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Discipleship

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Discipleship

Teachers around the time when Jesus lived thought that learning was such that the people who wanted to learn should come to them to be taught. But Jesus felt differently and rather than waiting for people to come to him, he went out to find them and then chose them to be his followers. He called them disciples and this word means one who learns. But Jesus chose his disciples carefully as we are told in Mark 1:16-20 and also in Mark 3:13-19. In the first passage, Jesus appoints his first four disciples, Simon, Andrew, James and John. Jesus said to them "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Mark 1:17) In Mark 2:13-17, Jesus calls up the fifth disciple, Levi who was a tax collector, and Jesus later renamed him Matthew. But Levi was not called in the same way as the other four disciples. Jesus was with him at the tax collector's booth and Jesus simply said, "Follow me" (Mark 2:14) and he rose and followed Jesus.

These five men responded immediately to Jesus and this is very surprising as he is a man who they have never met before. It is quite clear that this idea of discipleship for the first disciples is very important and that Jesus is planning on building his faith in them and he wants them to spread the word around to the people. (Mark 3:14)

Jesus appointed 12 disciples in total and this number was significant because each one represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Mark 3:13-19) Jesus gave them the authority to cast out demons and preach to his people and they were known as his companions. It seems strange for him to choose those specific people as his twelve because he could have chosen from many of his disciples, but he chose a specific twelve to be his companions and apostles.

When Jesus chose his apostles, there were two unusual choices: Levi and Simon the Zealot. Levi was a strange choice because he was a tax collector who had managed to get more money out of people than they need pay and so many people hated him and many other tax collectors. Simon the Zealot was an unusual choice because he was a zealot and although they had a strong belief in God, they hated the Romans, and being ruled by foreigners.

In the mission of the twelve, Jesus calls them to him and sends them in two's saying that they have the authority over evil spirits. (Mark 6: 7-13) Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town, and if any place will not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet." (Mark 6:8-11) The mission means that the disciples must face either rejection or acceptance and we can see many qualities displayed by the twelve disciples. They have to rely on other people and as it is said in Morley's passage on discipleship, "For they set out with nothing but the word of God in their hearts."

When Jesus tells the disciples about the cost of discipleship (Mark 8:27-33) he means that they should be prepared to put God and his commandments first before anything else, and they must be prepared to suffer for their beliefs. Jesus told them that the most important commandment is "Love God and your neighbour as yourself," (Exodus 20: 3-17) and many disciples throughout the ages have made many sacrifices to try and put this teaching into practise. When Jesus said to take up the cross, we can assume that because we all have a cross to bear, we should take up our vocation, and that means for us to follow Jesus regardless of the sacrifices we have to make. When we are told we should follow him, it means that we should travel down the same road as Jesus and suffer the many trials of being a disciple.

But, in Mark 10:29-31 we are told about the rewards of discipleship and the strange reward they receive for their suffering. Jesus says this to the disciples after he tells them the story of the Rich Young Man.

In this passage, the rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him that he must give up his wealth, but the man is unable to do so. The disciples are amazed at this story and then Jesus tells them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Mark 10: 24-25. Jesus tells the disciples this because they feel that they have given everything up to be with Jesus, but really, what they have given up is nothing in comparison to the harder things that some people who want to in the kingdom of God have to give up. On many occasions the disciples misunderstand the path they are supposed to follow and they misunderstand their role as disciples, and on many occasions, Jesus has had to correct them. In Mark 9:33-37, the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest disciple and Jesus has to tell them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." Mark 9:35. It was here that Jesus taught his disciples the difference between greatness and humility, and that they were here on earth to serve others. Another example of the disciples misunderstanding their role is when James and John ask that Jesus reserve a place for them in heaven, at his left and right hand. Mark 10:40. Jesus then had to begin to teaching of discipleship to them again after they misunderstood their real role.

Peter was probably the disciple who Jesus felt most strongly for. Peter was the first disciple that Jesus chose and his name was changed from Simon to Peter, a name meaning 'rock'. Peter is not really an important character in Mark's gospel until we reach Mark 8:27-30. In this passage, Jesus takes his disciples around various villages and whilst they are travelling, he asks them "Who do you say I?" Many disciples replied with names such as the Messiah, Elijah. Jesus then asked them again and Peter said, "You are the Christ." This shows us that Peter had a strong faith in Jesus for him to say that Jesus was the Christ.

Peter was very devoted and committed to Jesus and he always had a strong devotion to God. Peter made some mistakes but he always learnt from them and went back to Jesus to ask for forgiveness. When Jesus is explaining about the rewards of discipleship, Peter misunderstands and because of Peter's dismay, Jesus has to explain the meaning, and the extent of the suffering for a disciple in order for that person to have eternal life. Jesus named the first church, and it was named after Peter because his name means the rock (Matthew 16:18) and in the end Peter dies for his faith.

The word 'disciple' is used to describe the very first followers of Jesus, those people who left everything they had, to follow Jesus and to learn from him.

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