The New Testament imagines discipleship as a lifelong journey. Being a disciple is a life-long journey through pain and suffering. When Jesus called his first disciples, he asked them to follow him, but did not tell how long because it is a life-long journey.
This is what Jesus told his disciples. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matt 10:25, ESV).
This passage is set in the context of Jesus warning his disciples of the persecution and martyrdom that they may have to go through.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you sin their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matt 10:16-23, ESV).”
Now let us try to understand these two passages a bit closer. First of all, it implies that discipleship is a process where the disciples are treated by the world just as their master was treated. There will be betrayals (v. 21), there will be arrests (v. 19) and even death (v. 21), just as the master had gone through. The path of pain and suffering for others led the teacher to his death. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.
However, it seems that in Paul’s understanding it is beyond the death of the disciple but extends to the experience of resurrection. In Phil 3:10, Paul’s discipleship is not limited to a knowledge (learning) the historical Jesus nor a body of knowledge about Jesus that apostles handed down. It is the experience of Christ but an experience that is limited to his physical experiences. Paul wants to “… know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….” His learning of Christ extends to the life beyond. (Phil 3:10, ESV).
Being the disciples of Jesus is a painful process. Paradoxically, we are ‘wounded healers.’ In the process of our service to God, we get wounded by the people whom we serve, people who oppose our service. It doesn’t matter whether you minister God in a country where Christians are persecuted or protected. However, the calling of the disciple is to continue the healing though wounded.
Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Discipleship is not just learning from Christ but learning Christ. Paul warns the Ephesian church, ‘But that is not the way you learned Christ!’ (Eph 4:20 ESV). There are two important observations on this passage. First of all, the root of the verb translated as ‘learn’ in almost all English translations, could mean ‘learning by enquiry.’ It is used in this sense in 1 Corinthians 14:35. Enquiry is an integral aspect of the teacher-disciple relationship in eastern cultures. The disciples probe and the teacher dispenses knowledge in response to the intellectual queries of the student. Traditionally what the disciple probes is teachings, a body of knowledge.
However, there is a major difference in Christian discipleship. What the disciple probes is not just a set of principles or teachings. They are probing the teacher himself. The teacher is the object of inquiry. This implies that Christian discipleship has to do with knowing more and more of the person of the Teacher.
This is exemplified in the longings of Saint Paul that expressed in Phil 3:10: “… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….” Discipleship is knowing Christ, but not merely a saving knowledge of him, but an exploration of his person. This is how Christian discipleship is different from idolatry. Idolatry has to do with a static knowledge of the object of worship. However, God’s plan for the Christian discipleship is growth in knowledge as Saint Peter observes. Peter concludes his second epistle with the exhortation that stresses this aspect of Christian discipleship. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18, ESV).
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