Following the Rabbi
My brother Jim has a way with dogs. We call him the family dog whisperer. In addition to curing our pets of their various bad behaviors, he has helped other people’s dogs. His secret weapon comes from the fact that he knows dogs are pack animals in search of a strong pack leader. Without one, dogs often become anxious, neurotic, or aggressive. So he becomes their pack leader. Once the dogs sense that he has taken this role, they begin to calm down and get into line. Sensing his energy, they become both peaceable and teachable, and it is amazing how well they get along with each other and how quickly they change.
Though humans are not dogs, we too need a leader whose energy can lead us toward greater peace and freedom. In the Jewish world of Jesus, it was customary for disciples to follow their rabbi so closely that they got covered in the dust from his footsteps as he walked up the sandy path ahead of them. They wanted to hear every word, to understand every instruction, to stay close to their rabbi as he led the way. Following him continuously, they not only listened to what their rabbi said. They watched what he did and the way he reacted. Their goal was to become as much like him as possible because they believed he was living a life that pleased God.
That’s how we should think about our relationship with Christ. Jesus is our Rabbi, the one who shows us what it means to live the God-blessed life. Remember his words to his disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
When we follow Jesus, our Rabbi, and stay close to him, we begin to calm down. We become more peaceful because we let go of our pretensions to rule the universe. We stop trying to do the impossible, such as seeing the future or controlling every circumstance. We leave what belongs to God in God’s hands. We also listen for his voice because we know that Jesus can help us navigate our present. Following him makes us peaceable and teachable, even in the most unpredictable and frightening of circumstances.