Scripture Reading: Genesis 7:1-9:17 / Matthew 4:1-22 / Proverbs 1:1-7
One of the largest mass suicides in history took place in Jonestown Guyana in 1978. The victims were followers of Jim Jones and members of his cultish ministry called the Peoples Temple. 909 people including over 300 children died as a result of cyanide poisoning, making this the single greatest loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Jones built the isolated commune in Guyana for all of his followers and disciples. His disciples became so loyal that they forsook family members and gave complete allegiance, trust and loyalty. They gave their very lives to confirm their radical and unwavering commitment to be a disciple of Jim Jones. The world calls this type of following cultish, unhealthy and fatal.
When Jesus began His ministry, he approached fisherman Simon Peter and his brother Andrew and said to them, ”Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus was calling them to leave their profession and home to follow Him. A disciple was a “learner”. They would forsake everything in life in order to be taught by a “teacher or rabbi”, emulating the life of their master.
Jewish boys longed to be a Rabbi’s disciple and between the ages of 6 to 10 would memorize the Torah – the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. At the age of 10, they would memorize the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures. Finally when they turned 14 or 15, they sought out a Rabbi whom they could learn from and live for. Peter and Andrew knew exactly what Jesus was asking of them and, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” (4:20)
They not only left their nets, they left everything - their boat, their profession, their father and their life in order to follow Christ. Peter and Andrew were willing to leave their life and pursue a greater call. They were committed to Discipleship - abandoning all in order to become like the “teacher”. They understood that they had to leave their life so Christ could make and be their life!
From our western perspective, we tend to equate a “disciple” as being a “student” and the “rabbi” as a “teacher”. Our concept falls short of the cultural depth of a disciple’s relationship with their teacher or master. Our cultural mindset believes a student wants to know what the teacher knows. In Jewish discipleship, a disciple wants to be what the Rabbi is.
A disciple wanted to get as near and walk as close behind his Rabbi as possible. A favorite blessing given to disciples, “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi!” Discipleship is not optional because “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” We are called to disciples – to believe, live, love, minister and lead the way Jesus did. Jesus still calls us…follow me!