Do you have a Talmidim?

This was a little study that I did on Discipleship...I hope it spurs on some thought and stirs up some passion...

The Hebrew word for disciple is Talmid. This word stresses the relationship between rabbi (teacher or master) and disciple (student).

On the website, they offer a bit of Hebrew History as it relates to the Rabbi/Talmid relationship..

A Talmid of Jesus' day would give up his entire life in order to be with his teacher. The disciple didn't only seek to know what the teacher knew, as is usually the case today. It was not enough just to know what the rabbi said, but the foremost goal of any Talmid was to become like the rabbi and do what the rabbi did.

This is a huge distinction as it relates to the relationship between students and teachers today. You see, a student wants to learn and know that the teacher knows. A Talmid (or disciple) in Hebrew culture, however, wants to be what the rabbi is.

That meant that students were passionately devoted to their rabbi and noted everything he did or said. This meant the Rabbi/Talmid relationship was a very intense and personal system of education. As the rabbi lived and taught his understanding of the Scripture, his disciples, His “Talmidim” listened and watched and imitated so as to become like him. Eventually they would become teachers passing on a lifestyle to their Talmidim.

The decision to follow a rabbi as a Talmid meant total commitment in the first century as it does today. Since a Talmid was totally devoted to becoming like the rabbi he would have spent his entire time listening and observing the teacher to know how to understand the Scripture and how to put it into practice.

Being like the rabbi was the major focus of the life of Talmidim. They listened and questioned, they responded passionately when questioned, they memorized the Scriptures voraciously making them an intimate part of their thought process. They would follow without knowing where the Rabbi was taking them knowing that the rabbi had good reason for bringing them to the right place for his teaching to make the most sense.

This means that the present day Talmid (disciple) must be no less focused on the rabbi. We must be with him in his Word, we must follow him even if we are not sure of the final destination, we must live by his teaching (which means we must know those teachings well), and we must imitate him whenever we can.

To the early disciples everything else became secondary in life compared to being like your Rabbi.

In German they have a word for this sort of disciple or Talmid…

A doppelganger – look alike, kindred spirit, spitting image

But there is another historical piece of discipleship that I fear is all but lost in our modern Christian culture. A disciple studying under an ancient Rabbi was always given a study partner to work with. They would help each other in their studies pushing each other to grow, keeping each other accountable to emulate the Rabbi they were following.

Jesus took this practice and developed it further among his disciples. 
We all know that Jesus called twelve disciples. However many have missed the fact that he also combined them together in pairs.

In Matt 10:2-4 the twelve disciples are listed in pairs.

Matthew 10:1-3

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:

first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew;

James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

Philip and Bartholomew;

Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;

James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

So when Jesus sent the twelve out to preach the gospel, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7).

Mark 6:6-7 - Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.

They are still listed in pairs in Acts 1:13 (although they are different). It's almost like they were arranged differently over time based on how they worked together.

Acts 1:13 - When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter and John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James (Thaddaeus).

They couldn’t leave Judas the son of James to himself, so before they launched out into full time ministry, they prayed for a replacement for the deceased Judas Iscariot…

Acts 1:21-26

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection."

23 So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Why where they so serious about replacing Judas? Because you can’t set out alone, you can’t go it alone, you can’t make it all by yourself. You need partnership in discipleship or you won’t sustain and survive!!

It is partnership around a purpose that gives a person staying power…stamina to make it through seasons of doubt, fatigue, confusion, temptations or tribulations. Discipleship requires deep friendship.

As the popular author John Donne so famously said…

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. ~John Donne

Cain, the first offspring, the first brother, the first murderer, asked a question at the genesis (the great beginning) of human existence when he looked at the face of God and saw his passion for brotherhood…

“Am I my brother's keeper?” – Cain

He could tell that God was serious about fraternity and sorority.

God was in essence saying, “Brotherhood and Sisterhood are fundamental, foundational ingredients to a quality human existence. You can’t carry on as if you’re not your brothers keeper, your sisters keeper. I’ve created you to tend and keep and protect and nurture each other’s hearts. When you separate and stray from that innate responsibility, you will kill yourself and, in effect, strike a mortal blow the soul of your fellowman.”

Like Base Rob the great theologian from the 80’s sang in his song, “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight.”

God has always functioned this way throughout history, teaming people up to accomplish his calling…

1. Moses and Aaron 

2. Two spies sent into Jericho

(Joshua then sent two spies, Phinehas and Caleb, to obtain first-hand information as to how the Canaanites were receiving the news of the impending invasion.)

