“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
— MARK 1:17
The Gospel of Mark begins in a hurry. Jesus gets baptized, starts preaching the “Kingdom come” and immediately calls his followers whom the Bible refers to as disciples.
Disciple is a familiar word that we often don’t stop to think about. With familiarity, we miss its genius. The original Greek word, Mathetes, literally meant, “a student, learner or apprentice.” This is the genius. These 12 followers weren’t just an ancient posse; they were his students, his apprentices. Like young residences at the side of a master surgeon or like apprentice electricians carefully watching a master, these 12 had become students of Master Jesus. Everything about their daily lives were focused around him. They were, to borrow the expression, Christ-centred.
What was it that they were learning? They were learning how to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. They were listening to his Kingdom teaching and storytelling; they were carefully observing how he acted, prayed and healed; they were watching how and with whom he socialized. Through it all, they were learning how to live, act and walk as citizens of the King, according to his Kingdom ways.
Now, here’s the remarkable thing. This term disciple is not reserved for just those original 12. If you are a follower of Jesus, you too are a disciple, an apprentice, a student of the Master, one whose life is centred around him, carefully learning from him the ways of the Kingdom.
Doesn’t that change everything?
1. Have I ever considered that the 12 disciples were actually apprentices of Jesus, seeking to learn from him how to live according to his Kingdom?
2. Have I every viewed myself as a student/apprentice of Jesus? What if a “Christ-centred” life was about learning to live the way Master Jesus demonstrated? What would that mean for me?
Image: Pulpit (1736-1741) by Theodoor Verhaegen in Sint-Janskerk in Mechelen, Belgium. Christ, represented as the Good Shepherd, stands underneath the pulpit. The three men represent the three ages of man: everyone no matter their age should follow Jesus. © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons