This year, I have been working in a public sector job part-time (I’d love to tell you about it, some other time). Being less than full time in one job often brings up the question: “So what do you do with the rest of your time?” I love getting asked this because it means I get to talk about what I’m part of here, at Portswood Church. My official role over the past 9 months has been Church Apprentice, and when explaining this to a work colleague, they responded: “So you’re kind of apprenticed to Jesus then.” They could not have been more right! In fact, it was such a good way of putting it, I thought I’d use it here.
What does it mean to be an Apprentice? Well in the working world, it means training on the job. A young person who wants to train for a certain profession will follow an expert, watching everything that they do every day, often for years. Gradually, the apprentice builds up knowledge and skills through watching the job being done very well, and begins to join in with the work, gaining more responsibility until they too can be considered an expert. We know what that means when it comes to being an IT technician, a plumber or an electrician but what about when it comes to following Jesus?
Who are Jesus’ apprentices?
We could perhaps consider Jesus’ 12 disciples to be his apprentices. They followed his every move for three years. It became their full-time job. They watched what he did, learnt from him, and gradually got to join in with the work he was doing, before he sent them out as ‘experts’ to continue his work.
I want to suggest that we can all be apprenticed to Jesus, in fact, that is the very thing that Jesus calls us to be. Jesus tells his followers again and again during his ministry, “Come, follow me”. In Matthew 11 v28-29, Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls.”
The yoke Jesus is referring to here is a farming tool. Farmers would use a yoke to join an old ox with a young ox to plough a field. The young ox would walk side by side with the old ox and learn how to plough. How to walk in a straight line, how to have the strength and stamina to keep going all day. The farmer uses the expertise of the old ox, and apprentices a young ox to it. Jesus wants us all to be like the young ox, walking every day side by side with him, learning how to live like him.
This passage is often picked out because of the phrase “you will find rest for your souls”. Jesus isn’t telling us to be lazy here! He knows us. He knows that life is tough. We have burdens that are too big for us. Our work is too hard. But if we learn how Jesus does it, and choose every day to walk with him and trust him to guide us, then then we will find it much easier to bear. Our souls will find rest, because we are working the way God created us to be working. Jesus is the ultimate expert, and he wants us to watch what he does so we can become more like him and grow to maturity.
Throughout the past 9 months with Apprentice being my official title, I have been trying to learn to do just that. Firstly realising that Jesus wants to be in every part of my life, for all of my life – not just on Sunday and Thursday mornings! I am part of God’s big story of the whole of creation. How He created us, has paid to price to allow us as sinful people to be with Him and how He is bringing His kingdom to earth. And God wants us to join in with everything he’s doing. Whether that’s calculating carbon dioxide emissions, riding my bike through the common, preparing an English class or operating the dishwasher in the back kitchen. All of it is part of my life-long apprenticeship to Jesus.
Whatever your day job is, Jesus wants you to be his apprentice. It’s what you were made for, and you’ll find doing this makes the tough things in life much easier to bear. Are you up for starting this life-long apprenticeship?