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Serving Jesus through discipleship

Archive for the tag “John”

The Call of Christ


By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2: 3-6

These verses out of 1 John clearly identify the need for discipleship. If you don’t agree with me on that, I’ll have more on that later. For now I want to answer the question “Why did Jesus choose His disciples and start His ministry in the region of Galilee? What was it that captured his attention above all other places in Israel?

Cities in Contrast

Some of the cities in the region of Galilee are Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Jezreel, Scythopolis and others. Let’s first take a look at Scythopolis in southern Galilee. Scythopolis was a city about 15 miles from Nazareth. It was a city of temples, stadiums, theaters, and university. It was a city of wide streets, sewers and running water. Yet Jesus didn’t choose any of His disciples from here.

A first century insula

In contrast, Jesus recruited His disciples from a small fishing village in northern Galilee called Bethsaida. This is the area that Jewish religious folks lived in the first century. People that were passionate about following God. Passionate about obedience. Passionate about the text of Scripture. Bethsaida in contrast had narrow dirt roads if any streets at all, no running water, no temples, no theaters and no university. The people lived in large family units called insulas, a Latin word for island. An insula could be compared to an apartment building today. Most of the lower and middle class people lived in insulas. It was from this village that Jesus chose five of His disciples: Peter, Andrew, John, James and Phillip.

The Building Blocks of Discipleship

  • Community

There were several building blocks for discipleship in Jesus day. The first was Community. The common people of that day relied on each other. Imagine, if you can, an extended family unit (brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, etc.) living in an insula. They ate together, worked together, played together and worshiped together. Their life with God was a community life! Coming from this type of background, it was only natural that the people wanting to be disciples would live with their rabbi in a community of disciples. But not every person living in the community was a disciple.

  • Scripture

The synagogue was a central part of the lives of the people living in Galilee in the first century. It was a community gathering place. A place to worship, a place to come and hear the rabbis teach. It was the place where the Torah (the books of the Law) and the Tanakh (the books of the prophets and the writings) were kept and taught. The Tanakh, as the Bible today, was considered the very words of God and was revered and loved on a par with God. The second building block of discipleship then is Scripture! In order to obey the law one must know the law. The better you know the law, the more likely you are to correctly apply and obey that law.

  • Beit Sefer

An important part of the synagogue was the school (beit sefer, literally, ‘house of knowledge’). This is where the children came to learn to read and write. Obviously, the text they used was the text of Scripture. So by the time that the children were 11 or twelve years old, they could recite large parts of the Torah. They had studies it, they knew how to interpret it and they knew how to apply it.

Upon finishing beit sefer, most children started working at the family business if they were boys and the girls would start learning to become a good wife and mother.

Some of the children (men typically), after finishing beit sefer, if they had the ability and the passion, would continue their scriptural education at beth midrash (literally ‘house of interpretation’). It was here that the Tanakh was learned. By the end of this part of their education, the student could recite large parts of the Tanakh. It was at this time that the really passionate could become what was called a talmid (tal MEED) or disciple. It is important to know the connotation of the word talmid. A talmid is a person who wants to be what the rabbi is! This person wants to be like the rabbi at any cost. He has an all consuming passion to be like the rabbi. He would give up everything to follow his rabbi.

The Cost of Discipleship

As a Christian, are you willing to be a talmid? Is your passion for Christ such that you are willing to give up everything to follow him? (Does this sound familiar?) I will bet that the required scriptural knowledge in most of us is severely lacking and thus preventing us from becoming a disciple.

After acquiring the building blocks of discipleship, the aspiring talmid searched for a rabbi that was willing to disciple the student. The talmid lived with the rabbi, studied under the rabbi, observed all that the rabbi did in order to become like him. Usually this required committing the entire scriptural text to memory, being able to correctly interpret and apply it. This required an unbelievable level of commitment and passion.

Most people, could not find a rabbi willing to accept them as talmid. Once you did find a rabbi willing to accept you, you could still be rejected because you did not possess the requisite level of passion.

Jesus, unlike other rabbis, chose ordinary people, fishermen, tax collectors, etc. to be His disciples. Many of the people that Jesus called were rejected by other rabbis. Many more were not willing to pay the price to become like Him. The price? Self denial, total devotion. This is what the rabbi asks of us. Have you come to know Jesus? (read 1 John 2:3-6). The only way that we can get to know Jesus is by His words. Where are His words? The Bible!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses ; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time ; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. – The Gospel of John

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