In a number of ways, Jesus emphasized basic understandings of discipleship. These basic understandings must be accepted by any man or woman who chooses to be Jesus' disciple. The first understanding a disciple must accept focuses on his or her relationship with Jesus.
A disciple must understand that Jesus is superior to him or her. Jesus declared this fact to the twelve [called disciples in verse 1] in Matthew 10:24-33. The context is set by the limited commission when he sent the twelve in pairs to Israelite towns and villages. In this commission [the reason it is called a limited commission] they were to teach/visit only Israelites (see verses 5,6). Prior to sending them to Israelite towns and villages, Jesus gave these twelve disciples the power to cast out demons and the power over all forms of sicknesses (see verse 1).
Two facts easily could make them arrogant men. First, they were the twelve--hand picked by Jesus! That selection was so unique most Christians today instantly know to whom you refer if you just say "the twelve." This is 2000 years after that selection! Second, Jesus gave them extraordinary power. They could do the impossibe--cast out unclean spirits and heal all forms of sickness! They easily could say, "Look what we can do! We are special people! Only we and Jesus can do this!"
Often people with extraordinary abilities and gifts anticipate extraordinary respect. While these disciples shared some of Jesus' power, they also shared some of Jesus' reception. Rather than emphasizing how special they were, Jesus told them to be prepared to receive the same treatment he received.
Jesus' explanation is insightful. He reminded the twelve that disciples were not above their teacher and slaves were not above their master. Do not nurture a superiority attitude because of who you are and what you can do! The greatest a disciple can hope for is to be regarded on the same level as his teacher. The greatest a slave can hope for is to be regarded on the same level as his master. Paraphrasing Jesus, he said, "Before your heads swell with thoughts of your importance, look closely at me. I am your teacher. I am your master. Look at the treatment I receive, and anticipate the same treatment."
Jesus' warning: "If I have enemies who call me the prince of demons, my enemies will become your enemies. If they consider me demonic, they easily will call you demons!" What a dose of reality! Jesus hand picked them and gave them extraordinary powers, yet some would consider them demonic! "Rather than being impressed with who you are and what you can do, they will declare the good you do to be an expression of evil!"
Jesus' reminder: "Do not allow fear of physical hurt to intimidate you. Fear is not to determine your actions. While it may seem to you that they can harm you and hide their evil treatment of you, that is merely appearance, not reality. Nothing they do to you will remain secret. Even if they secretly kill you, your death will not eternally remain a mystery. God knows everything that happens. He assures full and open disclosure. Fear must not determine what you do. God must determine what you do."
"My task is to acknowledge you as friends before my Father [God]. If you use fear as your motivation, do not fear those who physically kill. Fear God who has power over life, the One who will kill physical death. If you are not ashamed of me, I will present you to the Father. If you are ashamed of me, I will not present you to the Father."
The foundation understanding of discipleship: Jesus' disciple can anticipate the type of rejection Jesus endured. Evil does not respect godliness. Evil hates godliness. Societies dedicated to ungodliness (whether inhumanity, materialism, pleasure, selfishness, or such like objectives) cannot value people whose faith in God exclude such life styles. If Jesus was rejected by his enemies, today's disciple also can expect to be rejected by forces and influences that oppose Jesus' values.
Jesus emphasized his relationship to those who dared be his disciples once as he spoke to a large group of Jewish people (Matthew 12:46-50). His immediate family [mother and brothers] arrived and wished to speak to him privately. Jesus was told of their presence, but responded in a shocking manner. His question: "Who is my family?" He gestured toward his disciples and answered his question. His response: "When you look at my disciples, you see my family. My family is composed of those who do my Father's [God's] will."
Jesus was absolutely devoted to those who were his disciples. He expected those who were his disciples to be absolutely devoted to him.
His statement shocks us now, in this age. The statement was more shocking in his age. Family members provided other family members the only source of medicare, retirement programs, pensions, and old age insurance. While it is permissible and acceptable for a person "to do his [or her] own thing" and "live his [or her] own life as he [or she] chooses" today, that was not permissible and acceptable for many, many people in Jesus' time. The fact that Jesus' devotion to his disciples was superior to his devotion to his family was strange! [That does not suggest that Jesus neglected his family. Read John 19:26,27.] This situation had to embarrass his family! He must be crazy! [See Mark 3:20,21.]
In this world, the supreme sacrifice any person can make for others is to die for them. The last night of Jesus' earthly life, Jesus made this statement to the twelve: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). The commitment Jesus gave was greater than the commitment Jesus expected. All he asked of his disciples was that they aspire to his level of commitment. Uncommitted people cannot be the disciples of this committed teacher. The teacher's commitment is the standard for his disciples commitment.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 3
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