Read John 2:1-11
Yeshua’s teaching of His talmidim (disciples) was not just in the words He used. Every place He chose to go and every action He did was just as much a part of His teachings as His words were. If we want to learn what the scope and sequence of Yeshua’s curriculum was, then we need to follow Him step by step as He travelled around Israel, and beyond, teaching His followers.
The days were starting to get brighter and warmer, the almond trees beginning to blossom and the late barley seeds were being sown when Yeshua and his talmidim were invited to a wedding back up in the Galilee region, in the town of Cana. News must have travelled from the Jordan to Galilee for the wedding hosts to know that Yeshua now had a group of talmidim. It was usual in Jesus’ day for talmidim to go everywhere with their rabbi in order to learn how to imitate his ways in every circumstance. Judaism was, and is, faith in action. It is a whole way of life, it is what one does, it is one’s culture, not just a set of beliefs. Yeshua affirmed such whole of lifestyle faith in His life and teaching. He also followed the first century Jewish rabbi-talmid model for transferring what He knew and how He lived to others who could then transfer it to still others.
What it Means to be a Talmid (Disciple)…
Jewish Rabbi-Talmid Relationship for Training Leaders
In this “religious leader training” model each talmid (disciple/learner) was a committed, lifelong student of his rabbi (teacher) who undertook, not just to gain knowledge from his rabbi, but to become like his rabbi through:
1. Dedicating his entire life to his rabbi. The first and most important responsibility of a talmid (disciple) was that of devotion to his rabbi, a willingness to forsake all for his rabbi. This relationship between the disciple and his rabbi was the foundation upon which everything else was built. The Jewish Talmud was later to record that Jewish law gave the rabbi precedence even over a parent “because the parent only brings the child to the life of this world, whereas the rabbi brings him into the life of the World to Come.”
Yeshua made a similar demand in Luke 14:26-27 HNV: “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple.”
2. Memorizing, and transmitting, the teachings of his rabbi. In order to truly learn the teachings of one’s rabbi, a talmid (disciple) would first memorise his teachings, just as he had memorised the Torah during his early schooling, by reciting his rabbi’s words over and over and over again until he knew them by heart. Not only was a disciple to memorise the teachings of his rabbi, he was also to learn his rabbi’s scriptural interpretations and traditions. He needed to learn and transmit not only the words of his rabbi, but also his rabbi’s meaning in those words and how he lived them out.
3. Imitating the life of his rabbi. The mission of a rabbi was to be a living example of what it means to apply God’s Word to one’s life. A talmid (disciple) apprenticed himself to a rabbi because the rabbi had not just filled his mind, but had also saturated his life, with scripture and had become a true follower of God. The disciple sort to study the text, not only of scripture but of the rabbi’s life as well, 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 God’s law. As they headed to Cana the disciples were beginning on a journey of learning how to live like Yeshua.
