Lately, I’ve been reading, “Abba’s Child” by Brennan Manning.
If that name rings a bell but you can’t quite place it, it’s because Brennan Manning also wrote “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” an excellent book which had a profound influence on Rich Mullins and his music. Manning was (he passed away in 2013) a Jesuit priest, a US Marine, and a reformed alcoholic. His books are filled with a deep, deep longing for people to have a real and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ and emphatically, boldly, and unashamedly welcomed the tax collectors and prostitutes of this world into the kingdom of heaven ahead of any and all Pharisees.
In the middle of the book, Manning beautifully relates a short story about a young boy named Mordecai and his encounter with The Great Rabbi:
“The story is told of a very pious Jewish couple. They had marred with great love, and the love never died. Their greatest hope was to have a child so their love could walk the earth with joy.
Yet there were difficulties. And since they were very pious, they prayed and prayed and prayed. Along with considerable other efforts, lo and behold, the wife conceived. When she conceived, she laughed louder than Sarah laughed when she conceived Isaac. And the child leapt in her womb more joyously the John leapt in the womb of Elizabeth when Mary visited her. And nine months later a delightful little boy came rumbling into the world.
They named him Mordecai. He was rambunctious, zestful, gulping down the days and dreaming through the nights. The sun and the moon were his toys. He grew in age and wisdom and grace, until it was time to go to the synagogue and learn the Word of God.
The night before his studies were to begin, his parents sat Mordecai down and told him how important the Word of God was. They stressed that without the Word of God, Mordecai would be an autumn leaf in the winter’s wind. He listened, wide eyed.
Yet the next day, he never arrived at the synagogue. Instead he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees.
When he came home that night, the news had spread throughout the small village. Everyone knew of his shame. His parents were beside themselves. They did not know what to do.
So they called in the behavior modificationists to modify Mordecai’s behavior, until there was no behavior of Mordecai that was not modified. Nevertheless, the next day he found himself in the woods, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees.
So they called in the psychoanalysts, who unblocked Mordecai’s blockages, so there were no more blocks for Moredecai to be blocked by.
Nevertheless, he found himself the next day, swimming in the lake and climbing the trees.
His parents grieved for their beloved son. There seemed to be no hope.
At this time, the great Rabbi visited the village. And the parents said, “Ah! Perhaps the Great Rabbi.” So they took Mordecai to the Great Rabbi and told him their tale of woe. The Rabbi bellowed, “Leave the boy with me, and I will have a talking with him.”
It was bad enough that Mordecai would not go to the synagogue. But to leave their beloved son alone with this lion of a man was terrifying. However, they had come this far, and so they left him.
Now Mordecai stood in the halway, and the Great Rabbi stood in his parlor. He beckoned, “Boy, come here.” Trembling, Mordecai came forward.
And then the Great Rabbi picked him up and held him silently against his heart.
His parents came to get Mordecai, and they took him home. The next day, he went to the synagogue to learn the Word of God. And when he was done, he went to the woods. And the Word of God became one with the words of the woods, which became one with the words of Mordecai. And he swam in the lake. And the Word of God became one with the words of the lake, which became one with the words of Mordecai. And he climbed the trees. And the Word of God became one with the words of the trees, which became one with the words of Mordecai.
And Mordecai himself grew up to become a great man. People who were seized with panic came to him and found peace. People who were without anybody came to him and found communion. People with no exits came to him and found a way out. And when they came to him he said, “I first learned the Word of God when the Great Rabbi held me silently against his heart.” “
Manning’s story of Mordecai and the Great Rabbi reminds me that no matter how much panic there is out there, no matter how alone I feel, no matter how it seems there is no exit, that Great Rabbi named Jesus will still silently hold me and let me listen to His heart beat.
And I hear that heart beating in others in their prayers, in kind and encouraging words, in their good deeds done in genuine love, in the songs and teachings and testimonies on Kinship Christian Radio, and in pastor’s sermons now filling social media as the Gospel of Jesus Christ takes another giant leap into all the world.
May you hear that heart beat also. And may the words and the love of the Great Rabbi become one with you.
Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” John 1:49 (NLT)