By Pastor Stephen A. Curry
In 2006, I was able to take a tour of the Holy Land. One Friday evening, we were headed back to the hotel just before sundown. As we neared our hotel in Jerusalem, we noticed the people of the neighborhood seemed to all be wearing unusual hats. Some of these hats were round with flat brims. Some were ushankas (the Russian “bear hats”). Some were a type of hat called a shtreimel, a round fur hat about the size and shape of a wheelbarrow tire. It seemed as if the people were gathering by their hat styles.
We asked our tour guide. She indicated that we were passing through a neighborhood of Russian Jews. The separate groups were students of different rabbinical schools. In each case, the students did everything they could to imitate the master. They ate what the master ate, dressed as the master dressed, adopted whatever habits the master had, and studied the teachings of the master. In every way possible, they became, as closely as possible, the master rabbi. And some of these rabbis had been dead 200 years.
The guide, herself a Jew, pointed out that this is the Jewish understanding of what it means to be a disciple. Disciples strive to imitate the master so closely they become the master. Peter, Andrew, James, and all of Jesus’ disciples would have had this understanding and would have lived this way.
In Mark 16:15, Jesus tells the disciples to go into all the world to proclaim the gospel. We couldn’t do that if we insisted on speaking Aramaic and riding donkeys. But we are called to be the hands of Christ, the voice of Christ, and the heart of Christ. We are to imitate Christ as closely as possible in the love that He showed, the service He gave, and the salvation He proclaimed.
In this season of Lent, as we prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter, we remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying. Let us commit ourselves to fervent prayer and humble ourselves before God. Let us strive to be the presence of Christ for those who are lonely, those who are suffering, and those who have lost all hope. Let Christ shine through you so that by your love, they see our Master.