Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jesus in context: "Follow me"

Jesus' sayings may carry more meaning than we recognize. We catch the plain meaning, but miss the references that would have been familiar to the people who first heard him.

Here, for instance, is one of the "touchstone texts" of ancient Judaism:
You shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)
That same idea of walking after the LORD is quoted time and again in the Old Testament:
... made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments (2 Kinds 23:3)

... made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments (2 Chronicles 34:31)

... They shall walk after the LORD. (Hoseah 11:10)
There are more instances phrased the other way too, about not walking after other gods, or not walking after our own ways, or not walking after our evil imaginations.

The picture of walking after God was firmly ingrained in the Jewish mind down through the centuries. It continued into the days of the New Testament as the routine way that the people spoke, both among Jesus' disciples and his critics:
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. (2 John 1:6)

... walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

... them that walk after the flesh. (2 Peter 2:10)

Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders? (Mark 7:5)

In some translations we see "walk after" or something along those lines; in others we see it translated as "follow": To follow the LORD, and not to follow our flesh, or our imaginations, or other gods. So the idea is well-established: the people talked about true religion or false religion in terms of who or what they followed.
"Follow me." - Jesus
One of the things Jesus says most often is, "Follow me."

No comments: