Discipleship

Discipleship is usually thought of as following Jesus, being a preacher, teacher. Somebody who believes in something, or who believes in someone, and leaves everything behind them to try to make others believe the same is my personal definition of a disciple.

When a disciple is healing a person, he is serving them, as he serving Jesus and God. So discipleship can be summed up; to follow, to learn, to preach, to believe, to serve. All factors are crucial to be a true disciple.

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But to be a disciple, you must be a Christian, ‘one who belongs with Christ’, ‘Christ’s one’. The disciples share Jesus’ faith, and his freedom to rise above all immediate concerns.In Marks gospel we are taught that a disciple is someone that follows jesus and learn from him much like a teacher with his students, which at the time was normal practice for a rabbi to have. These people left everything behind to come and follow jesus and learn the ways that god wanted life to be lived, we can tell this from the passage Mark 1:16-18 we are told that Simon and Andrew are fishing and jesus says to them ‘I will teach you to be fishers of men’ and at once they dropped their nets and followed him leaving everything behind.This shows us how people had to put jesus before everything their jobs, family and themselves as is the case in the passage when jesus called the third and fourth disciples James and john. The response to Jesus’ calling is clearly that of a wanting to follow, to be with Jesus. Although disciples weren’t apostles and there wasn’t a great deal of focus on them in the gospelTheir mission was simple. To do as Jesus does.

Jesus gave his disciples authority over evil spirits and ordered them to take as little as possible, to leave all behind and go ahead to preach and heal (Mark 6:7-11). The disciples had a very real mission, and Jesus told them when he chose them, “I will send you out to preach, and you will have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14). And yes, the disciples did heal, they did preach and they did cast out evil. “The apostles returned and met with Jesus, and told him all they had done and taught” (Mark 6:30) and “They went out and preached that people should turn away from their sins. They drove out many demons, and rubbed olive oil on many sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13).

Both of these quotes show us that the disciples did the requested; they followed instructions and didn’t do a bad job. This tells us that disciples worked in jesus’ name and tried to copy him in all ways.However, their understanding of Jesus and his teachings wasn’t very good at all. They understood neither the amazing powers Jesus possessed nor the wonders he could perform. Even though he “would explain everything to them”, in situations such as The Calming of the Storm and when Jesus walked on water, they just didn’t have the strength to believe or the depth to understand. When the boat was filling with water in the Calming of the Storm (Mark 4:35-41), the disciples awoke Jesus to say “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”, Jesus said back to his disciples “Why are you frightened? Have you still no faith?” The story in Chapter 6, verses forty-nine to fifty is similar. “It’s a ghost!”, the disciples screamed when they saw Jesus walking on water. “They were all terrified when they saw him”.

This shows both a lack of trust, understanding and belief on the disciples part, even though everything was explained in great depth to them, they still couldn’t get their heads around Jesus and his way of life.Discipleship, like everything in life, had positives and negatives. The costs of discipleship were the violence inflicted upon them, the taunts and non-believers they had to rise above, and the things they had to give up. The parable ‘Jesus Speaks about his Suffering and Death’ explains the very serious costs disciples must suffer to do what Jesus has asked them to do. “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross and follow me”, Jesus said to his disciples. “Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not!”The rewards of being a true disciple “Look, we have left everything and followed you”, Peter said to Jesus in ‘The Rich Man’, and Jesus responded; “Yes, and I tell you that anyone who leaves home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and for the gospel, will receive much more in this present age. He will receive a hundred times more houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – and persecutions as well; and in the age to come he will receive eternal life”. Following this, one of the most important things Jesus says in Marks Gospel in my opinion is here, “Many who now are first will be last, and many who now are last will be first”.

Ao2Following Jesus today is practically harder than it used to be, but modern day disciples clearly exist, they are Christians. Christians try to see Jesus in other people and they follow Jesus’ example and teachings. An everyday Christian would try to see the good in everybody, try to forgive others when hurt or unhappy, apologise for wrong done, and stand up for what is wrong.

Caring for the poor, sharing wealth, putting others before themselves and trying not to be prejudiced or racist are all important for a Christian to live their life by. Other more religious engagements should also be kept; celebrating the Eucharist, taking marriage seriously, spending time with God and speaking with him in prayer.Some of the stories in Mark’s Gospel can be used to present day realities. For example, Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder, gives one million pounds every year to charity. As a family, we’ll fill envelopes that come through the door asking for charity, as we will run a stall at a Leukaemia Research Fund Summer fayre.

