Posted on Wed, Jul 13, 2016
by Pastor Bob Norton
At Church of the Resurrection we’re rediscovering what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in the everyday world of twenty-first century America. In the New Testament the Greek word for disciple was mathetes which meant “follower, learner, apprentice.” And the person to whom they were linked was a didaskalos or “teacher, master.” Jesus of Nazareth called to himself disciples saying “Follow me.” He is still calling disciples in the world today. Have you decided to follow Jesus?
In biblical times, the concept of discipleship was common, but there were different kinds of discipleship. The Greek philosophers had disciples. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle all had disciples and lesser known philosophers also enlisted students to learn their particular way of thinking. Their schools of thought trained many and the focus of their ardent efforts was philosophy.
The Jews had disciples and they called themselves “disciples of Moses” for their focus was principles. They learned the Jewish Law. For example, the Torah (books of the Law), including the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the civil laws (Exodus 21-23), and the Talmud (oral interpretations of the Law) and later the Mishnah (interpretations) became their course of study.
In the time of Jesus, a sect of the Jews called “Pharisees” called disciples and went even further into religious law study becoming zealously focused upon procedures. They defined in great detail religious rules and regulations including over 300 definitions of what it meant to work on the Sabbath. This kind of legalism put people in a religious straight-jacket and set them up for self-righteousness hypocrisy.
The forerunner, John the Baptist called disciples and their focus was protest against the religious abuses of first-century Judaism. If you wanted to protest, you joined with John. But John knew that his form of discipleship was not ultimate but provisional. When Jesus came on the scene, John directed his disciples to follow Jesus (John 3:27-30).
So what was different and unique about Jesus’ discipleship? He did not call his disciples to subscribe to a particular philosophy. He did not emphasize loyalty to principles or procedures from a legalistic Jewish Law perspective. And his movement was not primarily a protest movement. His discipleship was revolutionary and unique.
Jesus called disciples to his person. “Follow me.” Love and obedience to Jesus was the focus to his call to discipleship. What does this mean today? As modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ our devotion issues forth in obedience and our obedience causes character development and we become more like Jesus himself. We are followers of the Way (Jesus said, “I am the Way…” John 14:6). Disciples of Jesus become radiant, reflecting the image of Christ.
The contemporary church needs to desperately rediscover the Christ who is calling to himself disciples today. Jesus is tenderly calling. Do you hear him? “Come, follow me.”
The world awaits a renewed, empowered Church. World-changing discipleship is before us. Embrace it. Glory to the Risen Christ!
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