your child of those important truths for the days after you’re gone. Give them a gift unlike any other.
If you are a pastor or a teacher, don’t be satisfied that you know everything there is to learn. Keep at it. Keep studying even the subjects you already know. My teachers used to say, “Better to know one book well than to know very little about many books.” Let the One Book be the Bible, and let the Catechism be your workbook or review. Who learns the gospel learns the greatest lesson of all.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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