Key Text: Mark 3:13-21
When we think of Jesus followers we immediately think of the twelve disciples. Although they were central to Jesus’s mission, beyond them were many other followers and friends both men and women. Today we may call ourselves Christians, Followers, Students or Friends of Jesus. But a shift has come in God’s church, a new cycle where He is looking for Talmidim, disciples who in turn create disciples, not simply followers.
The word disciple means so much more than just a follower, you can follow a football team and never leave the comfort of your settee. To be a disciple carries with it ideas of dedication, obedience, effort and that related but unloved word discipline.
The best example of being a disciple would be the traditional one of someone becoming apprenticed to a master in a particular craft or trade or skill. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be an apprentice or imitator of him
But when we look at the life of Jesus there was something different about the way He selected His disciples. It was different to the way of the world.
The first thing to note is that Jesus selected them. Jesus chose them. So Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew from the middle of their work as a fisherman and did the same with James and John. Matthew the tax collector had a similar unexpected summons. Mark 3:13-15
Someone who wanted religious instruction would have looked at the rabbis on offer, chosen the one they felt was the best instructor of the law and then applied to become one of his pupils.
Isn’t that the same today, how many who call themselves ‘Christian’ have only arrived at that self-identification because they have chosen Jesus simply as the best of a bunch.
Normally to follow a rabbi or religious teacher was to learn from him how to study God’s law. Yet Mark says in his gospel: And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those whom He desired and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach. Mark 3:13-14
Jesus was calling the disciples not to study the law but to ‘be with Him.’
‘Go and make disciples’ is not a proposal, it’s a commandment. When Jesus said ‘Go and make disciples’, He did not mean go and make students.
In the time of Jesus rabbis had two types of followers students and disciples.
The Hebrew word for disciples ‘Talmidim’, is very distinct from the word student. A student wanted to know what their rabbi knew, but a disciple wanted to be who their rabbi was.
Jewish blessing: ‘May the dust of your rabbi cover you.’ Students loved to listen to their rabbi. They would go to where their favourite teacher taught and they would hang on his every word.
Disciples however would also follow their rabbi around with the hope of becoming just like them.
Jesus wants us to be people who move from just being a friend, follower, student dare I say even Christian to becoming disciples who in turn create disciples. He does not want simply want His followers to know what He knows but wants to reproduce in others who He is. – Is this making sense?
So Jesus invites those twelve disciples and He invites us to simply. ‘Be with Him.’
The disciples were to be witnesses to who Jesus is. They were to be people who could say that they know Him and could testify to what He had said and done. For Jesus to transform His followers into effective witnesses involved two things: teaching them and sending them.
Jesus taught his followers both directly and indirectly. In the gospels we see Jesus directly instructing the twelve in private, explaining His parables to them and asking them questions to make them think.
Indirect learning was also important in the training of the twelve. Jesus kept them close to Himself for what was, the best part of three years and the influence of that was world changing. As educationalists never stop telling us, learning is as much caught as taught.
We see early in the gospels that Jesus sent the disciples out to be witnesses for Him. As part of that task, Jesus bestowed on them His authority. So the twelve became His authorised representatives they stood in His place. To accept one was to accept Jesus to reject one was to reject Jesus.
With the resurrection and the coming of Holy Spirit, the role of being a witness took on a new depth and breath.
The depth lay in the fact that Jesus’ disciples were now to be those who could testify that He had risen from the dead and all that it signifies.
The breadth was in the fact that they would take that message to the whole world.
Jesus invites us to ‘Be with Him.’ Abide in Him’ To cast off the traditional constraints of simply being a follower, a student, a friend, even a Christian and instead become a disciple.