1.18 Synoptics -- Anti-Hierarchy
Matthew alone reports another saying of Jesus along the same lines of family relationships:
"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant" (Mat 23:8-11).
Here Jesus eliminates ranks and levels and authority over one another, in favor of the collegiality of brothers under the headship of the one Father. Priority is given to the person who humbles himself and serves the others:
"The greatest among you will be your servant" (Mat 23:11).
Jesus is the foundation of the family of God and of the work of God in history. Every other standard of human inclusion/exclusion is judged and discarded. Every other achievement in history which does not build up the family of God in some way will be counted as a failure. This exclusivity (Jesus or nothing) is extremely offensive to non-Christians, who condemn Christianity for its arrogance. Yet, in contrast to all the organizations, political, religious and educational, which men have devised, the society of "those who do the will of my Father in heaven" is wide open. As Jesus says in John,
"All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out" (Jn 6:37).
Indeed, the only requirement is to come and be one of those who gather around him and do the will of God.
This simple absolutism removed the cultural barriers keeping Gentiles outside the faith, even if that was not realized till after Jesus' resurrection. Furthermore, the centrality of Jesus doomed the old political expression of the Kingdom of God, the nation of Israel. Jesus anticipated Louis XIV and his alleged dictum, "L'etat, c'est moi" (I am the state). Jesus was the new Kingdom of Israel. He was the product of its historical struggle, the fulfillment of its founding purpose. It was the vine, he was the fruit, the point of its whole existence. Now that he had come, the state could wither away. Going forward, he superseded it, because it was no longer the focus of God’s work in the world. Instead, Jesus' "family" of those who do God’s will has become the focus. This is a key to understanding the history of the next 2000 years, which was the expansion of the family of God around the world, primarily among Gentiles of all races. There were numerous detours and perversions along the way, including the erection of hierarchical state churches, but the Holy Spirit kept bringing correction.
Many Christians believe that God’s Old Covenant with the Jews remains in force, that God will do something miraculous to vindicate the Jews in the Last Days. But this is to diminish the significance of Jesus' own person and mission, it is to believe in two separate simultaneous historic projects of the Holy Spirit – Christians and Jews. It is to retain the wall of separation that Paul declared Jesus had broken down. What is missed is the shift in God’s activity that Jesus represented. The Holy Spirit who used to work in the political community of Israel, centered on the Temple in Jerusalem, now abides exclusively in Jesus and his fellowship of brothers and sisters. This is God's sole way of acting redemptively in the world today.
And if God chooses to act miraculously on behalf of the Jews, which is what Paul indicates He will do in Romans, it will not be independent of His presence in the church, it will not be on the basis of an Old Covenant foundation, or according to an Old Testament model – a restoration of the Temple, the Law and sacrifices. That will not be the work of the Holy Spirit, because Jesus himself is the embodiment of the Temple and the fulfillment of the Law. Rather, when the Jews are restored, it will be as brothers and sisters in the family circle of those gathered around him.