Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus – Draft written June 2009 – Never Finished

satforbThis is a simple list of the things I learned from this book. (Some are quoted) Some things on the list are new to me and others are ideas that I was reminded of. I’d encourage everyone to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I had a basic understanding of Jesus’ Jewishness, but this book taught me more. I’m sure it only scratches the surface of the depth of this topic, but it’s a great place to start.


When Jesus the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, it followed a very long day, with a large meal, and multiple glasses of wine. It’s no wonder they fell asleep. (p 7) I had never really noticed this.

“Women [in the first century] were encouraged to sit in on the advanced discussions at the synagogue if they were able. A few even acquired the high-level education required to contribute to rabbinic debates, and their words are still on record.” (p 12)

First century Jews were acquainted with this rabbinic saying: “Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis, and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily.” They were expected to open their homes to these teachers and their disciples. This is why Jesus and the disciples spent so much time with Mary and Martha. (p 14)

Rabbis often sat on pillows or chairs when they taught and disciples sat at their feet on the ground or mats around them. “When Mary is described as ‘sitting at Jesus’ feet,’ she is being described as a disciple.” (p 14)

Disciples followed rabbis so closely, they became covered in the dust swirling up from the sandals of his feet. (p 14)

As opposed to the crowns/coronations of other kings, Hebrew kings were with anointed with expensive perfumed oil. (p 16)

The oil Mary anointed Jesus with would have probably lingered for days. “Everywhere Jesus went during the final days of His life he had the fragrance of royalty. ” In the Garden, the soldiers would have smelled it and wondered who stood before them. Even when he was on trial, mocked, whipped, and stripped naked, there may have been a fragrance of royalty in the air. (p 18)

When Jesus’ rode into Jerusalem on a mule, the people would have remembered Solomon doing the same thousands of years earlier. 1 Kings 1:38-40 (p 17)

Davening, the rocking motion used by Jews during prayer, is intended as “a way of expressing that one’s whole self, body and soul, is caught up with God. The old rabbi explained that the movement of the body mimics the flickering flame of a candle, calling to mind the saying that “the candlestick of God is the soul of a man.” (p 22)

Jesus probably began learning to read and memorize Scripture at the age of 5-6 yrs old. (p 24)

On Sabbath, a member of the congregation would read from the Scriptures and expound on the day’s passages. (p 25)

Study of the Torah was done at every opportunity. “When people assembled for a joyous occasion such as a circumcision or a wedding, a group might withdraw to engage in the study of the Law.” (p 26) If we did the same, we might have people studying Scripture during halftime at the football game.

Rabbis believed that study was the highest form of worship. “They pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us.” (p 26)

Rabbis encouraged debate and believed the mark of a good student was his ability to argue well. Sparing with one another forced students to refine their thinking. (p 28)

Here’s a rabbinic parable (similar to Jesus’ parable of the soils in Luke 8:4-11):

“There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis: the sponge (soaks up everything), the funnel (takes in at one end and lets out at the other), the strainer (lets out the wine and retains the dregs) and the sieve (removes the chaff and retains the fine flour).” The best disciple is the sieve, not the sponge as one might expect. (p 31)

In American culture, movie stars are revered. In Jewish culture, life’s supreme achievement was to become a great scholar of the Scriptures. (p 33)

“The disciple sought to study the text, not only of Scripture but of the rabbi’s life, for it was there that he would learn how to live out the Torah. Even more than acquiring his master’s knowledge, he wanted to acquire his master’s character, his internal grasp of the God’s law.” This is why he traveled with the rabbi and followed him so closely. Imagine handing an instruction manual to a five-year-old who wants to learn how to ride a bike. (p 33-34)

Jesus didn’t come only to save us from sin, but also to raise us up as disciples who would be like Him. (p 34)

Here’s another blog I wrote about one of the concepts in the book: Remez (p 37)

Stringing pearls is the practice of bringing together passages from different places in order to explore their great truths. Jesus did this in the Beatitudes – referencing Isaiah and the Psalms. His Jewish audience would have picked up on these references and been reminded of God’s faithfulness in rescuing His people. (p 43)

“The usual method of learning was through hands-on experience.” (p 53)

“Learning wasn’t so much about retaining data as it was about gaining essential wisdom for living.” (p 53)

“discipleship has always been about a process.” (p 56)

“While the Gospels record many instances of Jesus instantly healing people’s illnesses, we know of not evenone instance in which he simply waved his hand to immediately fix an ugly habit for one of his disciples. Instead, he simply kept teaching and correcting them, giving them time to grow.” (p 56)

Disciples were totally committed. They left their homes, jobs, and lives to follow a rabbi. It wasn’t like signing up for a Bible Study, or a class they could skip when they had a baseball game, etc. (p 57)

This goal of discipleship is not just self-discipline, but transformation into the likeness of Christ. Imagine if someone were to define parenting only as discipline. Of course children need discipline, but we would have great cause for worry if discipline was the only thing a parent focused on. (p 58)

Here are a few statements from Jesus’ time describing the relationship between rabbi and disciple:

