Talmidim (Hebrew) & Mathetes (Greek)
“Believing in Jesus and discipleship to Jesus are part of the same action.” –Richard Foster
“A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing iin their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do… Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus” –Dallas Willard
Then calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me…”
Coincidentally, yesterday, I re-watched a DVD teaching by Ray Vander Laan titled The Dust of the Rabbi. The episode title was “Come,” and expounded on the meaning of disciple—specifically in the context of the world in which Jesus lived.
I have lots of conversations with people about discipleship and in many of those conversations, people voice their skepticism about how real the idea of being a disciple (as much as it was described by Vander Laan and others who are educated in the ancient Hebrew-Jewish culture) is in today’s culture. What I’ve observed is the end result of that skepticism is this; the modern-day practice of discipleship to Jesus becomes a work of contemporary contextualization based on cultural and personal opinion, and this ultimately changes entirely what a disciple of Jesus is and does.
I should clarify; I do believe there are significant differences between 2,000 years ago in the Middle Eastern world and today in the post-modern, “far-left” west. Still, I do not think God is or was unaware of those polar differences. I still believe the intent of God-Jesus is for the complete reordering of our lives around him and his teaching even if our path may be a bit different than it was for Peter, James, and John. The call remains a total commitment and complete appropriation for the mind and heart or the character and nature of Jesus.
I also think there are different applications and ways that discipleship progresses for people. Despite any similarities, we are all distinct, unique, beautifully complex creatures made in the image of God. These distinct complexities make each journey personal and unique even though experienced together in the community of believers.
While reading today from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 8:34-37), the following words hung with me:
“Jesus called the crowds to join his disciples…”
“Disciples…” who are they? They are me (and everyone else) who takes up the “cross” of self to follow Jesus, no matter the timeline, culture, or any other qualifier. The challenges to discipleship may be different from the first-century disciples, I am sure, but the challenges are not greater than or more difficult than the experience of any other disciple. Ever.
The call to deny oneself and become like the character and nature of Jesus is the same… yesterday, today, and forever. It is hard. It is not impossible.
I know and confess my shortcomings, fully realizing my guilt of compromise and making some of the same tired excuses that I am critical of in others. I do not want to be that person. I do not want to pursue that deficient form of discipleship. I am recommitting myself to renewing my resolve and fanning the sparks of my desire to follow Jesus into roaring flames of advancement to become completely as He is, God willing and giving me grace and empowerment to be as He created me to be. To God be the glory. Great things He has done.