The Heart of Jewish Discipleship (Part 3)

In the previous two articles of this series, we began exploring discipleship in 1st century Israel; how this important topic may have been understood by Jesus’ Jewish disciples.
In Part 1 we learned that the heart and core of Jewish Discipleship is the art of imitation! In Luke 6:40, our Rabbi Jesus said,

“Every disciple, after he has been fully trained, will be like his Teacher.”

When the disciple was fully trained, he became a carbon copy of his teacher, a mirror image, who would then pass on what he had learned from his rabbi to others, who then passed on what they learned, etc. Discipleship was much more than just learning some elementary principles of the faith. The goal of a 1st century, Jewish disciple was to become fully trained so that he could become just like his teacher.

In Part 2 we learned four imperatives of a disciple:

  1. Memorize Their Teacher’s Words
  2. Learn Their Teacher’s Traditions and Interpretations
  3. Imitate Their Teacher’s Actions
  4. Raise Up More Disciples

No Lukewarm Disciples

In Revelation 3:20-22 Jesus says:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with Him, and he with Me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with Me on My Throne, as I also conquered and sat down with My Father on His Throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!”

Who is Jesus addressing? Jesus was knocking on the door of believers! This passage is not primarily an invitation to salvation for unbelievers, even though it is frequently used that way. (I’ve used it that way, too.)  He was warning the church about being lukewarm. Neither hot nor cold, and He was about to spit them out of His mouth. He was giving them another chance. He was calling on them to repent. “Continue to be lukewarm and risk my judgment or repent. Either way I am at the door knocking. Let me in or face the consequences.” Jesus’ call to discipleship is still often heard by lukewarm believers. But disciples are not lukewarm. He wasn’t done when He called the Twelve—He’s calling you and me! We might protest, “But the culture has changed so much. We’re two thousand years removed and an ocean away. We could never do discipleship like Jesus did.” We are far removed from the time and culture of the Great Commission. However, the mission hasn’t changed at all! We are still to become radical, fully committed disciples of Jesus the Messiah! We are still expected to learn His teachings and traditions, to imitate His actions and raise up more disciples for Him! How we do that in the 21st century may look different, but the calling has not.

One of the Greatest Needs

One of the greatest needs in our day is twofold:

  1. For teachers, disciple-makers who will not be afraid to discover and study the practices of our Master and then do them;
  2. For students yearning to follow Jesus no matter what the cost!

Many modern teachers talk a good game. Please don’t take me the wrong way, because I’m not judging anyone. All too often I talk far better than I walk. We teachers often try to teach before we do. Sadly, this is not imitating the Master. Jesus didn’t just talk about the Commandments, He kept them. He didn’t just speak of forgiveness—He forgave! He didn’t just condemn gossip—He only spoke righteously.

If you feel like I’m dragging you outside of your comfort zone, I’m just the messenger. But let’s take a good hard look at ourselves. Are we content to continue to justify our current actions and lifestyle and remain in our lukewarmness? Or, will we repent, submit to the will of our Rabbi and seek to imitate Him? Will we allow Him the freedom and right to shake up those things in our lives that need to be shaken? Or, will we be like the rich, young ruler who turned away sad because He couldn’t let go of life as he knew it?

Jesus Is Still Calling

Jesus still calls us to full, uncompromising discipleship; not to a 12-week course in Bible 101, or to a Wednesday night class. He doesn’t even call you to a church or denomination. All of those are good and useful tools, but He calls us to more. He calls us to Himself! “Follow Me”, He says. Take the yoke of His Kingdom, submit to His will—obey Him. That’s the call of discipleship being presented to you. In Luke 14:26-33, Jesus said:

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’. Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.”

Those are pretty tough words, but they fit right into 1st century, Jewish discipleship. That’s discipleship the way Jesus taught it. That’s the way His disciples understood it. The prospective disciple must be willing to leave all that he has and begin a new life following his Rabbi. The decision He presents us with is to decide to follow Him regardless of all the possible scenarios of life! The decision is hard.

We read those words in Luke 14 and it’s plain to see that Jesus wasn’t about winning a popularity contest. In fact, He had a way of thinning the crowds that were following Him. There are Christians that have been in church their whole lives that have never become disciples. They have never fully surrendered their lives to Him. Let me be clear here. I’m not talking about becoming a convert to Christianity. I’m talking about being a disciple; the kind of disciple we have been talking about in this as well as the previous two articles. Jesus expects everything from us but promises to give us even more! The more we submit to Him, the more He trusts us with. There is no limit to His reign within and around us! There is no better life in all of eternity! We only have to be willing.

Where to From Here?

From here we must ensure that every member of every local church body is well educated in what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. To help take them deeper in their faith we must intentionally implement ways to; a.) learn Jesus’ Words, b.) learn how to interpret and implement His words; c.) imitate our Rabbi’s actions, and d.) learn how to raise up more disciples for Messiah Jesus. That may look different from church-to-church, but we must all purposefully and intentionally coordinate our resources and redefine our vision statements, if necessary, to make mature, fruit-bearing, difference-make, transformative Kingdom disciples.


As always, please let me hear from you in the comments section. What’s one take away you got from this teaching? I’d love to know. And please consider subscribing to Equip 4:12 so you know when the next posting is up and ready and so you can take advantage of the free download I have for you as my way of saying thank you. If you like what you heard, please share this with a friend.

Now may the love and grace of God fill you and guide you each day. May you daily surrender to and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And may your heart constantly be filled with joy and gratitude over what our Lord, Savior and Rabbi, Jesus the Messiah, has done for you.

Blessings, my friends. I pray you will join me again. Remember, Jesus call to be a disciple continues today. He says, “Follow Me!” Let’s follow Him together.

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