a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
I will be among the first and loudest to laud Esther for the shrewd and charming heroism through which God saved the Jewish people at a critical juncture. But, beyond her stalwart character stands a shaping influence, a teacher, without whom this heroine may not have escaped the dangers to which she was repeatedly exposed.
A psalmist wrote that he would rather be a gatekeeper at the king’s courts than dwell with the wicked. This is where we find Mordecai for most of the story, quietly resisting evil from the king’s gate.
When he’s not attending to his work at the gate, he’s attentive to his young orphaned cousin Hadassah, or perhaps she accompanies him on the job. What skills did she acquire because of his position in the palace complex? Any way we imagine the upbringing of the future queen of Persia, there is evidence that Mordecai is aware and engaged.
After she takes her place in the palace, Mordecai strolls beside the court every day to find out how she is and to get news of what she’s doing (2:11). His is a methodology marked by awareness and engagement.
Apparently, Esther was enchanting (2:15). Was the ability to put people at ease and to network a skill she learned in Mordecai’s company? Perhaps. What we do know is that Mordecai was not a salacious people-pleaser. When questioned why he neglects to bow to Haman, Mordecai only replies that he is a Jew (3:2-4). In spite of the danger, he calmly and quietly resists a cultural expectation because of a deeper affiliation.
His non-compliance isn’t a mark of his character, however. Emotionally and expressively mourning the approaching public genocide of his people, Mordecai stops outside the king’s gate, his regular podium of influence, because no one demonstrating distress was permitted to go further (4:1-2).
Though he is forthcoming with his own identity, he instructs Esther otherwise and she complies maintaining racial anonymity. This is a principle of classroom management: it is conducted in the interest of the student to cultivate an environment safe and stimulating for learning. (The opposite would be a controlling authoritarian approach so that the students know who is the boss.)
Esther’s deference to Mordecai as an adult and queen is a long habit from childhood, and it derived from a collaborative style. We observe Esther challenge Mordecai, giving him his own instructions, which he in turn obeys (4:15-17). His relationship with Esther is reciprocal.
Mordecai gives Esther a challenging assignment, to go to the king and intercede with him on behalf of her people. It’s an exacting assignment and it is not vague. He equips her for the task by providing a detailed account of the situation including how much money Haman put up, and gives her a handout of the bulletin posted in Susa so she has a physical reference (4:4-8).
Mordecai’s character anchors the story at the climax when he appeals to Esther after she has challenged his judgment. His confidence in God’s deliverance is steadfast, and he acknowledges that people have a role to play. This is more than great theology; it is pragmatics. It is mine to be aware and engaged, to challenge and equip, to alternately resist and comply. It is God’s to deliver.
I’ve been thinking about the part of the story where Esther explains to Mordecai about the king holding out his scepter (or not). The Master Teacher’s scepter is always and automatically held out to us. By grace. His throne room is where I need to do more striving and trusting, especially on behalf of my students and colleagues.
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