Thursday

Discipleship

I want to spend a few days writing about discipleship.  We talk about being disciples of Jesus and about making disciples for Jesus, but I sometimes wonder if we really have a good grasp on what the term "disciple" means.  It has become a word that is reserved for the most part for the religious community and I think because of that it has come to mean "anyone who claims allegiance to a religious system or figure".  We have lost the original meaning of a disciple because that idea is not a common one in our culture.

When Jesus talked about being and making disciples, very specific concepts came into the minds of His hearers because the discipleship concept was a very important part of Jewish culture of that day.  What I would like to do is look at what the concept of discipleship meant to Jesus' hearers and then apply that to our lives as disciples of Christ today.

In Jesus' day, to be chosen to be the disciple of a rabbi was a great honor, and was the culmination of a very grueling, intensive education process.  Just to give you some idea of the education expectations:  by the age of 10  Jewish boys memorized the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament), by the late teen years many boys had memorized the entire Old Testament.  We are impressed today when our children can recite the names of the books of the Old Testament.

To make it through the entire education process and to then be chosen to follow and be taught by a rabbi was a prestigious accomplishment.  If that happened, there were four expectations of the disciple.  Jesus' audiences would have been very familiar with these expectations and when he mentioned being disciples, these expectations would be understood by them.

1. Disciples were to memorize the words of the rabbi.
2. Disciples were to learn the traditions and interpretations of the rabbi.
3. Disciples were to imitate the actions of the rabbi
4. Disciples were to raise up more disciples.

These four expectations did not need to be spelled out by Jesus when He spoke of being and making disciples because His audience already knew they were wrapped up in the concept of discipleship.  We cannot speak of being disciples or making disciples without considering this context.  We cannot make discipleship into what we want it to be any more than we can make God into what ever we want Him to be.  We must understand what Jesus meant when He spoke of discipleship.  Only then can we begin to become a true disciple of Christ.

Discipleship is not a concept that we need to define before we begin to live it.  It is a concept that already had been defined by God.  We need to learn the definition He has given it, then begin to live out that definition.

Disciple, Husband, Father, 3rd Grade Teacher.

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