Covered In The Dust Of Your Rabbi


img_5445 Our story today begins in John 1:35-39a (MSG):

The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here He is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him…

Our story today is about the relationship between Jesus and His disciples. It is a relationship that I have long misunderstood...

Ever since I was small, ever since I can remember, I have loved Jesus. I wanted to follow Him, to know Him, and to be about His work. I was trying to be a disciple of Christ even before I knew what that meant. In spite of not understanding what it meant to be a disciple, I went at it like a blacksmith - forceful with my hammer and tong.

An example of my misguided zeal: There was a season of life where I thought it was imperative that I pray 30-40 mins... on my knees… every night... before I went to bed. God knew my intention was to give a pure offering.

What I ended up giving was 20-40 minutes of sleepy, droning prayers, echoed from a repetitive list. The kicker - that chanted prayer was only acceptable if I did not fall asleep, which I frequently did. Once I even woke in the middle of the night having fallen into a deep slumber and tried to stand from my kneeled position; I landed on my face, like a felled tree, from legs too numb to hold me.

Why weren't my efforts bearing abundant fruit?

I was going full throttle towards something I didn’t understand. When we don’t understand what we are doing we are in essence handicapped by our own disillusionment. We make up what we don’t know. We invent, misunderstand, misrepresent, and twist.

I took what was supposed to be a relationship and turned it into a set of accomplishments, check lists, promotionals, and pats on the back.

My life looked much more like Mario collecting stars in Nintendo than it looked like someone who has seen the face of God.

(Now, here I want to make a disclaimer: God knows that I love Him and in His goodness I have seen Him redeem so many of my foolish mistakes. He changes those mistakes into glory for Himself. Isn’t that amazing! How our Lord is so powerful that He can take our confused and misguided understandings of God and make them bear fruit even when we are working from wrong presumptions!)

Slowly, as I spent more time with God, I began to see that the modus operandi that I was working under wasn’t correct. Here, the Holy Spirit began to nudge me away from religion and into the realm of relationship.  

However, it wasn’t until studying this portion of the gospels that I was really able to see and to put into words what the Holy Spirit had begun to teach me. Being a disciple of Christ is about a relationship and spending time with Jesus. It is not about doing things for the Kingdom.

Let’s look again at the story we read earlier from John chapter 1:

“Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him…”

There are 3 main things that stand out:

  1. The disciples respond to Jesus.
  2. Jesus tells the disciples to “COME AND SEE.”
  3. The disciples went and stayed with Him.

Let’s look at these three points one by one.

  1. The disciples respond to Jesus.

Jesus opens the dialogue here. He asks them a question, making an offer at conversation. I love this because it is so true of the nature of God. God pursues us, desiring a relationship with us.

It is then that the disciples respond by acknowledging who Jesus is, calling Him Rabbi and Teacher, and asking Jesus where He is staying.

In essence, the disciples want to spend more time with Him and get to know Him better. I love that the heart’s cry of a true disciple is to be with Jesus.

2) Jesus tells the disciples to “COME AND SEE.”

Jesus doesn't directly answer the disciple's question of where He is staying. Instead, He invites them to “COME AND SEE.” Their simple question is met with a request and appeal for them to leave where they were and join Jesus where He is.

Jesus could have just as easily given them an answer. It would have taken 2 seconds to utter a reply. Instead Jesus invites them to be where He will be… to see Him… walk with Him… spend time with him... to be with Him. It’s an bid for relationship.

3) The disciples went and stayed with Him.

Here we see that Jesus’s invitation is accepted. The disciples choose to leave behind their previous activities and to go and observe Jesus. They went with Jesus to where He was going. More then that, they stayed with Him. They chose to remain where He was.

From the gospel accounts we can see that the disciples hang out with Jesus for approximately a year. All during this time, Jesus doesn’t actually call the disciples to “FOLLOW ME.” Not yet.

So, what is Jesus doing with the disciples that answered His summons to “Come and SEE?”

