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)

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