Then if you think of a homeless person giving the tiny amount they possess to charity, it is just totally different. Who is giving more? Is a million pounds more than an envelope full of coppers? No it’s not. The poor person who has next to nothing and who is giving that small amount is giving the most.This modern day scenario can seen in Marks Gospel, it is like “The Widow’s Offering”, where many rich men give much to the temple treasury, and a poor old widow gives two copper coins. Similarities can also be seen in parables such as “The Rich Man”, where a rich man has to leave his riches behind to follow Jesus and receive eternal life, and so he doesn’t. Likewise, today, a millionaire is less likely to become a monk than a poor man would. Many thousands of people get together frequently to raise money for the poor, or to celebrate the achievements of the less privileged. In my mind, scenarios like this can be in some way connected to “The Feeding of the Five-Thousand”, as, from very little bread and fish, there was enough to feed five thousand people.

Likewise, with nothing to start with, much money, or much happiness occurs as results in my examples above.In our everyday lives as children, adults, workers and families we can, of course, communicate with God; we can listen and respond to the call of Jesus even today. Through church, prayer, priests, and by fulfilling the sacraments we can be at one with God at any time.

To get the call to become a modern day disciple is something I haven’t experienced, but to get such a call would be to have such a strong faith that you want to drop everything to follow it. Nowadays, to do as the first disciples did today, monasteries with monks, and nunneries with nuns allow people who wish to dedicate their lives to God to go and do so. Going into the priesthood is an option that allows you to be more of a disciple, to spread the word, to preach, to teach, to learn from others. What it means to become the above is much admired, it is totally awesome, incredible.Monks and Nuns spend their lives dedicated day and night to God, and I think this is the closest you can get to God, but I also think that in terms of DISCIPLES today, priests are more in that league, as they are ‘in touch’ with the people, they have the task of getting people to think about religion, and they have to survive getting mocked, being shunned.They have to also give up many of what we would call “life essentials” to do these things, like the disciples had to.

These are called Evangelical Counsels nowadays and consist of poverty, chastity and obedience. The poverty meaning no luxuries and no money, chastity meaning no sexual relationship or loving relationship with the opposite sex whatsoever, and obedience being total dedication to God. It is most impressive. Priests, for practicality can only take two of the three, as poverty would mean mobility and living would be hard.The costs for everyday Christians would simply be lost time, but I am positive that what you get from prayer and Eucharist and charity are certainly worth it. The rewards are clear, the satisfaction from helping others, changing others lives, communicating with God, preaching to your parish, worshipping with your fellow monks in your monastery.

All of the above are high points of the different aspects of modern day discipleship. Eternal life, happiness and a faith. If you are as determined, dedicated and committed enough, you can have all three of those wonders. Just follow Jesus’ example.Ao3Yes, however the term “true” disciple is somewhat unclear in its meaning. I certainly wouldn’t describe a true disciple as perfect; nobody is perfect other than God. I would consider a true disciple to be committed, dedicated, willing to help others and wanting to share in Jesus’ faith and expectations.

A true disciple wouldn’t have to be struggling, doubtful, and unhappy or in anyway negative. Of course people like Mother Teresa are true modern day disciples, she gave up absolutely everything to do what she could to help those in poverty, she thought that was the right thing to do, she followed Gods’ message, that is why she was a true disciple.I think a true Christian disciple would take the form of regularly attending church, participating in the sacraments, reconciliation for example, and caring for others at all times. Helping others, charity, standing up for what is right, forgiving, seeking good in all, and happiness are all factors for being a Christian disciple. I think that perfection isn’t necessary; nobody should try and live a “perfect” life. Everybody makes mistakes, it is part of life, but nothing in particular “qualifies” anybody to be a Christian disciple. Being a genuinely good person and a believer would class you as a Christian disciple in my opinion.Although I know that others disagree, and say that there are things that have to be sustained before the term “Christian disciple” can apply.

Celebrating the Eucharist every week is vital for such a title apparently, though I would suggest that it only contributes to the fact that dedication is involved.Those trying to follow Jesus in this “materialistic, consumer orientated secular world” are going to find it harder to than it would have been back in the days of the first disciples. Obsessed with material objects, luxuries, being concerned solely with buying and selling these material objects in this non-spiritual all-commercial world are what most people live their lives by. Clearly this is a setback for those wanting to spend their lives on more traditional matters, but again, to be a true disciple is to rise above this, and make the effort to overcome the problems and setbacks to achieve goals.Others would say that fitting such a lifestyle into this secular world would be the answer, and perhaps it has to be in a way, but having all this modern technology shouldn’t prevent, or even reduce the chances and time for prayer, communication, etc.

Unfortunately however, because of all the way in which our world now runs, there are fewer genuine Christians, but the positive outlook we can make about this is that these Christians are strong, in their beliefs and in their morals.In conclusion, it is possible to be a true disciple in the modern day. It is nowhere near the same to what the first disciples were like, but the same principles are involved, love, faith, care, willingness, commitment. Understanding is vital too, and even though the disciples of Jesus didn’t quite master this area, we today can, we can understand the bible, and what Jesus told us, we can go to church and communicate with God, priests, monks and nuns. To be a true disciple is to be true.