Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Life of Discipleship

"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him" (Luke 5:27).

Here we see Jesus showing the breadth and depth of His ministry. We have met the hated tax collectors already when we looked at the ministry of John the Baptist. Here we find Jesus including one such person in His most intimate retinue. We know that one of Jesus’ other disciples was Simon the Zealot. The Zealots were committed to the overthrow of the Roman rule, by violence if necessary. Jesus also had four fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) in His close company, and these men probably already knew and despised this Levi who had so often collected taxes from them. But Jesus was calling all kinds of sinners to Himself, making them new people.

“Follow Me.” That’s what Jesus said to Levi, better known to us as Matthew. When we think of these words, we properly think of them as an invitation to join the select group that surrounded Jesus during His earthly ministry. But there is also a kind of literalism involved in this command that is often overlooked.

Jesus, as was the case with other rabbis in the ancient world, was what we call a peripatetic teacher. That is a fancy way of saying He was a teacher who walked around as he taught. Jesus did not have a post at a university, but He moved about the countryside and grouped students around Him who would literally follow Him wherever He went. As Jesus walked around the land of Palestine, His disciples would literally walk behind Him, committing to memory the words He would utter to them as they walked.

A disciple was a person who joined himself to the company of a rabbi as a full-time student. He was committed to mastering whatever the rabbi could teach him. The New Testament word disciple (Greek: mathetes) simply means “learner.” Thus, a disciple of Christ is one who studies under Christ, who submits himself to Jesus’ teaching, and who seeks to understand what He says. Moreover, the disciple seeks to emulate the life of the master.

Discipleship is an active pursuit of Christ’s likeness that involves an insatiable hunger for learning. It requires cultivating significant changes in the application of this learning to service, obedience, and study. Schedule a luncheon with someone who can help you pursue this goal (perhaps a trusted minister).