Like many people who were brought up in the evangelical tradition, I learned lots of Bible stories growing up. I heard the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, illustrated via flannel graph, repeatedly. And then I heard the stories of Jesus—the miracles, the parables.
But the Old and New Testaments seemed disconnected. I learned very little about the connection between the two—except to learn that hundreds of Old Testament prophesies “proved” that Jesus was the Messiah. I didn’t know what those specific prophesies were.
But in recent years I’ve come to appreciate the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. I learned a lot about this while doing research for my book Rest. Understanding the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day provides a context for the gospels that enriches their meaning.
Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg state that their purpose in writing Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus is to help the reader “tune into what Jesus was saying by developing the ears of a first-century Jew.”
So many Christians seem to forget about Jesus’ Jewish heritage (maybe because he looked Norwegian in some of those flannel graphs). They forget he was a rabbi, or they may make the mistake of thinking that he was the only rabbi around in his day.
This book points out that many Jewish rabbi’s lived as Jesus did, traveling and teaching. Some even told similar stories to those Jesus told. They would allude to ancient texts, just as Jesus did. They had talmidim, or disciples, who lived with them and followed them closely, just as Jesus did.
Spangler and Tverberg argue that we are Jesus’ tamidim, and we should understand the cultural and historic context of his teachings. They note,“Why should we spend time talking about ancient discipling methods? Because we, too, are followers of a rabbi. Like Jesus’ first talmidim, we are to become his faithful disciples. And like them we are called by our Master to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).”
They point out that making disciples goes far beyond getting people to agree with intellectual ideas, but rather, living out Jesus’ teachings. Their insights on the Jewish feasts and traditions are also very helpful.
Each chapter ends with discussion questions that would make this an ideal resource for group study.
Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of several books including Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity and her most recent release Simple Compassion. She is a sought-after retreat leader and speaker. She and her husband, Scot, live with their son and daughter in Illinois. Learn more about Keri's ministry at www.keriwyattkent.com.