A Bible Study by Paula Yingst …
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20, New International Version)
Awhile back, I heard an enlightening sermon by Pastor Dale Jagger. Dale is passionate about Bible history — the why’s and how’s of the culture represented in Scripture.
Here are a few amazing facts that I did not know about Jewish tradition regarding rabbis and their disciples:
- Jewish children learned from and memorized the Torah (the 5 books of Moses, 613 commandments detailed in Leviticus, and the Ten Commandments) from the ages of 6 to 10. Psalm 119:103 says that God’s words are “sweeter than honey to my mouth.” So to encourage their students, rabbis would put a drop of honey on their tongue when they did well.
- From ages 10 through 13, boys were required to memorize Genesis through Malachi — the entire Old Testament of the Bible! And at the age of 13, their success and “manhood” was celebrated with a Bar Mitzvah.” 99% of all boys achieved this!
- Next came Bet Midrash, which was entered into by invitation only. This was an apprenticeship to become a rabbi. This year-long period of teaching focused on understanding the scriptures they had memorized. At the end of the year, those who were accepted heard the words, “Lech Acharai”, which means “Come follow me.” And they committed to follow the rabbi who called them. For 15 years, they did everything that the rabbi did, imitating his ways and his interpretation of Scripture. They followed so closely that they became covered by their rabbi’s dust, which was a great honor! Then they would be released to wear a seamless robe and be called “Rabbi.”
But not every boy was successful. Those who were not quick enough to learn everything that was required were released at the end of the year-long training period. At that point, the dream of becoming a rabbi was forfeited, and the young men received a blessing before going out into the world to make a living.
Dale Jagger explained that Jesus, at age 30, had no “talmudines” — men who were waiting to be called as his disciples. So it came as a great surprise to each of the “drop-outs” who had not been accepted to Bet Midrash when the rabbi, Jesus, called out to them to follow him. It was so unexpected and welcome an honor that the flabbergasted individuals did not hesitate to abandon their livelihoods and do as Jesus commanded them!
All together, Jesus chose 12 disciples — and one of them would have a specific purpose. To fulfill the prophecy written by David about the identity of the Messiah: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” (Psalm 41:9, NIV)
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Do you ever wonder if you’re good enough to be a follower of Jesus? At times like that, remember: Jesus taught that two things were of greater importance than memorizing the Torah — Love God. Love others.
His grace is sufficient, because “his power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).