Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
Seeing Jesus going round teaching about God, with a band of disciples following, would not have been so strange in first-century Israel as it might seem to us today. Some contemporary writers suggest that there were at any given time hundreds of such teachers going around from village to village – joining them was probably the 1st-century Jewish equivalent of the gap-year. And everyone expected them to receive suitable hospitality; that is the background to Luke 9.3-5: ‘3 Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, until you leave. 5 Wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.’ We should not think of Jesus as an uneducated country yokel – he could clearly read and write, and all Jewish men in his day would have studied the scriptures regularly, some of them in considerable depth. There were raging debates between different rabbis about interpreting the law, and Jesus weighed in with his own understanding (in the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus was supporting a wide application of ‘Love your neighbour’ – Lev.19.18, while in his teaching on divorce he was supporting a narrow application of ‘some indecency’ – Deut.24.1). But when Jesus taught, ‘the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.’ (Matthew 7.28-29).
Thank-you, Lord Jesus, that you are the teacher who is worth following and listening to. We join with Peter who once said ‘You have the words of eternal life’.