“Learn From Me”
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.”
1. Why can learning from Jesus be pleasant and enriching?
JESUS CHRIST always thought, taught, and acted appropriately. His time on earth was short, but he enjoyed a rewarding and satisfying career, and he remained happy. He gathered disciples and taught them how to worship God, love humanity, and conquer the world. (John 16:33) He filled their hearts with hope and “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.” (2 Timothy 1:10) If you count yourself among his disciples, what do you think it means to be a disciple? By considering what Jesus says about disciples, we can learn how to enrich our lives. That involves adopting his viewpoint and applying some basic principles.
2, 3. (a) What is a disciple of Jesus? (b) Why is it important to ask ourselves, ‘Whose disciple have I become?’
2 In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word translated “disciple” basically means one who directs his mind to something, or one who learns. A related word occurs in our theme text, Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls.” Yes, a disciple is a learner. The Gospels usually apply the word “disciple” to Jesus’ intimate followers, who traveled with him as he preached and who were instructed by him. Some people might simply have accepted Jesus’ teachings, even doing so secretly. (Luke 6:17; John 19:38) The Gospel writers also referred to “the disciples of John [the Baptizer] and the disciples of the Pharisees.” (Mark 2:18) Since Jesus cautioned his followers to “watch out . . . for the teaching of the Pharisees,” we can ask ourselves, ‘Whose disciple have I become?’
3 If we are Jesus’ disciples, if we have learned from him, then others ought to feel spiritually refreshed in our presence. They ought to discern that we have become more mild-tempered and lowly in heart. If we have management responsibilities on our job, are parents, or have shepherding duties in the Christian congregation, do those in our care feel that we treat them as Jesus treated those in his care?
How Jesus Dealt With People
4, 5. (a) Why is it not difficult to know how Jesus dealt with people who had problems? (b) What experience did Jesus have when dining in the home of a Pharisee?
4 We need to know how Jesus dealt with people, especially those with serious problems. That should not be hard to learn; the Bible contains many reports of Jesus’ encounters with others, some of whom were troubled. Let us also note the way the religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees, dealt with people with similar problems. The contrast will be enlightening.
5 In the year 31 C.E., while Jesus was on a preaching tour in Galilee, “a certain one of the Pharisees kept asking [Jesus] to dine with him.” Jesus was not averse to accepting the invitation. “Accordingly he entered into the house of the Pharisee and reclined at the table. And, look! a woman who was known in the city to be a sinner learned that he was reclining at a meal in the house of the Pharisee, and she brought an alabaster case of perfumed oil, and, taking a position behind at his feet, she wept and started to wet his feet with her tears and she would wipe them off with the hair of her head. Also, she tenderly kissed his feet and greased them with the perfumed oil.”
6. Why might the woman who was “a sinner” have been at the home of the Pharisee?
6 Can you picture that? One reference work claims: “The woman (v.37) took advantage of the social customs that permitted needy people to visit such a banquet to receive some of the leftovers.” That might explain how a person could enter uninvited. There may have been others who hoped to glean at the end of the meal. However, this woman’s behavior was unusual. She did not watch from the sidelines, waiting for the dinner to break up. She had an unsavory reputation, being “a sinner” of some note, so that Jesus said he knew of “her sins, many though they [were].”
7, 8. (a) How might we have responded under such circumstances as those reported at Luke 7:36-38? (b) How did Simon respond?
7 Imagine yourself living back at that time and being in Jesus’ place. How would you have reacted? Would you have felt uneasy as this woman approached you? How would such a situation affect you? (Luke 7:45) Would you have been appalled, horrified?
8 If you had been among the other guests, might your thinking have been at least somewhat like that of Simon the Pharisee? “At the sight the Pharisee that invited [Jesus] said within himself: ‘This man, if he were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman it is that is touching him, that she is a sinner.’” (Luke 7:39) In contrast, Jesus was a man of deep compassion. He understood the woman’s plight and sensed her anguish. We are not told how she fell into a life of sin. If she indeed was a prostitute, the men of the town, dedicated Jews, apparently had not helped her.
