This article is the latest in a series of what will be my Doctoral Dissertation to Louisiana Baptist University. It is my personal pilgrimage of where I have been, where I am at, and where I hope to go! In other words, it is my journey and my attempt to find The Way...
I believe that being a follower of The Way has as much to do with what you do as what you read and what you know. Jesus made it clear in the following passages that if you consider yourself a follower of Christ, it must be evidenced in your life and seen in your actions.
You are my disciples if you do the things that I say.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
It is rather odd how we assume that, because of the technical revolution, as a whole we are intellectually “brighter” than our forefathers. Interestingly enough, when it comes to discipleship, the generation we are a part of has a lot to learn from those who preceded us. It is helpful when attempting to define discipleship to realize that its roots are Jewish.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we know very little about His childhood. One thing we do know is that in His thirteenth year, He was in Jerusalem discussing the Scriptures with the religious leaders of His day. Because of the culture, we could assume that at the age of 13, Jesus was welcomed as an adult member of the Community and part of His rite of passage was His ability to publicly read and discuss the Torah.
In general, Jewish education began at the age of five and required that children begin undertaking the task of memorizing the Torah. At the age of twelve the boys were welcomed into the Community as adult members and could take their turn in the public reading of the Torah. For the majority of children, their formal education ended here and they went on to learn a trade.
It is noteworthy to realize how much of the venerated Torah was committed to memory. Needless to say, most modern-day disciples have not accomplished what most Jewish children had by the time they reached the age of 12!
Only a few were selected to continue the study of the Scriptures. As mentioned, most went on to learn a trade, but those who were selected went on to study (and memorize) the rest of the Tanach.
When they reached the age of sixteen, their time of study was completed and they too went on to making a family and learning a trade, except for those who were “chosen” by an established Rabbi. These were the “best of the best” and entry into this school could only come by being selected. The words that were commonly spoken by the Rabbi to his talmidim were…“Come follow me.”
At this point those who were selected would leave their households and “follow in the dust of their Rabbi” for the next fifteen years. During this time the Rabbi’s talmidim were to mimic all the ways of their beloved and esteemed Rabbi.
I like to use this as a template when speaking about discipleship, because often the Christian version has to do with a weekly study lasting four weeks. How far from the original we have wandered! Needless to say, this template seems to fit the model for the first Christian disciples, the original followers of The Way. When we look at Peter and company, most, if not all of them were well into their trades: fishermen, tax collectors, etc. This presupposes that Jesus’ disciples probably were not deemed the “best of the best.” This also sheds some light on why they immediately left their nets to follow their Rabbi. You see, they were selected! Rabbi Jesus spoke those words to them that required that they leave everything and go and follow in the dust of their Rabbi. Can you imagine?
With that as a backdrop, we see this band of disciples in a different light. They were part of that community who wanted to be just like their Rabbi. They wanted to understand the Scriptures the way He did. They wanted to speak just the way He did, and they wanted to be used just like He was, even to the extent of the miraculous and the unthinkable.
As we move on from the eyewitness disciples to the early church, we are given a couple snapshots. In Acts 2 we are told that those who were a part of this radical organization were devoted to the following: they were devoted to prayer, they were devoted to the Scriptures and they were devoted to the breaking of bread and the fellowship!
The Greek word for devoted is προσκαρτερω - pros-kär-te-re’-ō and means:
1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one;
2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing;
3. to continue all the time in a place;
4. to persevere and not to faint;
5. to show one’s self courageous;
6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly.
What followed in the wake of the early followers’ devotion was great power and massive conversions. The time has come for the church to return to its Jewish roots when it comes to discipleship and we must discover once again the things that we need to be devoted to.
Next month, Part 8: “How Isaiah Changed My Life!”