This post is part of a 9-part series called Extraordinary Pastor, Ordinary Follower of Jesus. You can watch the introduction video here.
Part 2 – The original disciples were drop-outs
There is a great article from the scholar Ray Vander Lann called “Rabbi and Talmidim.” In it, he outlines how Jesus broke the typical mold of a Rabbi choosing his disciples. The typical educational model had three levels.
- Bet Sefer which means House of the Book. From the age of six until about ten, a little boy would go to the school of a specific Rabbi or teacher and would literally sit at his feet, and from dawn until afternoon, they would memorize Torah. If a student failed at this level, he would be sent home to his mom and dad to pick up a trade. If he excelled, he would move on to the next level.
- Bet Talmud which means House of Learning. This educational level was for young boys from age 10 until they were about 14. Many students didn’t excel and would end their education here and went home to mom and dad to learn the family trade. But, the best of the best from this group would go on to find a specific Rabbi whom they admired and wanted to learn from. This is the third educational level.
- Bet Midrash which means House of Study. To get accepted by a good Rabbi in Jesus’ day was the goal of every learned Jewish boy. Today it would be like making it into Princeton or Harvard. Rabbis never went around recruiting students it was beneath their dignity. Students came to them and begged them, “Can I get in? Can I study under you?”
Jesus broke the mold in two ways. Demonstrating his desire to make the ordinary extraordinary.
- Jesus included the dropouts. He found Peter, James, and John while they were fishing. Do you know what that means? They had flunked out of Rabbi School. Somewhere along the line they didn’t make the cut. They had learned the family trade from daddy. The others came from different walks of life, collecting taxes and political activism. But this much is clear, there was not a trained theologian in the bunch! They were the high school kids that didn’t get into college, but while they were home working at dad’s machine shop – Harvard called back and said, “We found a way to sneak you in.” To these twelve guys, this was an opportunity of a lifetime.
- Jesus sought them out. The normal pattern was that students would clamor to find a rabbi. Similar to the college admissions process, rabbis would get far more applications than they could accept, so they were very exclusive clubs. Jesus didn’t make the disciples come to him; he went after them. Not only did they get to walk with the greatest of all rabbis, but he sought them out!
Maybe you feel like a nobody, a dropout, forgotten, discarded. Jesus will come to you and give you hope and a purpose.