My late college room-mate, David Lewis, used to write a blog called “the mannaman’s blog.” His goal was to impart the bread of life from Jesus. In one of his post he relates what it was like for a Jewish boy growing up in Israel who desired to be a Rabbi.
“To be a Rabbi was the greatest thing in the whole world. Because they knew the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) was the passion of the Rabbi, they spent most of their time in the synagogues and schools learning it. Unbelievably, by the time they were 10, if they were able to memorize all five books, they were given a special invitation to become part of a gifted and talented program where by age 14, the goal was to memorize the entire Old Testament.”
“It was then and only then, that they earned the right to ask the Rabbi if they could become his talmidim (a follower, an apprentice). A talmidim followed his Rabbi everywhere, because every moment was an opportunity to learn. He was literally afraid to let his Rabbi out of his sight, out of his hearing, because something might happen that he would not be able to learn.”
“There is a great prayer that goes back to Jesus’ day, which was a blessing given to talmidim about their Rabbis, which goes like this: “May you be covered by the dust of your Rabbi! (Because they lived in a dusty world) May you follow so closely with your Rabbi, that when His feet kick up dust, you are so close to Him that dust covers you. May you never be out of His sight. May you never be someplace where he can’t see you. May you never be so far away where you can’t hear Him speak to you.”
In view of this cultural backdrop the invitation of Jesus takes on a special meaning when he calls His disciples to “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me” (Matt 11:29). If we are to draw near to God, receive spiritual enlightenment and experience inner peace, it must begin with learning from Jesus, the Master teacher.
Discipleship is about learning, being trained and becoming like the One we seek to serve. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40).
Ken Hemphill was right when he wrote, “Discipleship is an ongoing process, not a quick fix.” It is not something that is achieved in a simple 12 step course. Or by reading the latest religious bestseller. Or even by attending church every Sunday.
Discipleship is a lifetime journey. It is being a continual learner. It is giving up our selfish desires. Reaching up to seek greater goals. And growing up to become more like Jesus. It is a daily walk.
The apostle Paul is a great example of this process. He had impressive credentials. He was educated. He had enjoyed many privileges. And had achieved spiritual success in his ministry, for which he gave God the glory. He preached the gospel. Defended the truth. Planted churches. Converted the lost. But also had suffered. He had been beaten. Stoned. Shipwrecked. Imprisoned. And yet he admitted, there was still room for growth and the need to press on toward the goal (Phil 3:12-14).
Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians is appropriate for us, if we desire to continue learning and developing deeper discipleship, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1)
What are you learning? What are you reading? Who are you following? How are you growing? What are you becoming? Where are you going?
Jesus calls us, “Come, learn of Me.”
Indeed “may we be covered by the dust of our Rabbi!”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman