What Can The First Century Tell Us About Following Jesus?

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Especially in the 21st Century. We can’t exactly follow him on social media. He’s not tweeting proverbs or snap-chatting with people he’s healed. Can’t Facebook follow, or friend him.

For the answer, we have to go back to the 1st Century and look at rabbis, disciples, and the relationship between them.


Jesus was a rabbi, though the official title didn’t appear until the rise of Rabbinic Judaism after the Temple was destroyed in 70AD (Luke 7:40; 12:13; 19:39; 20:27-28; Matthew 22: 35-36; 19:16). It usually meant Great One or My Master.

Rabbis traveled from place to place, depending on the hospitality of people and meeting in private homes. It was a great honor to have a rabbi in your home. They would also visit local synagogues because Scripture was often taught and discussed there. A synagogue was more of a community center than a church.

In the Learning Under Jesus series, I wrote about a method rabbis used called remez or hint to teach. They used a part of a passage and assumed the audience’s knowledge of the Scripture would help them deduce a fuller understanding. Knowing this will bring your Bible study to life when you cross-reference.

The rabbi had to possess a great understanding of Scripture. The method also shows the level of Scriptural literacy the average Jew had. Here’s a test for you, finish this verse, “Seek first the Kingdom of God…

How’d you do? I know it because it’s a personal life verse of mine. I’m confident I would be stumped too, depending on the verse.

Parables were also a common teaching tool, using similar themes geared towards what people knew.

Rabbis invited people to learn to keep the Torah. It was called “taking the yoke of the Torah”, and high-level rabbis generally had different interpretations of it. It’ll give you a new light to look at Matthew 11:29 with.

Rabbis had one task in particular, ‘to fulfill the Torah’. It meant to interpret the Scripture so it would be obeyed correctly. The incorrect interpretation was considered destroying the Torah. Jesus came to complete it (being the Messiah) and shows how to correctly keep it (since he was God, he’d know).

The Talmidim (Disciples)

To follow a rabbi meant total commitment, so it’s to be expected that Jesus wants that from us. Disciples spent their time listening and observing the rabbi to know how to understand and apply Scripture.

We’re approaching in the Learning Under Jesus series where Jesus chooses the 12 core disciples and teaches them how to act in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s not like a school where you graduate and get a piece of paper; it’s a transformative life change. Being like the rabbi is the major focus of the disciple. Listening, questioning, answering his questions and following him wherever he goes, despite sometimes not knowing where he was going.

Sound familiar to your Christian life?

It hasn’t changed today, everything in life still comes second to being like our rabbi, Jesus. We have to know his teachings, how to do what he would do. However, we have an advantage his disciples didn’t have until after Jesus ascended to Heaven; the power and counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Then under that power, 120 disciples grew the church.

How to follow Jesus? Make being like him a priority by understanding his teachings and doing like he would. You’ll fail, I’ll fail, the disciples failed epically; but we’ll learn and grow. It’s possible, it’s inevitable.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2

Recommended Reading

https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim (My source material)

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith

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