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The following is an excerpt from VELVET ELVIS by ROB BELL of MARS HILL BIBLE CHURCH in Grand Rapids. I like the implications of this passage for the modern church, the reminder that these words are to us pastor types to invest in disciples, to let someone follow behind us closely enough to get dusty. I haven't read the book yet, only pieces like this one. Have you? If so, what'd you think?


One of the earliest sages of the Mishnah, Yose ben Yoezer, said, "Cover yourself with the dust of their feet."

This idea of being covered in the dust of your rabbi came from something everybody had seen. A rabbi comes to town and right behind him would be this group of students doing their best to keep up with rabbi as he went about teaching from one place to another. By the end of a day of walking in the dirt directly behind your rabbi, you would have the dust from his feet all over you.

And that was a good thing.

So at the age of thirty, when a rabbi generally began his public teaching and training of disciples, we find Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee. "He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen."

They are fishermen because they weren't good enough. They didn't make the cut.

Jesus calls the not-good-enoughs and, as the story continues, "at once they left their nets and followed him."

This is strange, isn't it? Why do they just drop their nets? And those Christian movies don't help. Jesus is usually wearing a white bath robe with a light blue beauty pageant sash and he has blow dried hair.

And he's Swedish.

But given the first-century context, it's clear what's going on here. Can you imagine what this must have been like-to have a rabbi say, "Come, follow me"?

To have a rabbi say: "YOU can be like ME."

Of course you would drop your nets.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ROFL Jesus is Swedish ahhhahahahaha.
It's always been so hard for me to find a mentor or someone who could teach me about God. Most of the time it's because I'll find someone but they either live in a totally different state or just don't have the time for me. Sometimes it's me trying to be the one to disciple my younger friends. It's hard not having anyone exactly on your level to talk over a chapter on C. S. Lewis or Spurgeon that's not so indepth that your brain is fried and you don't wanna go to Biology because of it. I'll be honest it's a struggle for me.

One more thing anyone got an actual definition for disciple or are we just putting it in our own terms?

Blogger wstaple said...

I think that since we have the benefit of 2,000 years worth of hindsight, it's easy for us to say, "Sure, we'd have dropped our nets, too, because that's Jesus!" John had just "introduced" Jesus in the previous chapter, so Jesus was still pretty much an unknown at this point. How many of us would have given up our job, regardless of how crappy it was, to follow an unknown?

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Can't say for sure since I wasn't there, but I really think that even though Jesus was a relative "unknown" at the time, those He called knew there was something different and wonderful about Him and went readily. Even though they continued to discover more about Him everyday, I believe that Jesus was clearly revealed to them very early on.


Blogger Amy said...

I have heard the part about being covered in the dust of your Rabbi before, and I absolutely love that saying. It's always good to be reminded how close we are supposed to be to Jesus and how close we are to follow him. And it's such a great picture too!

Anonymous Randy Webb said...

I haven't read the book.. but have heard things about it both toward the good and the bad. As with anything i suppose.

I would drop my nets. And I may buy the book tomorrow.


Blogger Rica said...

I agree about buying the book tomorrow too, Randy.

The whole week I was in Mexico in July, for morning devotions, I heard almost the exact same thing said by all the people that gave the devotion. Sadly, I lost my notes between Missouri and Kansas, so I can't look over them. So I'm glad you put that up today, Shaun. It was a refreshing reminder!

Blogger Dave Haupert said...

I just finished reading this book a few weeks ago. While I did disagree with a few points in the book, it was definitely worth the read. The parts of the book which speak of the Jewish heritage and put into context many of the words Christ said (many things were much more literal than we would have thought without having this hindsight) were by far my favorite. It left me wanting for more however, and my personal wish was that he would have kept this sort of thing up through the whole book.