4. Elijah and Elisha

5. David and Nathan 

6. Jeremiah and Baruch 

7. John the Baptist sent his two disciples to Jesus (Matt 11:2)

8. The Disciples were split into pairs

9. The seventy were sent out two by two (Luke 10:1) 

Luke 10:1
- After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.

10. Paul and Barnabas (Acts 9:27)

11. Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40) 

12. Paul and Timothy

On Paul’s third missionary journey he appeared to be Pauls partner (Acts 19:22). They spent two years in Ephesus teaching disciples in the School of Tyrannus.

13. Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13)

14. Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22)

15. Zenas and Apollos

“Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing” (Tit. 3:13).

Why all this partnering business? Why is early church discipleship, the Talmidim pattern so fleshed out in Power-Pairs? Because this is how things get done, not just in the Kingdom, but it any high-stakes, dangerous operation or mission…

In firefighting, the policy of “two-in, two-out” mandates that firefighters never go into a dangerous situation in a fire or rescue incident alone. There should always be (at least) two firefighters together when they enter a location and one of them cannot come out of the situation or building unless both do.

In the 1990s, the Paris Fire Brigade started to work with teams of two people, called "binomial teams" or "binomials". This is what discipleship needs to be, binomials worshipping together, serving together, meeting together, playing together, studying together, praying together, working together.

According to this mindset, friends aren't jumper cables. You don't throw them into the trunk and pull them out for emergencies. They are meant to be braided together with your life so deeply that they become your lifestyle, and your theirs.


In my research, I came across another principle used in business called the four-eye principle…

The four-eye principle requires that a single operation be performed by two different people. In addition to protecting from honest mistakes, this is to ensure that one person cannot go rogue and do something disastrous alone.

I’ve found that Rogue discipleship to be impotent in every way. It either makes a Christian eventually depressive or destructive. But when we band together in binomials, there are less casualties and more victories.

C.S. Lewis once said of pastors who team up in ministry,

“But best of all is a team of two: one to deliver the preliminary intellectual barrage, and the other to follow up with a direct attack on the heart.” – C.S. Lewis

Anybody who is engaging in something meaningful and weighty has to lock arms with an intimate ally.

This has always been the standard operating procedure of Biblical Discipleship. And if we are going to thrive instead of merely survive as a Kingdom Movement of Christianity, we must return to our roots and take seriously as a Talmid (singular) the idea of joining a Talmidim (plural), a brotherhood, a sisterhood following the Rabbi Yeshua (Jesus).


Some people are afraid of heights, but most people I meet are far more afraid of depths. They fear diving into the dicey deep of another person’s storied soul and they resist the entrance of others into theirs. It is this fear of the depths that will eventually and effectively kill us off as a humans and as Christians. It is this fear of depth that works to keep us banished in our own prison, still alive in body, but alone in spirit.

And when you meet a modern day human…they are…

A modern human – barely alive, totally alone.

***That is the classic expression of a rogue disciple. And it is my opinion that if you claim to be a Christ Follower and he is your Rabbi, and yet do not partner with anyone as his disciple, you won’t make it. You won’t stick around, you won’t survive. You will drop off the map, you will get overwhelmed, you will feel alone, you will get bored.

But if you take Biblical Discipleship seriously and become a Talmid of Yeshua, our Rabbi, and partner with another disciple to follow the teaching, personality and lifestyle of Jesus, you will exceed your wildest expectations and imaginations, and the life of a Christian will take on a whole new meaning.

Jesus spoke of the power and passion that comes when you practice this tradition of the Talmidim…

Matthew 18:19-20 – 19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

I’ve experienced this before. I remember back in December of 2005 I journaled about a time when I felt the power of partnership. The power of authentic discipleship…


Sunken Ships...

Our hearts are like sunken ships waiting to be discovered at the bottom of the ocean floor. Most don't care to take or make time to venture down below the surface in search for the mystery that lies within. It's very often dark down there, corroded, a figment of what it used to be. And yet it is pregnant with sunken treasure waiting to be discovered and brought to the surface if only someone will plunge deep and stay down there long enough to mine it's contents. I don't know what sinks the heart along the way, but where the ship goes, so goes the treasure. Today, I met with a person who plummeted the depths with me and I with him. We swam through each other's hearts and found the treasures buried deep within.

This has to be what it means to be alive.


jeff hoenshell said…
powerful reminder jason! thanks for the insight. gets me pumped for another passionate & purposeful day in the fellowship of Talmidim!

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