“If a man’s father and his rabbi are both taken captive, a disciple should ransom his rabbi first.” (p 59)

“Your father brought you into this world, but your rabbi brings you into the life of the world to come!” (p 59)

“If a disciple is sent into exile, his rabbi should go with him.”(p 59)

Imagine Judas’ act of betrayal in light of the previous attitudes about this relationship. (p 59)

Another interesting saying:

“All acts a slave performs for his master, a disciple performs for his rabbi, except untying the sandal.” To untie someone’s sandal was considered demeaning, the task of a slave. Check out John 1:27 (p 60)

A rabbi was to model how to live by using examples from his own life. (p 61)

“An authoritarian style of leadership has little to do with Christ and everything to do with human ego.” (p 62)

“God’s goal isn’t simply to fill the world with people who believe the right things. It is to fill the world with people who shine with the brilliance of Christ.” (p 64)

An early rabbinical statement: “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah, then the Divine Presence dwells among them.” (p 67) Similar to Jesus’ in Matthew 18:20

“We tend to believe that the only way to deeply encounter God is through solitary prayer and study. But Jesus implies that his presence will be felt most often in the presence of a small group of haverim.” (p 67)

“Jesus never sent out his students alone, but always in pairs. He knew their critical need for haverim.” (p 73)

“In most societies, people don’t experience loneliness as acutely as Americans do. In other cultures, people are rarely alone, physically or emotionally.” (p 73)

“A haver is a fellow disciple who earnestly desires to grapple with others over issues of faith – someone who wants to delve into God’s Word, to be challenged and refined. A haver is like a spiritual jogging partner.” (p 74)

“Jesus was probably wearing small tefillin when he criticized those who were wearing large tefillin in order to advertise their own super piety. (Mt 23:5)” (p 79)

“An observant Jew recites at least a hundred blessings a day.” (p 82)

Little Shovel

ShovelOn his blog, Seth Godin writes “If you want to dig a big hole, you need to stay in one place.”

I wonder how this applies to evangelism? He explains that if you take your little shovel all over town, you’ll end up with a bunch of little holes – little impact. As a marketing guru, he applies this to sales: If you make 1000 sales calls, you’re likely to get 1000 rejections. On the other hand, if you work on one person and call him ten times, you might make a sale.

Back to evangelism: I think Jesus understood the “Law of the Little Shovel” pretty well. Think about it. He spent lots of time with the same 12 people (the disciples). He used his shovel digging into the lives of the same folks every day for three years of ministry. Those guys ended up changing the world and bringing Jesus’ message to the world as we know it – big impact.

I think it’s important to realize that when we truly invest our lives in people, (the same people year after year) we will dig much deeper in transforming both them and ultimately, the world around us. We should think in terms of changing a few people greatly rather than changing a great number of people in small ways.

No Room at the Inn & Pentecost

A few years ago (before I was married & had kids), the Corn family decided to go on a ski trip during the Christmas holidays. We had planned to drive to Colorado from my mom’s house near Ft Worth, TX. The weather in west Texas didn’t look good, but we decided to brave it anyway. Ski trips are a pretty high priority among the Corn’s. Anyway, as we drove through west Texas, ice began forming on the roads and we started seeing more and more cars that had spun out and were in the ditches. When we reached Quanah, TX they closed the road ahead of us. The road home was also closed so we were stuck in Quanah. Not only that, but there were so many other people stranded, that there were no hotel rooms left in the whole city. It was Christmas and we were stuck in a town where there was no room at the inn. A gas station attendant suggested that we check with the First Baptist Church of Quanah. WE followed his directions (just a couple of blocks) and discovered that they were receiving people. Many other travelers were there. The church people hosted us well. They had a few tables full of homemade food and Christmas goodies and offered to let us sleep in their gym using blankets which many of their members had brought from home. The other refugees were from all over the place, but most were on their way to some family get together. Some had their pets with them. In the end, the Christmas story came to life for us that year. There was no room at the inn so we slept with the animals.

Now, what’s all that got to do with Pentecost? I think my experience that year might have been similar to what the disciples felt the day we know and celebrate as Pentecost. Here’s what I mean: Pentecost had always been a celebration of the time that God had given the Law to Moses. He spoke to Israel that day. 50 days after the crossing of the Red Sea.

According to Exodus 19:16, God descended on the mountain with fire/lightning and with “voices” (the Hebrew word translated “thunder” is more accurately translated “voices”) Each year, the Israelites celebrated Pentecost, remembered God’s intervention, and rededicated themselves to the study and practice of His word.

