The Great Commission – Part 3

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.



Filed under Bible, Christianity, church, missions

7 responses to “The Great Commission – Part 3

  1. There you go making my brain work again! :o) I have found that I have a much richer understanding of the Bible because I have tried to understand the culture in which Jesus lived.

    At the risk of sounding like I don’t believe in grace alone and by faith alone. I think the problem with the whole area of discipleship can be found in our habit of taking single verses of scripture, memorizing them and turning them into doctrine.

    You see, when I was young I learned, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” I even learned that you could find that verse in Matthew 28, verse19.

    The very next verse, that I doubt hardly any of us have memorized is, “Teaching them to do all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    I am afraid modern Christianity often separates the act of acknowledging God as Savior and recognizing Him as Lord. As I was reading through the Early Church Fathers during Lent, one of the things that struck me is that this idea was completely unknown. There simply wasn’t the idea that somebody could be a carnal Christians.

  2. HEY! I came over here for some fun and laughs…and what do I find?!! A kick in the backside! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Wow – I’ve even done some study of Jewish culture and this one escaped me… and I’m glad – you present it in such a challenging way. Thank you my dear.

  3. Jeff

    That was a great summary of what a disciple was during the time of Jesus.

    A couple of thoughts. First, based on this model, what are we (am I) telling the world about my rabbi? Second, is it any wonder that after the first century, when the church was made up largely of Jews, that the Jews have for the most part rejected Jesus as the messiah. After all, how could the messiah have disciples, people like him, who would conduct the crusades, the inquisition, and even the holocaust (which was done in a largely “christian” nation). In their understanding, if you want to know who the rabbi is, just look at his disciples. And anyone who would do to Israel and the Jews, what was done is his name (pretty much anything could be done during the time of the crusades, murder, rape etc. at the foot of a cross), is saying that this is what Jesus is like. Therefore, the Jews would of course reject him as messiah. Their messiah could not be like that, and is not like that. We have spent the large part of history showing the world that Jesus is a fraud, because we are supposed to live like him. If we can recapture the idea of discipleship again, we can really impact the world. After all, 12 guys and a few women did it a couple thousand years ago.

  4. Julie A.

    OK so my comments will not be nearly as “deep” as my husbandโ€™s who as you can tell is very jazzed by this topic, but I did want to comment on some other practical observations I have made over the years about discipleship. One thing that has always fascinated me is how Jesus poured his teaching into 12, and then broke that down even further into a close inner circle of 3, even though he had thousands around him at times. Since our family has been in a unique opportunity ministering to college students over the last 12 years I have often seen this model duplicated in our own method of serving others (it didn’t happen intentionally at first, but over the years we have become more aware of it). We couldn’t possibly impact all of the students we come in contact with, so each semester it seems like the Lord gives us one or two that we become very close to. We are blessed with many late night conversations about everything from theology, family, marriage, and career choices and one by one we are blessed to watch these students grow in their faith and relationship with the Lord. In this small group of individuals each semester that we really become intentional with, we have over the years seen marriages formed, babies born, and walked with them through some hard times. Each one serving as a reminder to us of how Jesus really focused on a few, and through them the world changed. Our students also have the potential to go out and change the world. It is very humbling to be a part of this type of ministry.
    So all of that to say, I think as Christians we have the desire to want to go out and speak to the masses, or really make a difference to a large number of people, but if you step back and realize if you focus on just a few to really devote your time and energy to, it may turn out to be more fruitful. It will also help you maintain your sanity and family life :). This also takes the pressure off feeling like if you are not a preacher, or “featured guest speaker” then you don’t have anything of value to share with people. It breaks down this call to “discipleship” to be much more attainable in our everyday lives.

  5. Greg

    Who would have thought that I would learn something from my sister and brother? We as Christians are to go and preach the gospel. We learned in homeletics that the word preach in the New Testament was translated from Greek 112 times, out of that 112 only 6 means to give a formal discourse or sermon. That leaves 106 times that it means witnessing to others in our daily lives. To go back to what Jeff was saying, when the world sees the way people claiming to be Christians are living, acting and saying the same things they are why would they want to change or become believers. If they don’t see the love and joy and caring of Christ in our lives by our actions how are they going to believe that we have something special that they need. You won’t find many lost people in our churches, so our daily lives are the only way we can reach them. We are all witnesses every day, people are always watching what we do and what we say. The question is, how effective are we in being witnesses for Christ? What are we showing the lost?

  6. Thanks, Greg and Julie and Julie and Jeff and JavaDawn. Greg must not have gotten the memo that only people with “J” names could comment on this one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway . . . thanks for all the comments that made my brain work even more. I’m mentally working on a Part 4 that will be specifically about making disciples. I hope to get that posted soon.

    And for those of you who don’t know — Jeff and Greg are my brothers. I’m so proud of them. Just look how smart they are and how much they love Jesus! These are the guys I prayed for and sobbed for and had practically my entire college campus praying for during my freshman year. One group that met nightly for devotions prayed every single night for Jeff and Greg to know Jesus. And when they both accepted Christ late that school year, much joy erupted on campus and people approached me in the cafeteria and on the oval to say how thrilled they were to hear about my brothers’ salvation. I found out then that other groups on campus were also praying daily for my brothers. And, as Lewis would say, the Hound of Heaven was pursuing them. ๐Ÿ™‚ And look at them now!

  7. Pingback: Making Disciples « My Derbe

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