Our relationship with God was never meant to be one on one, it was supposed to be two by two.
Let me explain.
There was a Rabbi/Talmid Relationship in Jewish Culture that had gone on for years. Jesus didn't start it, he adhered to this cultural norm within the Jewish society. It is at the heart of how he did ministry and, I think, how he longs for us to continue to do ministry.
You see, a Talmid of Jesus' day would surrender his life in order to be with his teacher, his rabbi. 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 what the teacher knows. A Talmid (or disciple) in Hebrew culture, however, wants to be what the rabbi is.
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.
This was called a Talmidim.
A Talmid is a disciple. A Talmidim is a pair or group of disciples.
Jesus took this practice and developed it with each his disciples, not just the 12, but the 72. 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.
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 do mission projects, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7).
We see this model in various texts throughout the Scriptures, but especially in the gospels and epistles as the truth was spreading to various people groups.
Some things in the Bible require us to ask the question “What would Jesus do?” Because we don’t know if he would own a Summer home on the shore, watch “Dancing with the Stars”, say the word “crap” or listen to “the Beatles”. But when it comes to discipleship, there are some things that aren’t up for grabs. They aren’t subject to our reinterpretation or spin-doctoring. And in these scenarios the question needs to be asked…
“What Did Jesus Do?” not "What would Jesus Do?"
And very clearly…throughout the Bible…He put people in teams of two and sent them out as such on missions together.
Allow me to hose you down with Scripture that testifies to this fact.
We’ve obviously seen that he does this with the 12 and the 72…but the Scriptures are replete with this theme as the early church began to take over the world.
Jesus didn’t come up with this idea…this was a part of Jewish culture; he was just obeying a common tradition that he deemed too successful to reinvent.
We see this two-disciple theme right off the bat with “John the Baptist” even before Jesus started his earthly ministry…
John 1:35-37 –
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
Luke 7:18-19 –
18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Mark 14:13 –
13 So he [Jesus] sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
Matthew 21:1-3 –
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.”
Luke 24:13-15 –
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.
Acts 12:25 –
24 But the word of God continued to increase and spread. 25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
Acts 15:22,32 –
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.
Acts 15:36-41 –
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.
39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Acts 16:1-5 –
1 He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
Acts 19:21, 22 –
21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
Acts 19:28-30 -
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him.
Acts 20:1-5 -
1 When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.
4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.
Discipleship Duos, Talmidim Teams:
1. Paul and Sopater – Berea
2. Aristarchus and Secundus – Thessalonica
3. Gaius and Timothy – Derbe
4. Tychicus and Trophimus – Asia
Then everyone met together at Troas. hmmm?
Jesus did not send anyone alone; they went in twos everywhere they went. This is more than just a principle, it borders on prescriptive. We must join in twos for both survival and success.
If you are only doing church, you can make it alone. But if you plan on being the church, you have to work in partnerships, Talmidims.
Jesus knew, like Rob Base 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.”
Primary Purposes of (Two-by-Two) Talmidim Teams in that culture:
1. Read and memorize the Scriptures together.
2. Talk about what the Scriptures meant to them.
1. Choose little missions to live out the Scriptures.
2. Talk about what the missions meant to them.
Two-by-Two – Disciples needed a live-in/live-with a consultant and a counselor
Why can’t the church put two and two together? It seems like simple math.
The questions is: “Why was the prerequisite of “Two by Two” so predominant in Scripture as a whole?” Why did Jesus use this cultural strategy in his discipleship?
There are several reasons that I see as I’ve studied this paradigm.
Duet. 32:30 –
“one man chases a thousand, but two put ten thousand to flight…”
Even with Jesus, the first thing He did when he started public ministry: Found Friends. And not just 12, but within the 12 he selected a few to journey more intimately with.
He took three of his closest friends with him to the Garden of Gethsemane to “stay awake with him”, to “pray with him”, or as he said, to “Watch and Pray”. This is what partnership is for. People to bear witness to your life and to journey with you in prayer through pain.
The ancient Christian teacher and writer Tertullian once said…
“Solus Christianus, nullus Christianus” - A Christian alone is no Christian.
Though this might be going a little too far, I think it's powerful that the early church and the early writers saw this pairing of disciples essential to the health of the Christian and the spread of the gospel.
I hope this whole concept gives you something to chew on and act on in the days to come. Get yo' bad self a Talmidim! hehehe.