4. Raising up more disciples. Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of Our Fathers”), one of the best-known and most-cited of Jewish texts, begins with example and exhortation to “raise up many disciples”. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10)
Yeshua developed a mentoring relationship with His talmidim (disciples), who dedicated their lives to him, learned His teachings by heart and followed His example as apprentices of life, while also learning to do this with others, teaching them how to follow Yeshua as they had learnt to follow Him. Before He ascended into heaven Yeshua likewise commissioned His talmidim to:
Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim (disciples), immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and theRuach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit),and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.. Matthew 28:19-20 CJB
Yeshua our Unique Rabbi…
Here was a fundamental difference between Yeshua and every other rabbi, and an essential characteristic of this original apostolic reformation. Every other Jewish rabbi eventually left his talmidim through death. So as talmid (disciple) became rabbi they would raise up disciples after themselves. Hillel and Shammai had both been talmidim of Shemayah and Abtalion, yet they each established their own school with their own teachings and lifestyles, and thus raised up disciples after their own likeness, not the likeness of Shemayah and Abtalion. Yeshua gave His commission after conquering death and included in it the exhortation to remember that He is with us always, through all generations. Therefore, those who follow Jesus are not to make disciples after ourselves but after Him, not in our likeness but in His, not to follow us but to follow Him. Thus, He would exhort His talmidim:
“But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi’; because you have one Rabbi, and you are all each other’s brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ because you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and He is the Messiah!” Matthew 23:8-10
Yeshua‘s first lesson – a wedding…
All this was to come, and the journey was just beginning as Yeshua’s first disciples travelled with Him to a wedding, that His mother was also attending, in Cana, Netan’el’s hometown (John 21:2). These first disciples were the brothers Andrew and Shim’on (Simon) Kefa (Peter), from Capernaum, Philip, from Bethsaida (where Andrew and Shim’on had also grown up), Nathaniel, from Cana, and several unnamed disciples (we know from Acts 1:21-23 that two of these were Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias). This first lesson from their rabbi included an affirmation of the importance of family, community and celebration. Yeshua was just starting his ministry yet he ‘took time out’ to join with the rest of his family in this wedding celebration.
Miriam (Mary), being a Jewish mother, would have been eager to hear all that had happened since Yeshua had left their home in Nazareth to go down to the Jordan where Yochanan was baptising. Well she remembered that day when she first saw her relative Elisheva (Elizabeth) pregnant in her old age and heard her prophetic exclamation (Lk 1:41-45). How often she had wondered what would become of their two sons and what would take place if their paths crossed again. Now it had happened, and she knew it had been profound. There was something different about her Son, His ministry had begun. So, when the wine ran out her expectation rose that this was the moment her Son would be revealed as the Son of God. “They have no wine” she informed Him, and then to the servants “whatever He says to you, do it”.
Jesus’ disciples’ first lesson was profound on so many different levels. They had seen with Yochanan the dire spiritual state of their people, even respected religious leaders did not escape the sharp sword of his prophetic exposure of their hearts. The austere conditions, the need for all to publically humble themselves, confess their sins, repent and be washed, fully immersed, in the waters of Yochanan’s baptism, had made a lasting impression. All this was needed because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. What was this Kingdom like? What had Yochanan the Immerser’s ministry been preparing them for? Yeshua was the living reality of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and the first place He took them to so they could learn the nature of this Kingdom was a wedding. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding, a jubilant celebration of covenant love, full of singing and dancing, good food and fine wine, fun, joy and laughter, family, community and belonging.
In such a place it was easy for these first disciples to forget the troubles of the nation and just enjoy this joyous celebration with their rabbi, as two families joined together as one. That was until anxious glances caught their eyes and they heard the whispers: “They have no wine”.
What sort of wedding was it that ran out of wine? Something in it sounded like Yochanan’s warnings, like Isaiah 24, like their nation that had run out of the wine of joy in relationship with God under the corruption in the governing class and priestly aristocracy, the blatant despising of Torah of the Hellenises and the suffocatingly strict Eighteen Articles imposed by Bet Shammai.
Six stone jars for purification water stood empty. Yeshua told the servants to fill them with water. Would they need to go through more ritual washings and purifications to demonstrate a greater level of repentance? The jars were filled to the brim.
“Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet” Yeshua instructed, and the servant obeyed (John 2:8).
Quietly, without fanfare or announcement, with only the lowly servants as participants in the miracle, Yeshua had turned water into an abundance of the finest wine.
Everyone heard the master of the banquet loudly complement the groom on this superior quality wine and marvel that it had been left to last. As the joyful celebrations continued a sense of awe settled over the talmidim – the Kingdom of Heaven is like a wedding banquet where the best is left to last, where the eve of despair becomes the morn of jubilation, where the water for purification is transformed into the wine for celebration, where Yeshua is the heavenly bridegroom and He ensures that there is no lack of the wine of joy.
