|| Bible Question: What
does it mean to be a disciple today? What did it mean to be a disciple
to the first twelve disciples whom Jesus chose?
Bible Answer: In
ancient history the word disciple referred to an "apprentice"
or a student under someone such as a teacher. By the time of Christ,
the Greek word MATHATAS usually referred to a person who gave himself
to a philosophy or religion. The master-disciple relationship was
part of the Roman Empire of Jesus' day. History tells us that the
Greek philosopher Socrates was a master teacher who had a following
of disciples. While some master-teachers such as Protgaros required
payment from their disciples, Socrates, Aristole and Plato refused
money. The master-disciple relationship is the approach that Jesus
used to train His disciples.
Discipleship - Jewish Education.
Jewish education was not interested in philosophy but in religious
training. Jewish education had three major stages. The first one was
called the House of Scribe or the House of Reading (Beth Sepher).
This was the starting point, and it focused on the reading of the
written law. The second level of education was the House of Instruction
or the House of Learning (Beth Midrash or Beth Talmud). It focused
on the oral law. The final or third level was advanced studies under
a great scholar. The focus here was on principles of interpretation
of the law. This was required in order to be ordained as a rabbi.
Paul, the apostle, is an example of a Jewish boy who was a disciple
under a great scholar. Here are the words of Paul.
am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this
city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law
of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.
And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting
both men and women into prisons, (NASB)
Paul studied under Gamaliel, one of the great Jewish rabbis or sages.
Tradition says that he was the grandson of the famous Hillel. This
means that Paul, the disciple, had a great rabbi, Gamaliel, as his
master. They had a master-disciple relationship.
Discipleship - Jesus' Concept.
Jesus approached discipleship differently. The gospels tell us that
Jesus found His own disciples. He selected them (Luke 6:12-19). One
of them, Simon, must have been surprised when Jesus asked him to follow
because he was fishing.
walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who
was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into
the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, Follow
Me, and I will make you fishers of men. (NASB)
The Master called his own disciples (John 13:18), unlike Socrates,
Plato and Aristole. Jesus taught His disciples in groups (Luke 6:20)
and one-on-one (Luke 7:40). Jesus demonstrated His deity by miracles
(Luke 8:22-56; 9:12-27) and He personally revealed Himself (Luke 9:28-45).
Jesus also assigned personal ministry to His disciples.
He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority
over all the demons, and to heal diseases. And He sent them
out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing.
And He said to them, Take nothing for your journey, neither
a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have
two tunics apiece. (NASB)
Jesus called them. He taught them. He openly revealed His personal
side to them. He demonstrated the fact that He was a supernatural
person, and He shared that power with them. He was preparing them
to replace Him - to the degree that was possible - after He left.
Jesus also encouraged them and expected them to be fully committed.
Jesus revealed this early in His ministry to them. Many of His potential
disciples decided to leave Him after they heard Jesus teach something
they did not believe. But the twelve disciples remained with Him.
So Jesus asked them a question to firm up their commitment.