I am a recovering Southern Baptist. Often in Baptist World, you’ll hear the phrase “accepting Jesus as your personal savior.” This is basically code for an arrangement you make with God to go to heaven when you die. Contrast that with the idea of making Jesus your personal teacher. Trusting Jesus with your life is believing that the things he said about living are right.
Many of these deal-closing conversations include the familiar question, “What would happen if you died tonight?” But I would like to know, what would happen if you didn’t die tonight – what would your life look like tomorrow? It seems like a better question would be, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal teacher?” There is a distinction between an arrangement you make to go to heaven when you die and a relationship that makes a difference in how you live.
As humans we like to legalize things and take what Jesus said and see them as rules he was laying out for us. Most often, he wasn’t doing that so much as speaking against conventional wisdom and defining the kingdom. Again, not laying out rules, but giving guidance that require our own discernment (sermon on the mount)
The Hebrew education system illustrates what it meant for Jesus to be a Rabbi, talking about the 3 phases.
1. Beth Shefer – boys age 6 – 10
2. Beth Talmud – boys age 10 – 14 – you had to be good, know the OT, etc., to get in and become a talmudim. If you didn’t get in at this point, you were sent back home to learn the family business
3. Beth Midrash – if you were the best of the best you got in here, you would pick a rabbi with whom you wanted to study and then beg and interview to study with him. If you were accepted by him you took on his yoke, or teaching. It was beneath the dignity of a rabbi to solicit students – students had to beg to be accepted.
Jesus went to James & John and said “Follow me.” This was totally against the culture and tradition because Jesus went to guys who had flunked out of Hebrew school and were told they weren’t good enough and to go home and work for their dad. Then he went out soliciting students as a Rabbi, which wasn’t done. Jesus went about finding the ones that were told they didn’t measure up, and going against what was considered dignified for a rabbi and asking people to become his students.
(this was all gleaned from a sermon John Ortberg gave @ Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)