After the wedding celebrations Yeshua, his mother, brothers and followers walked east to Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was where the brothers Shim’on (Simon) called Kefa (Peter), and Andrew, were now living and conducting their fishing business. Kefa was married and his mother-in-law is mentioned later. Yeshua was introducing His family to theirs, in typical middle eastern style where an individual was not considered to be known unless you knew their family. (11) (12) (13) (14)
Shim’on and Andrew probably spent some time back in their fishing trade, providing for their family, even as they continued discussing and reflecting on what they had seen and heard thus far. As Jewish rabbis were forbidden to receive payment for their teaching, and many students did not come from wealthy families, both rabbi and talmidim often plied their trade between teaching sessions in order to provide for themselves and their families. The named disciples had each now been afforded an opportunity to introduce their families to this new rabbi, Yeshua, whom they had begun following and whose ways they were committed to learning.
1. Jacobs, Rabbi Jill. Pirkei Avot: Ethics of Our Fathers. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 13th Oct. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/pirkei-avot-ethics-of-our-fathers/.
2. MJL Staff. Pirkei Avot- Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 1. My Jewish Learning. [Online] [Cited: 13th Oct. 2016.] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/pirkei-avot-ethics-of-the-fathers-3/.
3. Huckey, Darren N. The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple. Arkansas : Emet HaTorah, 2013.
4. Laan, Ray Vander. Rabbi and Talmidim. That The World May Know. [Online] [Cited: 21st February 2019.] https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim.
5. Bivin, Roy B. Blizzard & David. Study Shows Jesus as Rabbi. Bible Scholars. [Online] [Cited: 21st February 2019.] https://www.biblescholars.org/2013/05/study-shows-jesus-as-rabbi.html.
6. Greenwold, Doug. Being a First-Century Disciple. Bible.org. [Online] 28th February 2007. [Cited: 21st February 2019.] https://bible.org/article/being-first-century-disciple.
7. Isidore Singer, Isaac Broydé, Joseph Jacobs, Judah David Eisenstein, Kaufmann Kohler, Max Landsberg. RABBI. Jewish Encyclopedia. [Online] 1906. [Cited: 21st February 2019.] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12494-rabbi.
8. Hyndman, Rob J. How old were the disciples of Jesus when they joined him? BibleQ. [Online] 5th November 2011. [Cited: 21st February 2019.] http://bibleq.net/answer/4801/.
9. Thiessen, Rick. How Old Were The Disciples? Ask Anything. [Online] 18th April 2017. [Cited: 21st February 2019.] http://ac3askanything.blogspot.com/2017/04/how-old-were-disciples.html.
10. Cary, Otis Cary and Frank.How Old Were Christ’s Disciples? 1, Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, July 1917, The Biblical World, Vol. 50, pp. 3-12.
11. Capernaum. Bible Walks. [Online] [Cited: 6th Oct. 2016.] http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/capernaum.html.
12. Easton, Paul S. Taylor & Matthew G. Capernaum. Bible Encyclopedia. [Online] [Cited: 6th Oct. 2016.] http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/capernaum.html.
13. Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. Peter’s House. Bible Odessey. [Online] [Cited: 11th Aug 2019.] https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/places/related-articles/peters-house.
14. Schneider, Wolfgang. Where was Simo’s and Andrew’s home? Bible Centre. [Online] 2009. [Cited: 11th Aug 2019.] http://www.biblecenter.de/bibel/widerspruch/e-wds25.php.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* Why do you think the first place Jesus took His disciples was a wedding?
* How do you begin your teaching of new believers?
* What did the disciples learn from the wedding?
* Why do you think Jesus’ first miracle involved turning water into wine – huge amounts of wine?
* Discuss the importance of family in your culture and in Jesus’ Jewish culture.
* Why do you think rabbi’s were forbidden to receive payment for their teaching? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this? What are the advantages and disadvantages of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers continuing to work in a trade to support themselves like Paul did?