Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a video entitled "Dust" which is from the Nooma video series created by Rob Bell. In the video, Rob explains the idea of being a disciple. It was a great change in perspective for me when I realized the history of the Rabbinic system in 1st century Israel. With this backdrop in mind, it really makes the idea of a disciple come to life.
Nearly every child in Israel was expected to take part in learning the Hebrew Scriptures in some capacity. Every child was expected to memorize the Torah. That's right. MEMORIZE. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all by heart. What if we were required to do that today? Anyways, if a child was considered very versed in the Torah and was more advanced than others his age, he would continue on in his schooling. The rest of the children who weren't good enough or smart enough, would go and learn their family trade.
The next level of study would require the child to learn the entire Hebrew Scripture by heart. 37 BOOKS! MEMORIZED! At this point, they were around 15 and they were now ready to approach the Rabbis about becoming a disciple. Only the best were accepted even at this point and many are turned away to go learn their family trade. Those that would move on had to prove to the Rabbi that they could do what he does, that they could be his disciple.
Why tell you all of this? Why is this important for us to know? The idea of being a disciple in today's world doesn't do justice to the original term. In modern day America, we think a disciple should know what their teacher knows. However, in Jesus' day, a disciple was much more than that. He was supposed to DO what his teached DID. The thing that is interesting about Jesus is that he didn't call the best of the best. He called fishermen, tax collectors, etc. This clearly implies that these men weren't good enough for any other Rabbi. Jesus believed in his disciples. He believes in us.
The best part about this is that Jesus already knows that we aren't good enough. He was perfect and to be his disciple would require us to be perfect. That's impossible! Yes, that's true. Humanly, it is impossible. But Scripture tells us that Christ becomes our righteousness (Romans 3, 1 Cor. 1:30). He intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). He paid the price for our sin (1 John 2:2). And my favorite, he started, and will continue his good work (Phil. 1:6). THAT'S AMAZING. We now have the ability to be his disciple because we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6), and we can live by his strength and not our own.
Picking up the story again in first century Jerusalem, the disciples of a Rabbi would follow him everywhere he went. They would follow behind him on the dirty, dust filled roads and by the end of the day, whatever the Rabbi stepped in was embedded in their clothes and covering their faces. When expressing a challenge to the disciples of Rabbis, people would say "May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi," implying that they would follow close after him and become like him. I hope that can be said of us. I want to be covered in the dust of Jesus. I want to follow close in his steps so that people would recognize that I was following him.
There is a verse in Acts that clearly describes this principle and with this I close:
Acts 4:13 "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."