The words “disciple” and “discipleship” have become common in our Christian communities. And yet, in the Gospels, Jesus only uses the word disciple two times in reference to his twelve future apostles. In its place, when he speaks of his “students”, he uses words like “my friends”, “my brothers”, or still, “my children”.
In a rabbinic culture, disciples were chosen foremost because they had the capacity to know the Old Testament by heart. Then, having passed the intellectual exam, they had a meeting with the rabbi. The student was finally accepted and entered the rabbinic school if the rabbi thought that he would be capable to reason, to teach or to speak like he did. In fact, the entire training that was followed looked toward transforming the disciple into the image of his rabbi.
Jesus knew well this culture of “training a disciple” into which he invited The Twelve, but as is well seen in the vocabulary used, he had the desire that his disciples have a personal relationship with him above all else. What’s more, in calling his disciples to himself on the beach or in the market place, he shows that everyone finds his place in his school of discipleship, and not only those who are “intelligent”. What he did not change however, is the fact that the disciple will be transformed to the image of his rabbi.
Jesus desires that we become like him as we spend time with him. He invites us all to eat at his table and to follow him in all that we do.
Jean-Philippe Godin, YWAM Geneva