Minister’s forum: Jesus says, ‘Follow me’
March 21, 2006
I’ve been studying the Bible for 30-plus years and it still mystifies me at times. Take for instance Matthew 4:18-20. Jesus is walking beside the Sea of Galilee and sees two commercial fishermen, Peter and Andrew. He approaches them and says, “follow me” and “At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Imagine that you’re busy at work and Jesus walks in and says to you, “Follow me,” and you just drop what you’re doing and join him – not just for the afternoon but for a lifetime. This is a major career change that’s decided upon on the spot.
In order to make some sense of Peter and Andrew’s actions, it helps to remember the cultural setting. This was a culture in which the Hebrew Scriptures were the hub of life. At age 6 a young Jewish boy would begin his studies, which lasted until he was about 10. During those years he would be required to memorize the entire Torah – the first five books of the Bible.
After this phase, formal education would end for average students who would begin an apprenticeship or begin learning the family business. But, the brightest students would progress to the next level of their education during which they would memorize the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures – in our Bibles that would encompass the entire Old Testament.
Formal education usually ended here for most students at the age of 14 or 15, but the very brightest, the cream of the crop, the elite, could apply to become a rabbi’s disciple. The rabbi would scrutinize them carefully to determine their suitability. It was much like our way of developing major league baseball players. Anyone can play Little League, fewer are invited to play on a high school team, even fewer on a college team, and still fewer are chosen to play on a minor league team. As cream rises to the top of the milk, only the “cream of the crop” make it to the majors. In Jesus’ day only the best of the best were invited to “follow” a rabbi.
Rob Bell, of Mars Hill Church, makes a helpful observation. “If (Peter and Andrew) are fishermen and Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, calls them to be his disciples, then they’re not following another rabbi; and if they’re not following another rabbi, they’re not the best of the best. They didn’t make the cut.” The marvel of Christianity is that it “is a movement of anybodies and he (Jesus) calls them – the junior varsity, the ‘B’ team, the ‘not-good-enoughs.’ He calls them to be his disciples, and they changed the course of human history.”
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Now here’s my point. The goal of a disciple wasn’t just to know what the rabbi knew – it was to be like the rabbi in order to spread the rabbi’s “yoke,” his particular theology. That’s exactly what the first disciples did and what their disciples following them did. They didn’t change the course of history by bigger-than-life evangelistic campaigns, or by forming powerful political action committees. Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire because Christians learned to live like Jesus lived – serving people in humility and joy.
How are we doing?
-John Aldax is a teaching pastor at Sierra Community Church.