What Does it Mean to be a Disciple?


Coming off the Fourth of July weekend, it’s interesting how we can mix discipleship with many things – patriotism, political views, even views on various theological areas. In my previous post, I mentioned my friend’s perception of what it means to be “godly” and I briefly defined the Greek word “disciple” mathētēs—used for Jesus’ followers—as learner or pupil.

In the first century, teachers and mentors of various philosophies often had followers called disciples. This included the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day. These disciples often physically followed their teacher wherever he went. They did this because they were learners. They wanted to learn from the teacher on how to live life. In the case of Jesus, disciples wanted to learn how to know and honor God in every life circumstance.

These disciples may have been seeking answers to questions like, “How does the teacher pray and when?” “How and why does he respond the way he does when someone challenges him?” “How does he do everyday tasks like eating and sleeping and working in a way that honors God?” The disciples learned to mimic the teacher’s words and actions––their very lives––as part of their deep passion to know and follow the ways of the teacher.

Jesus’ disciples followed Him as part of this culture of learning. These “unschooled, ordinary men” had their lessons from the Son of God Himself (see Acts 4:13 NIV). They were learning to be followers of the Christ and to know God and His ways.

As His followers, we are challenged to do the same every day.

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