Students Covered in Dust
How to succeed in education? We have schools and school boards and a theology of covenant education, but how to make your education count? Students will know that there are strategies for doing well in school: “Get enough sleep. Eat properly. Do your homework. Learn how to write good.”
These strategies may help you to attain better grades. But there’s another lesson even more integral for a solid education: you’ve got to listen carefully to your teacher. You need to pay attention to him or her, soak in the words and absorb the lessons, so that you can take it home and work with it.
That’s a fundamental lesson which we can take a step further. Because we’re not just concerned to get properly educated in math or science or history, or to succeed academically. For we’re all students, and our great Teacher is Jesus Christ. Think of what his disciples sometimes called him, “Good Teacher. Rabbi. Master.” Jesus performed some stunning miracles, but what filled the rest of his time during three years of ministry? Read the Gospels, and you will see that it was teaching, teaching, teaching. More than anything, Rabbi Jesus was giving his disciples an education.
Jesus wasn’t the only person who was gathering disciples to himself. There were many learned men who traveled around the country with an entourage of students. In other parts of the Mediterranean too, wise men and philosophers wandered from place to place, spreading their ideas. They’d teach almost anyone who listened. And if there were some pupils who were especially keen, these teachers would invite them into an inner circle of disciples, to mentor and mold them.
They used to say that the mark of a true student was that he was covered in the dust from his teacher’s sandals. That’s how close a good student would follow—in the teacher’s dust—so that he didn’t miss a word. He was always listening.
Should it be any different today? We should be like those first century disciples who followed Jesus around, hanging onto his every word. With good reason the Heidelberg Catechism calls Jesus our “Chief Prophet and Teacher” (Lord’s Day 12). He’s not physically present with us, but we have his words and lessons, a vast collection of promises and commandments and instructions and exhortations. And not just in the New Testament—the whole of Scripture, Old Testament included, can be called the “Word of Christ.” All of it speaks of him, and all of it gives holy direction to his people. It’s our “assigned reading.”
Admittedly, it’s hard to get into the material our Teacher has assigned, but Jesus is not unaware of how his students struggle. So Christ teaches through his great Substitute—the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus said to his first disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you... But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:7,13). The teaching of our Chief Prophet and Teacher continues today, as his Spirit guides us into the truth of his Word.
Whatever our age and position, Jesus wants to teach us. We’re his life-long students, “pupils of Christ.” So how can you make this education count? How can each of us succeed and excel in the classroom of Christ? Listen. Keep listening. Sit at the feet of the good Teacher every day. Sit so close to Jesus that you get covered in the dust of his sandals. Listen to his wisdom in the Word, and let it stay with you and mold you.
For he gives an education with a comprehensive range—what Christ teaches us applies broadly: to health and family, finance and vocation, politics and personality, even to life and death. By his Word and Spirit Christ educates us for life in this world, so that wherever we are, whatever our position, we can follow him.