Sunday’s Scripture –January 26, 2020
For centuries, Jewish rabbis called young men to be their disciples or followers. But the education process began long before that. Every six-year old child began the first level of education, called House of the Book, in a local synagogue. By age ten they memorized Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (the Torah). That’s why when we read the gospels we often see Jesus make brief scripture references without fully quoting a passage. He didn’t have to. Everybody had memorized the passage he referred to.
At age ten a girls’ education ended. Most of the boys were done, too. They started learning the family trade. The very best male students, however, went on to the next level of education, called House of Learning. They memorized more scripture until, by age fourteen, they had the entire Old Testament memorized. They also learned what the smartest rabbis over the years had said about those scriptures, but not so they could just regurgitate what others had said. The point was to make the student wrestle with each story, each passage, for himself and thereby truly understand it. This was done through the art of questions. If the student could ask good questions about a particular passage, it showed that he not only understood what the passage said and what others had said about it, but also that he could take it a step further all on his own.
By the age of 15, only the absolute best students were still in school. This was when they’d apply to rabbis, seeking to become disciples.
There was a huge difference in being a student and being a disciple. A student learned from the rabbi, but a disciple tried to become just like the rabbi. Rabbis tested applicants. A rejected applicant would either try another rabbi or go back home and take up the family trade. Only a few were accepted as disciples. The rabbi accepted an applicant by saying, “Come, follow me.” That student would then leave everything to become a disciple and begin following the rabbi. The disciple would take on the rabbi’s body of teaching (his yoke), and try to become just like him. Disciples followed in their rabbi’s footsteps, literally. There’s an ancient Jewish saying, “Cover yourself with the dust of your rabbi’s feet.” As the rabbi walked from place to place along dry and dusty roads, teaching, his disciples would follow him and become covered with the dust he kicked up along the way.
At the age of thirty, disciples could become rabbis themselves. Luke 3:23 says Jesus was about thirty when he began his ministry. There were two kinds of rabbis. Most were the kind who taught the Torah to kids in a synagogue somewhere, but a few took on disciples and offered new interpretations of the scriptures.
So Jesus saying “follow me” wasn’t unusual at all. What’s unusual is that he actively sought out disciples, and those he called had already started their careers, meaning either they weren’t good enough students to stay in school or they weren’t good enough prospects for any other rabbi to accept them.
Jesus said many things that were, and still are, tough to hear. Some of these, such as “love your enemies,” were and are tough to hear because they go against human nature. Some of these sayings are tough to hear today because they were spoken in a time and place completely unfamiliar to contemporary readers. Many of the tough things Jesus said are tough for both of these reasons
Following Jesus can mean something slightly different for each Christian, as God calls each person to a specific vocation. For the most part, following Jesus means the same thing for everyone: worshiping God through Christ, serving God, making good use of God’s gifts, helping those in need, sharing the gospel, confronting evil.
- Who do you follow?
- How closely do you follow Jesus?
- Those Jewish disciples in the First Century followed their rabbi so closely they were covered with his dust. Are you covered in Jesus’ dust?
- Are you trying to please Jesus with your spiritual life? Are you trying to become just like him?