A Call to Higher Learning

Labor Day weekend passed in a blur for me much like the rest of 2010 so far.

With certain sadness, I’ve resigned myself to the notion that Labor Day signified the end of summer.  Back to school time.  Though I was actually jolted from my summer malaise a few weeks earlier when local Wal-mart stores posted district student’s supply lists next to shelves bearing an endless cache of  spiral notebooks, pink erasers and Number 2 pencils.

The symbolic bell rang in August for most Colorado Springs families.  Some parents wiped tears when, for the first time, they let go of their 5 year-old’s hand, standing under a “Welcome to Kindergarten” banner.  No doubt other parents cried Hallelujah as they transported adult teens to college dormitories and secretly counted down the final minutes initiating their empty nest years together.   I would imagine most parents were somewhere in the middle.

In my home there are four students.  My older son and his beautiful bride are both college students. My younger son is a Sophomore in High School. 

I always look forward to Back-to-School night, meeting and talking with the teachers and coaches who will be shaping the mind of my son for the coming semester.   The best teachers are the ones who encourage students, the ones who communicate a sense of “you can do it”.  Those teachers inspire confidence and motivate students to want to succeed because someone believes in them, expects the best of them and holds them to a higher standard.    I’m blessed to have met several of those teachers at my son’s school. 

I’m even more blessed to have that kind of teacher myself.  I mentioned four students in my home.  I’m the fourth.  Yet, unlike the other educational pursuits under my roof, my learning will never cease.  I am a student of Jesus Christ. 

Matthew 11: 29 shows the words of Christ when he said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…”

Jesus knows the lessons I need to learn because He knows me intimately.  My course of instruction is designed specifically for me.  Even better, there’s no Calculus, or engineering classes to drive me NUTS!  God promises to keep it simple for students like me. 

Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Coming from Kansas farming roots, I used to think the yoke was the kind that bound field animals together.  I’ve since learned the yoke referred to in this passage was a collar worn around the neck by rabbinical students.  Their yoke publicly identified them not only as a student but it also declared whom they were a student of since it bore the name of their Rabbi/teacher. 

When a Rabbi agreed to accept a young Jewish man as a disciple, the disciple-to-be agreed to totally submit to the absolute authority of the Rabbi.  Because this was something every devoted Jewish male aspired to, each disciple eagerly approached the relationship with a posture of submission. 

To wear the yoke of a particular Rabbi publicly proclaimed complete surrendering of the disciple’s life…actions, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs…to the Rabbi’s interpretation of Scripture.   From dawn to dusk student shadowed teacher drinking him in as an elixir.  So intent were students to mirror their Rabbi they often even mimicked eating habits, posture, facial expressions, mannerisms and vocal inflections.

Most compelling to my inquisitive nature is how learning took place through persistent questions and answers.  Either the student would ask a question based on observations in the Rabbi’s life or the Rabbi would raise a query about something he had observed in the student’s life.  The goal of the Rabbi was not to impart cookie cutter formulas to religiosity but to lead the student to develop a spirit of discernment.  Ultimately the disciple would learn from the Rabbi how to interpret Holy Scriptures for application in all areas of his life in order that he might live a life honoring to God.

As a student of the Great Rabbi…Jesus Christ…I am specially chosen by Him, invited to wear a yoke bearing His name. Much like the rabbinical students of Christ’s time I am best positioned to learn when I am in a posture of complete, radical submission to my Teacher, surrendering all my actions, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs to His careful instruction.  My Teacher is not threatened by my questions.  On the contrary, He encourages them.  My lessons are intended not to give me some 3 step formula to religiosity or piety but to lead me to discern God’s Word, to apply it to my life in such a way that brings Glory & Honor to Him.

I don’t have to jump through hoops trying to look and sound and express myself as a mirror image of my Teacher.  God accomplishes that in me by the power of His Spirit transforming me from the inside out.    

Ironically, in Christ’s economy we may exchange our “Labor Days” for Learning of Him, and in so doing we find REST. 

 “Come unto me all you who Labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28

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One response to “A Call to Higher Learning

  1. I’m writing a paper on rabbinical teaching of halakhah/Jewish law. This was helpful and interesting. Mind sharing your sources?

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