I saw a great little DVD called "Dust" last night. Rob Bell talked about being a rabbi's disciple and what it really means. It was so rich with gold dust, things I've heard and yet never knew, things I'd been taught but never understood and things I'd forgotten in the passion of following Jesus.
Like this passage, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt 29:11)
I've never really understood that. Someone last night joked that when they were a kid they thought Jesus was talking about egg-yokes. I always pictured one of those wooden things you use to connect two oxen or cows or something together to pull something. You know, the things that look like a guillotine noose, just minus the blade. Nice image to associate with Jesus....
But Rob Bell explained that back in the time that Jesus lived, Rabbi's often took on disciples. No, they chose disciples. One had to be chosen to be a disciple of a rabbi. And The rabbi chose disciples he believed could learn all that he knew and become like him. It became a saying of a rabbi to his disciple to "take my yoke", which literally meant "become like me." It had less to do with "slavery" or "being bound" to something -- as today's teachings often tell us -- than it had to do with learning and becoming.
When you became a rabbi's disciple, you followed him wherever he went. Often, at the end of the day you would be caked in the mud and dirt of all the places your rabbi had been. It was seen as a mark of a true disciple and a saying arose, "May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi."
I recently found Matt 11:29 in the Message "version" (whatever its called). "Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." This really gets that point across; that Jesus, our Rabbi, our Teacher as well as God and Savior and Redeemer and Lord, is inviting us to be like Him. Not just to follow Him, obey Him, learn from Him, but be like Him.
I remember as a child learning that I could be "like" Jesus -- that I "should" be like Jesus. But in the same breath, I was told no one will ever be like Jesus because we are just human and He is God. What my child's mind took away from those lessons is that, while I "should" strive to be like Jesus, I should never expect to be like Him.
As I listened to Rob Bell on that DVD, heard him repeat again, "The rabbi doesn't choose you unless he thinks you can be like him." I heard Jesus whisper to me, "are you listening? Do you hear? Do you believe? Will you believe?"
Rob went on to explain that when Peter stepped out of the boat and into the water, he was proving he really was a disciple of his rabbi. He was determined to be like his rabbi and do what his rabbi did. If Jesus was walking on the water, then Peter wanted to.
When Peter started to sink, Jesus caught him and gently asked, "why did you doubt?" Who was Peter doubting? Not, Jesus -- Jesus wasn't sinking. He didn't doubt Jesus, his rabbi, could walk on the water. Peter doubted himself. He doubted that he could do what his Rabbi did. Remember, rabbis chose their disciples based on a confidence the rabbi had that the disciple could be like him.
As Rob explained this, I again heard Jesus whisper, "Do you hear that? Are you listening? Do you believe? I believe. I have faith you can."
These two passages have been rattling around my spirit for several weeks now. God keeps pulling me back to them over and over and I finally see the connection between the two. I see what Jesus wants me learn right now:
I can be like Him. He. Chose. Me. He chose me because He knew I could be like Him. Jesus has faith in me. Isn't that the weirdest thing you've ever heard??? Jesus has faith in US. Jesus has faith that we can follow Him and that we can be like Him. Not just obey. Not just follow. Not just journey together. But be like Him.
Rob Bell closed the study guide with the following words. They have echoed in my heart and spirit since I first read them:
"May you believe in God. But may you come to see that God believes in you. May you have faith in Jesus. But may you come to see that Jesus has faith that you can be like him. A person of love and compassion and truth. A person of forgiveness, and peace, and grace, and joy, and hope. And may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi, Jesus."