Now, let’s jump forward to the New Testament. The disciples were celebrating Pentecost and would have read the Exodus passages recalling the original events of Pentecost. It was 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The Holy Spirit descends upon them like fire and they begin to speak in tongues. Sounds a lot like the lightning and voices in Exodus to me. Make no mistake that these Godly men, saw the similarities too. Like me as I snuggled into that blanket in that gym with the animals, I’m sure they felt like they were experiencing

something amazing – something that meant more than the surface experience. There was something going on much deeper. Check out this little table:

The Christian church celebrates Pentecost each year as the birth of the church and the time when the Holy Spirit was given. But I wonder if we are missing out on the rich history of it all? Like the Jews, maybe we should also use this time to thank God for His word. We even have more to be grateful for since it’s been written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Maybe we could celebrate and appreciate the Scriptures by studying more intently or with a focused time of applying them to our lives? If the original holiday was centered around God’s word, why isn’t our celebration of it?

The Israelites celebrated Pentecost by remembering God’s intervention with His Word, and rededicated themselves to the study and practice of it. We would be wise to do likewise with the addition of celebrating the birth of the church and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Somehow we got turned around – today, most churches only celebrate these “additional” blessings. I’m just trying to say that the original gift (His Word) is still worth celebrating too.

Jesus in the Passover – Maundy Thursday

I had the pleasure of leading our congregation through a Seder/Passover meal a couple of years ago. I put together a little booklet called a “Haggadah to explain the symbolism behind each element of the meal. I made the booklet into a slide show for anyone interested. I’d encourage everyone to step through it and truly think about depth of Jesus’ participation in this meal as the actual Passover lamb. You can also download the booklet and print it out here along with an extra leaders guide: Christ in the Passover (It has a few extra meaningful notes in blue.) For a better understanding of the fact that Jesus deviated from the normal Passover meal during the 3rd cup (Cup of Redemption), I’d also encourage you to read this blog I wrote about Jewish wedding customs.

Click on the first pic and the rest will come up in “book” form.

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Rob Bell

Robbell OK – I’ll confess. I really like Rob Bell. There are all kinds of opinions about him and I certainly don’t agree with everything the guy says, but something about the way he thinks. Something about his ideas. Maybe it’s his speaking style or humor, I dunno, but something really stirs things in my spirit when I listen to his sermons or watch the Nooma videos.

Anyway, over the last few days I’ve been listening to his latest sermon called “We Already Are” about Matthew 28 which he preached April 15, 2007 at his church (Mars Hill) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here’s a link to the sermon: We already are Matthew28.mp3

Anyway, he touched on so many things this week that really struck me. First of all, Jesus said that we should “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” In studying this verse, you’ll discover that “Go” might actually be better translated “as you go.” The greek has a continuing-into-the-future tense that English doesn’t have. Anyway, he also talks about the word “baptize” which is literally translated “immerse” or “make fully wet.” (We, Methodists got this one wrong.) He also speaks of the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (whom we were created in the image of) are literally a small group or community. Since we are made in His image (Gen 1:26), we long for connections and community too. Anyway, in Matthew 28, when Jesus says to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it might also be said that we are to “immerse people into our community.” I think this is why so many “new converts” don’t stay Christian very long. They’re never fully engaged into our communities. This is not a new idea, but it’s a new idea to me that Jesus actually taught it in these verses.

It’s also interesting to note that in Jewish culture, the Pharisees had been telling people to stay away from the Gentiles – to not associate with them – even to avoid them. But in this verse, Jesus assumes, that “as we go” we will come in contact with the “ethnos” (world) and when we do, we should try to “immerse” them into our community. He doesn’t say “convert” them or “make them believe.” He simple wants us to invite others into our community – to immerse them with ourselves, and to teach them about what Jesus said. We’ll end up sharing the gospel with our lives that way. Rob relates a story of a group who was inviting others into their community and how a girl asked, “Well, when should we tell them about Jesus.” Rob’s answer? “You already are.” When we live our lives as Christians and “immerse” others into our lives, we are already telling the story of Jesus.

Anyway, these are just some great ideas and teachings that I learned from Rob Bell this week.

You can download his sermons each week for free at: http://www.marshill.org/teaching/index.php

Bread of Life

06-03-22 02The miracles of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 are interesting. My new insight is this:

The first miracle – Matthew 14:13-21 – takes place in what the Jews called the “land of the twelve.” (The place where devout Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel continued to worship the Lord.) There were twelve baskets full of leftovers. Representing enough food to feed God’s people!

The second miracle – Matthew 15:29-39 – takes place in the Decapolis area east of Galilee which the Jews called the “land of the seven.” (There were 7 pagan nations driven from Israel  by Joshua) There were seven baskets full of leftovers this time. Representing enough food to feed the pagans too!

Jesus is the Bread of Life and Savior of not only the Jews, but of the whole world!

In Matthew 14:22 and Mark 4, when Jesus tells the disciples to go to the “other side” of the lake, the disciples heard “other side” differently than we do. “Other side” culturally meant to the “land of the seven” where the devil lived and the sea was the place where evil spirits lived. This explains why they were terrified and called Jesus a ghost when they saw Him walking on the water. Jesus was showing them that He had power over these evil spirits and in a way kind of setting them up for the miracle which was to come, where He fed the 4,000 in the “land of the seven.”

Am I taking bread to people in the “land of the seven?” Do I love people who scare me? Have I gone to “the other side” with the Gospel?