“Your father brings you into this world. Your Rabbi brings you into the world to come.” Mishna
It can happen to any of us. From the seasoned saint to the new-ish believer, we can hit a point where Jesus feels distant. I know He is my savior, but He died and rose again almost 2,000 years ago on the other side of the world from me. I know He is my Lord, but that makes me think of a King in a distant castle up on a throne while I’m out here in the kingdom trying to serve Him. Does it ever feel like there is something missing from this relationship? There is; it’s seeing Jesus Himself as your primary Mentor.
I played tennis as a kid. Every year when the Wimbledon tournament rolls around on TV I swear that I’m going to start playing again. I’ll let you know when that happens. When I started playing as a kid a family friend showed me the basics. A group of us kids played for fun. We were as good as a bunch of kids with no lessons could be. Our skills only took us so far.
Eventually I had the opportunity to have some lessons through the city’s Parks and Rec Department. The instructor was a guy named Rogé. He’s a whole other story unto himself. Rogé was different from other sports coaches I’d had in the past. I had some coaches whose idea of coaching amounted to screaming “Do better!” from the sideline.
But on the tennis court, Rogé showed me how to stand, how to move, how to swing the racket. Then he had me stand next to him, move with him around the court, swing the racket as he swung it. Next he stood by me, moved with me, and swung next to me. Towards the end Rogé was on the other side of the net, hitting the ball to me, making me run around the court to hit the ball well. All the while he offered encouragement as well as correction. At times he would make it easy and repetitive so that I could build good habits and muscle memory. At other times he would make it challenging so I could stretch myself and learn new skills. He was a good coach. He was a mentor.
When we read the stories of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and His disciples, we see similar mentoring relationships. Jesus was a Rabbi. Sometimes this is translated as “Master” or “Teacher.” Neither of those words really encapsulate the nature of the role Jesus played in the lives of His disciples. What was a Rabbi? What was a disciple?
- In the first century, when a young person succeeded educationally and reached a certain age, they had the option to approach a Rabbi and ask to be his disciple. This is interesting in light of Jesus words to His disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, I chose you.”
- If one was accepted as a disciple, it meant leaving home and living a life dedicated to becoming a copy of the Rabbi. Not just learning what the Rabbi had to teach, but eating the way he ate, walking the way he walked, thinking the way he thought.
- The Rabbi’s goal was to replicate himself in the lives of his disciples. Not just teaching, but demonstrating and passing along.
I love these quotes from the Mishna about the relationship between Rabbi and disciple.
- “If a man’s father and a Rabbi are both taken captive, a disciple should ransom his Rabbi first.”
- “If a man’s father and Rabbi are each carrying a heavy load, the disciple should help his Rabbi first.”
- “If a disciple is taken captive into exile, the Rabbi should go with him.”
- “Your father brings you into this world. Your Rabbi brings you into the world to come.”
Jesus was Savior, Lord, but also mentor to His disciples. While Jesus is our savior who died for us individually back then in Jerusalem, and while we can feel and experience that salvation daily, He is also our mentor with whom we can live and walk today. While Jesus is the Lord and King over the universe and our lives individually, He is also our mentor with whom we can build His Kingdom side by side.
Jesus Living Through You
Wait, it gets better. What this does for me is to bring Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 into a whole new light.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (NKJV)
When we have not only our Savior, not only our Lord, but also our Rabbi, our Mentor living inside of us, it’s no longer a matter of living a life like Jesus’ life. It is now a matter of Jesus living His life through us. When we let Jesus live through us, we will be living Jesus’ life!
The One who did those things we read about in the gospels, who lived with and taught those people, He lives inside of you and wants to mentor you the same way He mentored them. It really brings what is perhaps the missing piece of the relationship into the here and now.
This idea of Jesus as a Mentor who lives in and through us also reframes The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.
- Rabbi Jesus made disciples. He told them to go make more disciples. Jesus is now making disciples of you and I and tells us to go and do the same.
- Rabbi Jesus taught His disciples and gave them commandments. He tells them to teach others to observe the same things. This also applies to you and I.
- Rabbi Jesus tells them He is with them to the end of the age as He is with us.
Being mentored by Jesus, being discipled, and discipling others, those things are not just for ministry-leader types; they’re for all of Jesus’ followers.
Is that thought exciting? Is it terrifying? Perhaps a bit of both? I’m sure that’s how Peter, James, and John felt when Jesus invited them to follow Him, and look how the Lord worked through them. The same invitation is extended to all of us.
Pass On What You Have Learned
The next steps are simple, but not always easy.
- If you are a pastor, does your church have a path for people to be discipled and to then turn around to disciple others? If not, there are numerous resources for this that I could share which are specific to your situation.
- If you are newer to following Jesus, ask your pastor about this kind of discipleship. Having been a pastor I can say I would be thrilled if someone asked.
- If you’ve been following Jesus for a while and don’t think you have anything to offer, consider this; whatever you have in you that is Jesus-like is beneficial to someone else and you will grow by sharing it. Everything else in you is a work-in-progress. Ask your pastor what’s next.
In the mean time, ask The Lord to show you what He’s doing and ask Him to show you how. You will experience a whole new part of your relationship with Jesus. Then, help someone else do the same.
These are books and authors that have largely influenced me in this area. Great resources.
- Lois Tverberg has a third book coming out in 2018 on the same “Rabbi Jesus” theme. I taught through Matthew with “Sitting at the Feet” in front of me at all times. Her books opened my eyes to see Jesus more in His Historical and Rabbinic context more than anything I’ve read before.
- This is Paul Gibbs‘ updated version of his book which got me started on this rabbit trail in the first place. Haverim is highly recommended. Be sure to check out what is perhaps the most unique event I’ve ever participated in, Global Haverim. People literally all over the word studying the same passage at the same time in the same way, sharing what God speaks to their hearts. It’s amazing. Anyone can study the Bible, hear from the Lord, and share it with others. Start or find a group near you!
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