It is enough for the student to be
like his teacher… —Matthew 10:25
Rembrandt van Rijn was the most important painter in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. He is now considered one of the great artists of all time, according to noted art historian, Marilyn Stokstad.
Rembrandt was a prolific and popular artist. He ran an enormous workshop in Amsterdam, where many apprentices learned to imitate his manner. In fact, he may have excelled more as an art teacher than a painter. Because his pupils so effectively imitated his manner, art scholars now have a difficult time defining the body of his work.
His students so masterfully imitated his style that works are now being assigned to them, which were formerly attributed to Rembrandt. The students became so much like the teacher their work could not be distinguished from his.
This is how it is to be with Christians. The Greek word mathētēs so often translated “disciple”, occurs, in various forms, approximately 270 in the New Testament. This word can correctly be translated: student, pupil, apprentice, follower, learner or disciple. It always suggests something more than mere impartation and absorption of information. A closeness of relationship is involved, through which the learner so completely knows the teacher that emulation occurs naturally.
This is the idea behind what Jesus says in Matthew 10:25. Every follower of Jesus Christ should aspire to be like Him. Every day, in every way, this goal is sufficient. Since we can never attain to complete Christ-likeness, this goal is sufficient for the whole of our lives, as well.
When we encounter unexpected and challenging circumstances in life, it is enough to weigh all we know about Jesus and His manner of living, letting the notion of “What Would Jesus Do?” influence our decisions and direct our steps. Ultimately, our thoughts and actions should be so completely Christ-like, people will experience the love of Christ at the touch of our hands. People should be able to sense the mind of Christ influencing our thoughts and guiding the words we speak. It is enough for the student to be like the teacher.
This is the greatest challenge of our lives. It is much easier to write those words than to live them. Even if this is the desire of our hearts, our human weakness limits us to inconsistent, sometimes staggering, steps in forward progress. Nevertheless, we wake each day knowing: It is enough to be like Jesus. For those looking for practical advice for the journey towards Christ-likeness, consider the following:
1) Study the Master’s body of work. Start each day with a period of reflection on His life by reading from the Gospels. He didn’t write these books, but they do still reflect what Jesus did and taught–His body of work. If you have a long daily commute, listen to the Gospels in tape or CD. There is a lifetime of lessons in each one of these brief glimpses into the life of Christ. Take the time, also, to read what others have written about Jesus. Their insight can prompt you to develop deeper appreciation for what it means to be a follower of Christ.
2) Spend quality time with the Master each day. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart that you may see wonderful things in His word. (cf. Psalm 119:18) Purposefully reflect on the Lord’s teaching. Exactly what did Jesus mean when He told the Pharisees, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”? Why did Jesus so often remind the Pharisees, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”? There are hundreds of thought provoking points like this to ponder. Also, memorize the Master’s message so that His thoughts influence your own. What better way is there to know what Jesus would do than to be able to recall what Jesus said?
3) Serve the Lord with all your heart. Jesus made it clear that we must willfully determine to follow Him. Where such commitment does not exist, we are constantly looking for loopholes in the service contract. Where wholehearted service to the Lord is lacking, people are more concerned about minimums required than maximums desired. There are no draftees in Christ’s service. Deciding to follow Jesus–desiring to be like Jesus–this really is the heart of the matter.
It is enough for followers of Jesus to strive toward Christ-likeness each day, while making it their life’s aspiration to emulate Him in every way. In so doing, Christ will be seen in every stroke we apply to the canvass and every work of art we produce. It is enough for the student to be like the teacher. When it comes to Christianity, this is really getting it "right"!
© Bill Williams
June 5, 2006