Jesus is a Leader (part 2)

August 10, 2011

When carefully studying the book of Matthew we notice how Matthew has carefully crafted his book into five distinct teaching “sermons” from Jesus.

Most of these sermons are separated with “When Jesus had finished giving these instructions”[1] or “When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations.”[2] Clearly, the Apostle Matthew is focused on sharing the teachings of Jesus. He is so focused on this that since Matthew is a Jew, writing to Jews attempting to prove Jesus as being God’s son, he might have chosen to group these teachings in five sections as a way to parallel his gospel with the Pentateuch.[3] Matthew is leveraging the cultural heritage of Jews at that time for the benefit of the Jews who are familiar with the five books of law.

It can also be argued that this Gospel of Matthew has been written to add to and possibly replace those five books of law that the Jews so closely studied and memorized at that time. When writing about the five teachings included in the book of Matthew, Christian Hauer and William Young in their book, An Introduction to the Bible, explain, “Clearly this gospel [Matthew] is concerned. . . not only with proclaiming the authority of Jesus as teacher and preacher, but also with giving the content of his teaching. The fivefold division of the gospel seems patterned after the Five Books of Moses in the Tanak.”[4] As we now can see that Jesus is a teacher, how does his ability to teach related to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Rabbis, and religious teachers of that time?

We can make the assertion that Jesus has an incredible ability to teach simply based on the number of people who followed Him. As He teaches and performs miracles, more and more people begin to follow His teachings and learn from Him. This is evident in the reaction the crowds have after Jesus delivers His famous Sermon on the Mount where Matthew tells us, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.”[5]

However, as you can imagine, there were lots of teachers at that time. How do we know to differentiate Jesus? What type of authority does Jesus have that allows Him to speak so powerfully and how is that related to the other priests, religious leaders, and rabbis of that day? Gene R. Smillie carefully articulates how this took place in his article, Jesus’ Response to the Question of His Authority in Matthew 21 when he writes: “By demonstrating Jesus’ superiority of His opponents in rabbinical debate Matthew revealed Jesus’ authority to teach (the particular activity in which He was engaged at the moment they challenged Him, 21:23), that is, to declare theological truth. One after another, the religious authorities of His day came at Him to test Him. One after another, they were defeated.”[6] And it was not just Jesus’ authority that gave Him the ability to teach and influence the people to change their lifestyles, it was the way he communicated His sayings in simple yet profound ways.

Any leader knows the importance of making his message simple and clear. Read any book on vision casting and that is one of the main topics the author will tell you to do. When commenting on the way Jesus taught parables, Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll asserts, “As you study Jesus’ method of communicating you will find this advice underlying it: make it clear. Make it simple. Emphasize the essentials. Forget about impressing others. Be content to leave some things unsaid.”[7] Any good leader does the hard work to break down his or her teachings into simple principles and stories that anyone can understand, especially the underprivileged, poor, and illiterate, which are the main audiences Jesus is teaching.

However, a leader being a great teacher is not enough to make that person a leader.

Question: How do you see Jesus? Do you see him as a leader and teacher? Why or why not? 

[1] Matt. 13:53

[2] Matt. 11:1

[3] The Pentateuch consists of the first five books included in the Bible probably written by Moses. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They were and still are the five books of laws that practicing religious Jews follow to this very day.

[4] Christian A. Hauer and William A. Young, An Introduction to the Bible. 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008), 269.

[5] Matt. 7:28-29

[6] Gene R. Smillie, “Jesus’ Response to the Question of His Authority in Matthew 21,” Bibliotheca Sacra 162 (October-December 2005): 467.

[7] Charles R. Swindoll, The Living Insights Study Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 1020.


Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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