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Jesus’ Model of Discipleship


The Discipleship of Jesus

Jesus incorporated similar discipleship methods from the Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures in which he lived. For example, Jesus used the Socratic method in his teaching style on many occasions. In Luke 5, the Pharisees asked Jesus why his disciples did not fast and pray like Johns’ disciples. Jesus answered by asking, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” He then continued to teach from this question. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught against judging others. He asked, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). Jesus used questions to challenge others’ thinking and maximize teaching potential.

Jesus required his disciples to leave everything behind.

Similar to Jewish discipleship practices, Jesus required his disciples to leave everything behind. For example, when Jesus called Simon Peter, he asked him to leave his fishing career and follow him to become a fisher of men (Matt 4:18-21; Mk 1:4-19; 2:13-12; Lk 5:1-11; 5;27-31). Not all were willing to leave everything. For example, the rich young ruler, who followed all the commandments, was not willing to give away his riches for the kingdom (Mk 10:17-29). If following Jesus was not a disciples’ first priority, then they were turned away until the decision to follow him wholly was made.[10] Followers of Jesus needed to be willing not only to agree with what he said, but give their life to him, following him completely. From this perspective, a disciple called by Jesus is one who leaves all, even their family to follow and fully commit to his teachings.

The calling of Jesus’ disciples was different from those of the Greco-Roman and Jewish traditions in various ways. The disciples that Jesus chose were not those whom might think would be chosen. Many were not the most learned or well-known. For example, Simon Peter, James, and John were fishermen. Fishermen fell into a distinct social class that dealt with strenuous manual labor. They were usually crude in manner, uneducated, and had unpolished social skills.[11] Others were learned in their areas of vocations. Paul, later chosen as a leader in the church, was taught under the Pharisee, Gamaliel. Matthew had to be good with numbers as a tax collector. Judas had to have financial background as the group’s treasury. With differing educational backgrounds, not to mention socio-economics and family differences, the disciples had a variety of personalities and opinions. LeRoy Eims shows how several contrasted in personalities, “…Simon the Zealot hated the Romans who occupied Palestine, while Matthew the tax collector worked for them.”[12] Each disciple differed in skill and character.[13]

Responding to the unexpected call of Jesus.

Jesus’ actions provided a platform for the respect and honor of his disciples. For such a different group of people to come together and agree to be discipled under the same Master shows that there was an intense respect and belief among the disciples. Jesus worked many signs and wonders during his ministry. In Luke’s version of the calling of Simon Peter, James, and John, Jesus calls and performs a miracle (Lk 5:1-11). They respond with worship and an acknowledgement that Jesus must have authority. Additionally, Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to preach the kingdom or the good news (Lk 4:18) before he called the disciples. These miraculous events showed the high authority Jesus had, causing the disciples to respect him more than current teachers of the Law in that day. The disciples responded to Jesus’ call to follow him by leaving their families, homes, and lives as they knew, much like a traditional Jewish disciple would. Jesus’ disciples followed their teacher as he preached the kingdom, healed the sick, and delivered the oppressed (Matt 4:23). At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was crucified, buried, but resurrected and appeared to his disciples at the mountain where he had told them to go (Matt 28:16). Jesus’ last words to his disciples were, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Coming from the most trusted and respected rabbi, master, and Messiah these words stood as a mandate to the disciples.

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Category: Biblical Studies

About the Author: Alyssa Lillo is a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, majoring in Ministry and Leadership with Local Church Pastor as well as Evangelism and Outreach concentrations. After graduation she plans to work with a Christian non-profit (church or organization) to bring the light of God through outreach and discipleship to all she encounters.

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