I’ve been thinking a good deal about the concept of discipleship that emerges in Luke’s Gospel so that I can sharpen my own understanding of the call to a life of discipleship. Consider a few ideas I’ve pulled out and see if they resonate with you.
In Luke’s Gospel some important key words and phrases emerge shortly after Jesus began his earthly ministry.
The first word is “Master” in Luke 5:5, and it is used by Peter when Jesus directs him and his fishing-crew to put out to sea again, after they had been working all night and caught nothing.
The second word is “Disciples” in Luke 5:30. This word was first used by the scribes and Pharisees in Luke’s gospel to describe three groups of people:
- The people following them and their traditions,
- The people following John the Baptist, and
- The people who were following Jesus in the first days of His ministry.
By the time you get to Luke 6:13 there are lots of “disciples” with Jesus, and it is from this larger group that Jesus is said to have chosen His “twelve Apostles” (see Lk. 6:13-16).
The third word is “Teacher,” and it is used by Jesus with obvious reference to himself in Luke 6:40 where he says,
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
In that verse, Jesus uses the word “disciple” and “teacher” together to build the framework for a particular kind of relationship between two people. There is a teacher, and there is a disciple who, according to Jesus, will become like his teacher when he is “fully trained.”
The fourth and final word is “Follow,” which seems to tie all the other words together. The first occurrence is Luke 5:27-28 (as well as other places):
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.”
In earlier verses, the entire fishing crew of Peter “left everything and followed him” (see Lk. 5:11).
Within the narrative flow of these texts, we can see a specific discipleship-process that Jesus is engaged in with people, that goes something like this:
- Jesus is the Master-Teacher (Rabbi)
- Jesus is calling people to follow Him, and to embrace the role of “disciples” and see Him as the Master and Teacher.
- Some of them are listening to His call and leaving everything they know to follow Him.
- While under His teaching, their responsibility is to become fully trained so that they can be like their teacher.
- From out of this group of disciples, other groups are created for specific purposes prescribed by the Master-Teacher, Jesus.
If we use this process as a way of building a simple definition for “disciple,” we might say that…
“In Luke’s Gospel, disciples are people who are following Jesus together as their Master and Teacher so that they may all become just like Jesus.”
This is discipleship in Luke. It is to follow Jesus, and to help others to do the same thing in the every-day stuff of life! A definition like this helps me to un-clutter my life from all of the busyness that often crowds my concept of Christianity.
This is simple.
This is central.
This is the mission and the preoccupation for my own life and the life of the church of Jesus.
Follow Jesus as master and teacher.
Help others to do the same thing.