“Withness”: What is it, why do we need it, how do we get it?


Mark 3:13-15

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

Withness: What is it?

Withness is the context in which Jesus taught his disciples. He called them “to be with him.” The phrase “with him” sugggests a Hebraic model of a father to a son or a teacher to a student. It harkens back to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.at His feet.

The best context for learning is life-on-life and Jesus wanted his disciples to be in close proximty to him so that they would have time to view and watch everything he did. Being “with him” meant . . .

  • Listening to His word.
  • Watching what He did.
  • Observing how He lived.
  • Seeing Him pray.
  • Learning to follow His example.
  • Meditating on His character,
  • Seeing His ways.

Today, the inscriptured word gives us the opportunity to spend time every day sitting at the feet of Jesus. The disciples had three years. We have the opportunity to spend the remainder of our lives learning from Jesus. 

Withness: Why do we need it?

We become like those we spend time with. Someone else can write a book on this answer but let me give just one sentence.

We aren’t like him
and won’t become like him
unless we spend time with him.

Withness: How do we get it?

Time. Disciplined time in the New Testament and especially the gospels. Not just reading the gospels, but analyzing the gospels, meditating on the gospels, praying through the gospels. Working to build New Testament patterns into our behavior and thinking.

Some ideas:

  • Study Jesus’s praying:
    • Pick a gospel, start with Luke. Look up every occurance of the words pray, praying, prayed, praise. Answer all of the interogatives (Who, what, when, where, why, how, with whom) from the context. What do you learn?
  • Study all Jesus’s interaction with enemies. What do you learn about his style?
  • Study all of Jesus’s interaction with non-enemies. What do you learn about his approach?
  • Study how Jesus speaks about Old Testament Scriptures? What is his view of inspiration?
  • Make a list of all of Jesus’s parables. What threads of thought do you see over and over?
  • Make a list of all of the places Jesus went to. What do you learn about the focus of his ministry?
  • Do each of these studies for each of the four gospels.
    This is just a start. Keep thinking of new things to study. You won’t exhaust the subject no matter how many years you keep at it.

There is simply no substitute for spending time “with Jesus” if we are to become a people who live passionately for and like Jesus. And only such people empowered by the Holy Spirit will change the world.

I have written on “withness” before here and here and here.

Another great question to ask is,  . . .

What does Jesus’ model look like in our own disciple-making in a North American context?

Perhaps I can take that up on another post.

3 thoughts on ““Withness”: What is it, why do we need it, how do we get it?

  1. I heard a comment yesterday that I think misunderstands this post. The comment was that the post was “too academic” and “not practical enough”. It caused me to amend the post with the following question, “What does Jesus’ model look like in our own disciple-making in a North American context?”

    While that emmendation to the original post is an improvement, it is still nevertheless, a response to a misunderstanding. Too often Christians ask too soon, “What should we do?” or “How should we act?” Those are great questions but we ask them too soon. Before we do anything, we need to be WITH SOMEONE. We need to spend time with HIM of whom we have to do.

    The reason the original post did not go beyond suggestions on how to “spend time WITH Jesus” was I intentionally wanted it to focus on the “WITH JESUS” aspect of discipleship. That, and the fact that I was already over my self-impossed 500 word limit!

    However, “What does Jesus’ model look like in our own disciple-making in a North American context?” is a good question and worth exploring in a future post.


  2. Post updated in light of a criticism.

    We are more than “doers” and if we don’t cultivate a life of thought, we may be doing things that are good but that God has not called us (personally) to do. Each of us needs to discern, before God, through prayer and in community with others what God is calling us to do.

    Work out being WITH JESUS, regularly, daily, and deeply BEFORE you go to be WITH PEOPLE.

    Do that, in this order, so that when you are WITH PEOPLE, they see JESUS (not you) and you remain in harmony with your brothers and sisters who may be WITH PEOPLE in a different way than you.

    Liked by 1 person

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