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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Follow Me (Luke 5)

There is so much we miss in Scripture due to not understanding the background of first century Jewish life. But when we take a little time to dig deeper, it unlocks a treasure chest of understanding that enables us to follow Jesus the way He is asking us to follow.

Galilee, where Jesus grew up, was passionate about training up their children in the Scriptures. This training process was known as the Mishnah. The teachers of the Law were called rabbis. The best students continued their study in Beth Midrash (secondary school). These students were memorizing the Torah, the prophets, and the common interpretations of the Scriptures.

A few of the most outstanding Beth Midrash students sought permission to study with a famous rabbi, often leaving home to travel with him for a lengthy period of time. These students were called, talmidim, which is translated "disciple."

There's a big difference between a disciple and a student. A student wants to know what the teacher knows for the grade, to complete the class or the degree. A "disciple" or talmid, wants to be like the teacher.

That meant the rabbi-talmid relationship was a very intense and personal relationship. As the rabbi lived and taught his understanding of the Scripture, his students (talmidim) listened and watched and imitated so as to become like him. Eventually they too would become teachers passing on this teaching to their talmidim.

Jesus was not a typical rabbi. He demonstrated by His knowledge and His miracles that He was a rabbi who had s'mikhah; that is a rabbi with the authority to make new interpretations of Scripture. This is why Jesus often said, "you've heard it said .. but I say .." When He made these statements, He was demonstrating that He was a rabbi with authority to give a new interpretation of Scripture.

We are told in Matthew 7:28-29 that "the crowds were amazed because Jesus taught with authority. Yet Jesus didn't invite the religious elites to be his talmidim (disciples). He invited the rejects of society, the fishermen and the tax collectors. Jesus also invites us to be His talmidim (disciples).

But the decision to follow a rabbi as a talmid meant total commitment in the first century as it does still today. Since the talmid was totally devoted to becoming like the rabbi, he would have to commit to listening and observing the rabbi to know how to understand the Scriptures and how to live them out.

If a student wanted to study with a rabbi he would ask if he could "follow" him. Most students were turned away. In rare cases, some extremely exceptional students were invited by the rabbi to "follow me." This meant the rabbi believed that the student had the ability and commitment to become like him.

This is why when Jesus invited Matthew, the tax collector, who was shunned by society, Matthew didn't hesitate to follow Him:

Luke 5:27-28 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” [28] And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.

But Jesus is not just a rabbi with authority. He is God in human flesh who came to call all of us to Himself. He is inviting each and every one of us to "follow Him."

The only question is if we are willing to let go of the world, turn away from it, and follow Jesus, committing our life to Him.

Dear Lord, I am absolutely willing to follow You. Lord, I'm just a reject. I am a nobody who wasn't even raised in church. I didn't grow up knowing about You. Yet, You made Yourself known to even me. Lord, thank you for loving all of us so much that You stepped down out of heaven, took our sins upon Yourself on that cross, for all who would repent of their sins and choose to follow You, not just as a rabbi, but as our Savior and the Lord God of our life. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to follow You. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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