What does it mean to be a disciple or make a disciple? I guess, first you have to know what a disciple is. So . . . what is a disciple?
After listening to some brief audio lectures my brother told me about and doing some research on Jewish culture, I’ve learned a little more about what being a disciple and making a disciple would have looked like at the time Jesus walked the earth.
One Messianic Jew describes a disciple this way:
The disciples of First Century Judaism learned everything from their teacher, and they learned to be just like their teacher. They learned the stories that the teacher told. They learned the lessons that their teacher taught. They learned to eat the foods that their teacher ate, the way their teacher ate them. They learned to keep the Sabbath the way their teacher kept Sabbath and to give charity the way their teacher gave charity. They learned to pray the way their teacher prayed and to fast the way their teacher fasted. They learned how to keep God’s commands the way their teacher kept them. The disciples followed their teacher everywhere he went, and the teacher taught his disciples everything he could.
I understand this to mean, that a rabbi would pour himself into his disciples until they were duplicates of himself. The disciples became exactly like their rabbi in every possible way. This sheds light on Paul’s admonition to young Christians in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” And again in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
Luke 6:40 says “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” Disciples became exactly like their teachers, and then they too became teachers and had their own disciples, who looked just like them. So Jesus trained His disciples to look and act and think just like Him, then He sent them out to make new disciples. These new disciples would look and act and think just like their teachers, who looked just like Jesus. What’s that math concept? If A=B and B=C, then A=C. That’s Christian discipleschip. If I am a disciple of Jesus and I look and act and think as He does, and I go out and make a disciple and she looks and acts and thinks like I do, then she will be looking and acting and thinking like Jesus too.
I also learned that in Jewish culture, the disciple/rabbi relationship was a very strong bond. It was a bond stronger than a father/son bond. The Jewish disciple would have memorized his teacher’s words, learned all of his teacher’s traditions and interpretations, and imitated all of his teacher’s actions.
Wow! Am I really a disciple of Jesus? Do I know His words? Do I follow Him, watch Him, study Him, and try to be exactly like Him?
As I type this one thought springs to my mind. Unlike those early disciples, we have an advantage. We have the very Spirit of our Rabbi living in us and transforming us into the likeness of our Teacher.
I’d love for you to share your thoughts. Next, I want to discuss making disciples.