What does being a disciple really mean? My college pastor painted a great picture of how we are to follow Jesus so I decided to write it down to share with you all.
Discipleship has been around since the days of Ezra. At age 6, Jewish boys started their education by going to school. They called this Bet ha-Sefer or House of book. From Monday to Friday from sunup to sundown these kids would go to the synagogue and a teacher would come and teach them the Torah, the first five books of the bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Now, from age 6-10 these boys would memorize the first five books.On the first day of class the teacher would hand each six year old student a slate (this would be like a chalkboard.) He would have each student hold the board and begin to pour honey all over the slate which would spill onto these little boy’s hands. Just imagine being a six year old kid in a culture that has no sugar. All they knew of sweetness was honey. Honey was very precious and meant “God’s favor.” This was a huge deal to these boys. It took a lot to not immidately start licking their hands clean. Then, the teacher would instruct them to lick the honey and as they did this he would say a blessing upon them, a quote from Ezekiel:
“May the words of the Lord be sweet to the lips and sweet to the soul like honey. May it coat your mouth, coat your senses and coat your mind so that every time you read the word of the Lord, the remembrance of honey may come upon you.”
This was their first encounter with the word of God and as an eager young kid their first reaction was, “I want more!” And so every day, these children memorized the Torah wanting to grow, wanting the word of God in their lives because they knew it was sweet to the soul like honey. It was the nectar of God
At age 10, the best of the best continued into Bet ha-Talmud, the house of learning. There they would memorize rest of the old testament from Joshua to Malachi. From 10-14 they would memorize and begin to learn the art of asking questions. The Rabbi would ask a question and the student would have to respond with their answer in the form of a question. For example, if the rabbi asked, “What is 2+2?” they would respond with, “What is 8-4?” The rabbis would asses their wisdom by the kind of questions they responded with. Jump to Luke 2: 46 where Mary and Joseph found Jesus, in the temple courts with all the teachers, listening and asking them questions.They were all blown away by the wisdom he demonstrated as an early teen.
The whole point of this whole process was to follow, or be a disciple to, a rabbi. They called this a Tulmuden. Each rabbi studied bible and had different interpretations of what the Scripture meant. For example when the bible says doesn’t work on the Sabbath some would interperet it to mean you cannot even spit on the Sabbath because it was work to conjure up saliva. Some rabbis would disagree and give their own interpretations. Each rabbis interpretation of the scripture was called his yolk. (Remember when Jesus said “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:30?)
Age 14, best of best from Bet ha-Talmud would find rabbi they wanted to emulate based on their yolk. They chose the rabbi that they wanted to emulate, the one they wanted to grow into their likeness. This was called Bet ha-Midrash or house of study. Remember a Tulmuden was the ultimate goal for these men. Once they found their rabbi they went up to him and said, “I want to be a Tulmuden.” The rabbi would interview them, ask questions to decide whether he wanted to accept them as a disciple or not. Understand that whomever the rabbi chooses will be exactly like him. They will walk like him, talk like him, and have the same attitude. Rabbis were very careful about who they accepted because whomever he chooses will be his legacy. If he found them worthy he would respond by saying “לבוא אחרי” meaning “Come follow me.” If he didn’t he would say, “Go plow your trade.” which basically means “You don’t have what it takes. Go find work somewhere else.” From age 6 they are seeking to be a Tulmuden and at 14 they could receive the most devastating news; you don’t make the cut.
If you were fortunate enough to make it to Tulmuden status, you would begin to would follow your rabbi so closely that if the rabbi picked up a piece of strawand put it in his mouth, all the disciples would do it exactly like him. When rabbi went to restroom they would follow and watch him so they could do the same thing. And after any of these acts they would celebrate and praise God because they now know how their rabbi eats. The rabbis came up with a saying; “May you be covered in my dust” which meant may you walk so closely in imitating me that when the dust comes off sandals it should fly onto you.
Then here comes Jesus. Matthew 4:18-22 Jesus walks up to Peter, Andrew and Simon while they are fishing and says “לבוא אחרי. Come follow me and I’ll make u fishers of men.” They instantly drop their nets and follow. Why? Because from 6 all they wanted was to be a disciple and they didnt make the cut. They asked to follow a rabbi and were rejected. So when Jesus called them that meant Jesus saw much in them and called them up to be more in his likeness. He says “come follow me” and they drop everything. James and John did the same thing. His father was overjoyed because a rabbi saw something in his sons and now were followers of a rabbi.
This is a picture of what Jesus wants from us. He has called us and said “Come follow me.” He chose us. We didn’t go through an interview or years of schooling to get the privilege of following him and becoming his disciple. He wants us have his heart, his kindness, his manner of talking, his manner of walking and to become more and more into His likeness. He has chosen us to emulate him so that when people see they can know we are followers of Jesus. His yolk is easy and His burden is light. He doesn’t want us to be acquainted with him, He wants us to know Him. So when He says drop everything, die to yourself and come follow me we should drop everything and run to him. If we want to follow in the likeness of our savior we have to have commitment, sacrifice and submission. He will grow you into a disciple as long as you are open to his leading. We do the natural. God does the supernatural. I’ll leave you all with this:
John 15:4 “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”