In regards to the comment above about us having 2000 years of hindsight, you really have to read the chapter quoted in it's entirety, as it explains the reasons why a Jewish person in their late teens or twenties would have dropped their nets for just about any rabbi in that context. In a nutshell, the jewish children start memorizing the Torah and have almost all of it memorized by the age of 13. At that point, it's decided who cuts the mustard, and who goes on into their parents trades. If they do continue on, they become a mentor to a rabbi and follow him everywhere (hence the whole dust thing) Since rabbis are so respected and well treated, it's a natural that most kids want to pursue that path, so when two guys are casting fishing nets and are offered the second chance they would take it. Hope that does it some justice, but Rob Bell does a better job than I at this!

I would definitely recommend reading it, and my interest is now picqued in what other sorts of historical literature I can read that would shed light on more of Jesus actions and sayings.

Blogger FancyPants said...

Definitely would like to read. The part that struck my about this passage was "they were fisherman because they weren't good enough. They didn't make the cut." I'm wondering, historically, what this means. Is the author saying that being a fisherman at that time was disgraceful? Just wondering. They were not good enough compared to who or what profession? Anyone know?

And about Jesus being an unknown to them. I don't think he was so unknown, really. John the Baptist had been preaching his coming, baptizing repentant Jews. And at this time, Jesus had already met John the Baptist and been baptized himself, and John had recognized him and proclaimed Jesus as the one he had been preaching about. Even said "look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." Many, many Jews had been witnesses and participants of the teachings and baptism of John the Baptist. Even Pharisees came to question him. Andrew was one of John the Baptist's disciples who told his brother, Simon Peter, about Jesus, and they might have spent some time with Jesus before the "calling" out at sea. I think that possibly their lives had already started changing by the presence and teaching of Jesus before Jesus's calling.

Blogger FancyPants said...

oh, i just read dave's comment. they didn't make the cut to become a rabbi's follower. I got it. Thanks

Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is another book that i read a while back and still take out and read from time to time called "The Master" by John pollack. Pollack is a historian and tells the story of Christ through the Gospels without cecil b demills(sp?) dramatic fills. he is the only person i have ever read that has done this successfully with out mounds and mounds of cheese. It is another good read. for instance, i had always wondered how the disciples could have remembered all of the things Jesus said and how they would have been able to record them accurately, and in the book it explained that Jews were memorizing from the time they could crawl and that disciples would practically consider it a competition to memorize immediately what their rabbis taught even to the point of immitating the inflections, gesticulations, and tone of there voice. anyway, could go on and on about the wealth of things in this book...

so this brings me to the question, is context vital to a more complete understanding of the gospels?

anywho, ill try and find this book and read it. me and the wify (fancypants) love this stuff.



Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for the suggested reading. I'll be checking that out.

I got Velvet Elvis yesterday and have read the first two chapters. Interesting so far. He's at this point just poking holes in standard Christianity of the day: our reducing every aspect of God to words, sucking the mystery and unknowns out of our faith, ignoring that with every answer comes more questions and most of those can't be answered etc. He doesn't like the standard church mindset today. And of course his view is the standard emergent church mindset today. It's so hard for me to take any books on faith seriously anymore, even my own one day forthcoming one, because it all seems so herdish- this group sees the world this way and this group the opposite way, very Republican/Democrat in that way. So far Rob Bell isn't saying anything many other emergent anti-establishment guys haven't already said. But I'm enthralled and ready for what's next in the book because he's saying it in some new ways without all the New Christianese of the emergent guys: narrative, journey, story. (A great example of the New Christianese in my opinion is anything by Scotty Smith and New Way To Be Human by Charlie Peacock. Wow, clear as mud to someone not in the club.) I like the profound simplicity of Rob's talking and writing. I feel like I'm being set up for something new in the pages ahead by his rehashing old foundations of emergent thinking: God is mysterious, there are fewer absolutes than we think, worship God and not His Church's doctrines, doctrines change, methodologies change, they must, God does not and will not etc.


Blogger Emma's Dad said...

does anyone know where to find the original research about the dust on the feet stuff?


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