Let’s look to John again and see how Jesus spent this year with the disciples:

  • Jesus began to do signs to manifest His glory, and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:11
  • Jesus fulfilled scripture that the disciples already knew about the Messiah. John 2:13-17
  • Jesus spoke prophecy about His death so that the disciples would know Scripture and believe later. John 2:19-22
  • Jesus spent time with them. John 3:22
  • Jesus let them help with low responsibility parts of His ministry (baptizing and getting food).  John 4:2 & 8
  • Jesus presents them with an offer to consider: Join Him in the harvest. John 4:34-38

Jesus spends almost an entire year with the disciples and during this time He is building a relationship with them. He is establishing trust, sharing quality time, and letting them know that He is who He says He is.

So when the time comes and He calls them to “follow me” and to become “fishers of men” they can leave everything behind and follow Him wholeheartedly.

This whole concept of discipleship being an established, trusting relationship makes even more sense when I learned about the Hebrew concept of Talmidim. The word discipleship doesn't exist in the Hebrew language, but the concept of a Rabbi and his Talmidim was a fundamental structure in the everyday life of the Jew. It is from this concept of Talmidim that we see Jesus pattern his interactions with His disciples.

A Rabbi (or teacher) would allow prospective talmidim (or disciples), to follow him for months. This was so that the talmidim would be able to observe and understand who the Rabbi was. Only after the talmidim knew the Rabbi well, would the Rabbi consider taking Him as a Talmidim.

There was a reason that the student would need to know the Rabbi well; for if they became a talmidim of that Rabbi, they would leave everything they knew and join the Rabbi in life.

Talmidim walked where the Rabbi walked, ate what the Rabbi ate, prayed like the Rabbi prayed, and used the restroom as the Rabbi did. There is even a story about a talmidim hiding under his Rabbi’s bed to learn how to make love to a wife.  

A talmidim did not try to simply UNDERSTAND or KNOW ABOUT the Rabbi, they desired to BE the Rabbi. They made every effort to BECOME the Rabbi.

This is not a student teacher relationship. This is not a knowledge gain and tests passed relationship. This is a real, nitty-gritty, everyday live life kind of relationship. And that is why Jesus spends a year establishing and developing His disciples’ relationship with Himself.  

I think I tried so hard to do stuff for Jesus, that I missed the whole concept: what He really wants is for me to spend time with Him, learn to trust Him, and becoming more like Him.

The good works that I strove for are the natural result of having a relationship with Christ and being more like Him. No striving necessary.

It never occurred to me that if I did daily life with Jesus that the checklists and works that plagued me would fall away. My relationship with Jesus naturally produces a lifestyle that imitates the Rabbi, Jesus.

This knowledge finished freeing me from my misconceptions of what discipleship looked like.

So, what does my prayer life look like now that I am a Talmidim of Jesus?

There are no more assigned pray-on-your-knees times (I fall asleep too much for that). Instead as I walk each day with Jesus, I talk to Him. It is a conversation that also involves listening, not just reciting a list. It’s a pleasant way to pray. It’s is a pleasant way to live.

I am no longer trying to understand about Jesus and do things for Him. Instead I am spending time with Him and following Him, praying for the things that He brings across my path.

I don’t want check lists any more; I want a relationship with Jesus. I want my relationship with Jesus to look like a cultural blessing in the time of Christ:

“May you be covered in the

Dust of your Rabbi.”

This blessing meant that someone was following so closely to their rabbi that they were covered in the physical dust of their steps. They were in relationship with their rabbi and following right after Him.

Now instead of looking at what I have done for Jesus, I ask myself: ‘How closely am I following? Am I covered in the dust of my Rabbi?"

IMG_7960Hannah Michael Wolfkill Snyder has always loved all of her names (yes, each one is on her passport!). However, the name she loves the most is Jesus. Jesus taught her how to play in the throne room of Heaven and sit in the lap of God the Father. This is her identity, where her heart loves to abide (even if her hands and feet are busy on earth running a household or meeting up with people). Because of her joy in the Father, her heart’s desire is to show women their God given identity in the kingdom of Heaven. You can find her on Instagram.