These memorable words of Yeshua, prominently incised on the U.S. Supreme Court building in
In Yeshua’s Jewish world, the pursuit of truth was not the highest good so much as the doing of it. Truth was given in the self-disclosure and instruction (torah) of the Holy One of Israel. The paramount task of the Jewish sage, therefore, was to rightly interpret the Divine revelation preserved in Holy Scripture, and to teach his disciples, by word and example, how to obey the Divine will. In so doing, he brought them into the fullness of life intended and blessed by God. Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher) reminded
study to obey
Study was supremely important because Torah/Teaching was divinely given. Study that led to doing was considered a high form of worship. Talmud Torah or the study of God’s word, therefore, formed the distinctive religious basis of Jewish life in Yeshua’s day. Unlike the Greek concept, Jewish learning was not a ‘pastime’ for the few; it was a ‘life-time’ for ‘everyman.’ More than a leisurely inquiry for the wealthy, study-as-worship was a life transforming encounter for all who would serve God. It was an act of devotion that passionately engaged the whole person–heart, soul, mind and might.
Only in the light of this Jewish frame of reference do we see more clearly the significance of Yeshua’s statement recorded in the Fourth Gospel. First, we need to note that the promise is preceded by a condition: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and then…” (my emphasis).  “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” is not an abstract proposition but a personal invitation to walk after and study-to-obey Yeshua. Only talmidim (disciples) of the torat Yeshua (the teaching of Yeshua ) come into the truth that fully liberates, saves, and enlivens. For He is Truth incarnate and the way to the divine life.
the path of discipleship
Second, to “know” the truth is to be bound up personally and passionately with Yeshua in an intimate Master-disciple relationship. Hebrew learning is more than an accumulation of data or information. Da’at Elohim (knowledge of God) is an ever deeper intimacy and reverence toward the One who is Faithful and True–the Life-Giver Himself. “Truth” (in the Greek sense) does not finally set us free; the Jew, Yeshua, sets us free. And He does so in the journey of discipleship. Salvation is a gift, but discipleship is a process. We must grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Hashem to be wholly free. Only then are we transformed by the renewing of our minds under His instruction and example. Freedom and fullness–the desire of every soul–are to be found only on the path of discipleship, covered in the dust of the Rabbi/Teacher, Yeshua.
The man, Yeshua of Nazareth, was on a mission from God during His life: to raise up many disciples. We must take His life and mission just as seriously as we take His death, burial and resurrection. The commitment to “walk after” or “follow” Yeshua and to learn of Him is so important that it takes precedence over relationships with father, mother, and family, and even over one’s own life.  Yes, discipleship is costly, but the rewards are priceless–righteousness, peace and joy in God’s redemptive reign. Actually, non-discipleship is even costlier because we miss out on the fullness of God’s intended life for us, as well as the joy of a life of learning with the Master.
Before departing from His disciples, Yeshua left them with an abiding obligation. His mission was now to become their ‘co-mission’ with Him. They were to imitate Him. In their going, they were to make disciples also, teaching the nations all that Yeshua had taught them. That continuing obligation rests upon His followers today. It is not enough to revise our theologies with categories and concepts. Nor is it sufficient to accumulate information about Jewish culture and engage in Jewish practices. Our challenge and privilege is nothing less than to Yeshua. The Rabbi/Teacher from
1. John 8.32 (KJV)
2. Deuteronomy 32.47 (NIV)
3. V’lo midrash ikar elah ha-ma’aseh (“Study or exposition [of the Torah] is not the most important thing, but doing” (Avot 1.17). Cf., also Rabbi Akiva’s famous comment that study is important because it leads to practice.
4. John 8.31
5. Luke 14.26