9. How did Jesus respond, and with what possible result?
9 But Jesus wanted to help her. He said to her: “Your sins are forgiven.” Then he added: “Your faith has saved you; go your way in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50) Here the account ends. Someone may object that Jesus did not do much for her. Basically, he sent her away with his blessing. Do you think that she probably returned to her sad way of life? While we cannot say for sure, take note of what Luke next says. He related that Jesus journeyed “from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom.” Luke also reported that “certain women” were with Jesus and his disciples, “ministering to them from [the women’s] belongings.” The possibility cannot be ruled out that this repentant and appreciative woman was now among them, embarking upon a godly way of life with a clean conscience, a renewed sense of purpose, and a much deeper love for God.
Difference Between Jesus and the Pharisees
10. Why is it profitable to consider the account of Jesus and the woman at Simon’s house?
10 What can we learn from this vivid account? It stirs our emotions, does it not? Imagine yourself in Simon’s home. How would you feel? Would you respond as did Jesus, or would you feel a bit like his Pharisee host? Jesus was the Son of God, so we cannot feel and act exactly as he did. On the other hand, we may not be eager to think of ourselves as being like Simon, the Pharisee. Few would take pride in being Pharisaic.
11. Why would we not want to be classed with the Pharisees?
11 From a study of Biblical and secular evidence, we can conclude that the Pharisees thought highly of themselves as guardians of the public good and the national welfare. They were not satisfied that God’s Law was fundamentally clear and easily understood. Wherever the Law seemed to them to be unspecific, they sought to plug apparent gaps with defined applications to eliminate any need for conscience. These religious leaders attempted to devise a precept to govern conduct in all issues, even trivialities.*
12. What view did the Pharisees have of themselves?
12 The first-century Jewish historian Josephus makes it obvious that the Pharisees considered themselves to be kind, gentle, just, and altogether right for their task. Doubtless, some of them came fairly close to that. Nicodemus might come to your mind. (John 3:1, 2; 7:50, 51) In time, some of them embraced the Christian way. (Acts 15:5) The Christian apostle Paul wrote about certain Jews, such as the Pharisees: “They have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) However, the Gospels present them as they were seen by the common people
13. What did Jesus have to say about the Pharisees?
13 Jesus castigated the scribes and Pharisees as hypocritical. “They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” Yes, the load was heavy, and the yoke imposed on the people was harsh. Jesus went on to call the scribes and Pharisees “fools.” A fool is a menace to the community. Jesus also called the scribes and Pharisees “blind guides” and asserted that they had “disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” Who would want Jesus to think of him as Pharisaic?
14, 15. (a) Jesus’ dealings with Matthew Levi reveal what about the ways of the Pharisees? (b) What important lessons can we learn from this account?
14 Almost any reader of the Gospel accounts can see the critical nature of most Pharisees. After Jesus invited Matthew Levi, the tax collector, to become a disciple, Levi spread a big reception feast for him. The account says: “At this the Pharisees and their scribes began murmuring to his disciples, saying: ‘Why is it you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ In reply Jesus said to them: ‘. . . I have come to call, not righteous persons, but sinners to repentance.’”
15 Levi himself appreciated something else Jesus said on that occasion: “Go, then, and learn what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13) Although the Pharisees claimed to believe in the writings of the Hebrew prophets, they did not embrace this saying from Hosea 6:6. If they were going to err, they made sure it would be on the side of obedience to tradition. Each of us could ask ourselves, ‘Do I have a reputation for being a stickler for certain rules, such as ones that reflect personal opinion or common approaches to a matter? Or do others think of me as being first of all merciful and good?’
16. What was the Pharisaic way, and how can we avoid being like them?
16 Pick, pick, pick. That was the Pharisaic way. The Pharisees looked for every flaw
How Did Jesus Handle Problems?
17-19. (a) Explain how Jesus handled a situation that could have had very serious consequences. (b) What made the situation stressful and unpleasant? (c) Had you been there when the woman approached Jesus, how would you have reacted?
17 Jesus’ way of handling problems was far different from that of the Pharisees. Consider how Jesus handled a situation that could have been very serious. It involved a woman who had had a flow of blood for 12 years. You can read the account at Luke 8:42-48.
18 Mark’s account says that the woman was “frightened and trembling.” (Mark 5:33) Why? Doubtless because she knew that she had broken God’s Law. According to Leviticus 15:25-28, a woman with an unnatural flow of blood was unclean for as long as it lasted, plus a week. Everything she touched and every person she came in contact with became defiled. To approach Jesus, this woman had to work her way through the throng. When we look at the account 2,000 years later, our hearts go out to her in her discomfort.
19 If you had been present that day, how would you have viewed the situation? What would you have said? Notice that Jesus treated this woman in a kind, loving, and considerate way, not even alluding to any problems she may have caused.
20. If Leviticus 15:25-28 were a requirement today, what challenge would we face?
20 Can we learn something from this event? Suppose you were an elder in a Christian congregation today. And further suppose that Leviticus 15:25-28 were a Christian requirement today and that a Christian woman had violated that law, feeling frantic and abandoned. How would you react? Would you publicly humiliate her with critical counsel? “Oh,” you say, “never would I do that! Following Jesus’ example, I would make every effort to be kind, loving, thoughtful, and considerate.” Very good! But the challenge is to do it, to imitate Jesus’ pattern.
21. What did Jesus teach people about the Law?
21 Essentially, people felt refreshed by Jesus, uplifted and encouraged. Where God’s Law was definite, it meant what it said. If it seemed general, their conscience would come more into play and they could show their love for God by their decisions. The Law gave them room to live and breathe. (Mark 2:27, 28) God loved his people, worked constantly for their good, and was willing to be merciful when they faltered. Jesus was like that.
Results of Jesus’ Teachings
22. Learning from Jesus left his disciples in what frame of mind?
22 Those who listened to Jesus and became his disciples appreciated the truth of his declaration: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:30) They never felt burdened, harassed, or harangued by him. They were freer, happier, and more confident about their relationship with God and with one another. (Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 9:49, 50) From him they learned that being a spiritual leader calls for being refreshing to others, manifesting lowliness of mind and heart.
23. Being with Jesus taught the disciples what important lesson and helped them to reach what conclusions?
23 Moreover, many were deeply impressed with the importance of remaining in union with Christ and adopting the spirit he showed. He told his disciples: “Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:9, 10) If they were to be successful as ministers and servants of God, they would have to apply diligently what they had learned from Jesus, both in preaching and teaching publicly about God’s wonderful good news and in dealing with family and friends. As the brotherhood grew into congregations, they would time and again need to remind themselves that his way was the right way. What he taught was the truth, and the life they had observed embodied in him was truly the life to aspire to.
24. What are things we should take to heart from Jesus’ example?
24 As you now reflect on some of the things we have been discussing, do you see ways in which to improve? Do you agree that Jesus always thought, taught, and acted appropriately? Then, take heart. His encouraging words to us are: “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.”
“The nature of the difference [between Jesus and the Pharisees] is made clear only in the light of the two opposing understandings of God. For the Pharisees, God is primarily one who makes demands; for Jesus he is gracious and compassionate. The Pharisee does not, of course, deny God’s goodness and love, but for him these were expressed in the gift of the Torah [Law] and in the possibility of fulfilling what is there demanded. . . . Adherence to the oral tradition, with its rules for interpreting the law, was seen by the Pharisee as the way to the fulfilment of the Torah. . . . Jesus’ elevation of the double command of love (Matt. 22:34-40) to the level of a norm of interpretation and his rejection of the binding nature of the oral tradition . . . led him into conflict with Pharisaic casuistry.”
How Do You Respond?
• What does it mean to you to be a disciple of Jesus?
• How did Jesus deal with people?
• What can we learn from the way Jesus taught?
• How did the Pharisees and Jesus differ?
[Pictures on page 18, 19]
How different Jesus’ attitude toward people was from that of the Pharisees!