Discipleship: the Talmidim

Do you consider yourself a disciple of Christ?

Talmid is the Hebrew word for a disciple; talmidim is the Hebrew word for a group of disciples. Peter was a talmid of Jesus, but only one of Jesus’s talmidim. This is our word for the day.

Rabbis with smicha were the only ones allowed to have a talmidim—also called those who would “sit at the feet” of the rabbi. So when you read in the bible that Mary “sat at the feet of Jesus,” Jewish custom maintains that she, along with 6 other women, were part of Jesus’s talmidim (Jesus was one of only two rabbis in history to allow women to sit at his feet, along with Rabbi Akiba).

Students who had completed beth sefer (ages 5-12 “elementary”) and beth midrash (ages 12-15 “high school”) would ask to sit at the feet of the rabbi they wanted to learn from; this rabbi would question them extensively and then, if deemed a worthy talmid, would allow them to become part of the talmidim. Typically, there was always 1 older talmid—which we know was Peter because he was married—and then multiple teenage talmid. Most likely, most of Jesus’ talmidim were young teenagers. Peter was most likely early 20s.

The whole point of being a disciple is that you live exactly like him– you treat people like him, you make the same choices like him, you love and befriend people like him, you live fearless and bold like him—you bear fruit like him. The talmidim would live with their rabbi so they could literally know how to live in every single situation. Even to the point of following the rabbi into the bathroom in case he says a special prayer before or after using the bathroom! Which there is-actually. They memorized his teachings, so they could then go and teach others. These talmidim were not there to observe—they were there to become so close to the rabbi that they lived exactly like him in every situation.

Unlike the majority of rabbis, however, Jesus sought out and called his disciples to himself (Matthew 4:18-20). Jesus did not wait upon their willingness to come, but sought them specifically. Because we see Jesus picking out these boys as they are working, we know that these were not the “best of the best” students; they were finished with their schooling- they tested out of the rabbi program and weren’t even qualified to be disciples most likely. Instead, Jesus was unconcerned about his status as a rabbi, as having the best students follow him—he looked upon their hearts, found the unqualified, and saw who they could be with his guidance. We are told in Ephesians 1:3-10 that Jesus does the same with us—he specifically chooses each of us.

The word used in the above Ephesians passage, “chosen,” means carefully selected, handpicked, to pick out for oneself. You did not go looking for Jesus. Jesus went looking for you, and he carefully handpicked you for himself. Just like his talmidim, Jesus does not pick us because we are qualified, yall! He picks us because he sees our potential—who we can become in Him.   That you would be holy, that you would become his intimate family, that you would have purpose, that you would be blessed, that you would be redeemed, that you would be forgiven, that you would be lavished in grace, wisdom, and discernment. You didn’t have to search for him, to beg for his attention- because, honey, he’s begging for your attention. The greatest rabbi in history—the only one who, as we learned in Jesus the Jew, got his authority from God himself—is pointing at you, saying, “I know you have the potential to live like me. To change lives like me. To heal and perform miracles like me. To change the world like me.” Do you believe that about yourself? Do you believe, with God’s empowerment through the Holy Spirit, that you could be so close to the Rabbi, that they might mistake you for him? God does.

But notice, Jesus didn’t just choose you to be like him in holiness, but John 15:16a says, “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”

Jesus’s ministry only lasted three years but it radically changed history. It’s been two millennia, and it’s still changing history. God is still at work and doing huge things for his kingdom.This is the same abiding fruit to which you have been called to bear, as a talmid of Jesus.

So I ask you again, do you consider yourself a disciple, a talmid of Jesus? One who seeks to be like him in every situation; to love like him in every way; one who forgives like him. David Flusser, a Jewish disciple of Jesus, says that you cannot be a disciple of Jesus until you have memorized all four of the gospels. And that is only the beginning of discipleship. I know it’s a lot, but do you desire to be a disciple of Jesus or not? I challenge you this week to give up thirty minutes of your day and replace it with studying Jesus’s life and teachings through the gospels. It will change your life. You will begin to look more and more like your rabbi. So I ask you again, do you want to be a disciple?

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