WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?
Hello to all my faithful readers. We have come to the end of yet another Bible study series, this time on Ephesians. “Where now?” I asked. What can I share with you that will be of practical value for you in your walk with Jesus?
Let’s talk about being disciples of Jesus.
The church, in the main, has not understood what it means to be a disciple or, if it has, it has slowly, over the centuries, veered off course until today we have, in the main, an institutionalised kind of religion that stands alongside and tries to complete with other world religions. It has missed what Jesus intended when He came from the Father – to reveal the true nature of the Father to His people, to take us to the Father and to teach us to follow Him so that we can also be true sons of the Father.
To do this, He chose the rabbi/disciple model which was the way of passing on the knowledge and way of life of one generation to the next among the people of God.
Jesus called twelve men to be His disciples. In His day, being the disciple of a rabbi was an honoured calling. Rabbis in Israel were essentially roaming (called “peripatetic”) teachers who moved about from place to place engaging people in debates about the meaning and application of the Torah.
Those who were recognised to have authority, called sh’mikah, developed their own “yoke”, their way of understanding and applying the Torah according to what they believed was God’s intention. They gathered around them a group of men whom they chose from the Beth Talmid, the school of young men who aspired to become rabbis. They chose those whom they believed would become like them and would do even more than they did.
Jesus did not choose His disciples from those who aspired to be recognised teachers. He went to the lake and chose fishermen, a tax collector, and other ordinary men who had no designs on becoming rabbis. In fact, it was not His intention to train them to be rabbis but rather messengers – men who would replicate Him so accurately that they would carry Him and His yoke to the rest of the world.
On one occasion a ‘teacher of the law’ came to Jesus with the request to follow Him (Mat. 8:20). Jesus’ response seems almost like a rebuff.
Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
Commentators have invented some ‘weird and wonderful’ interpretations of Jesus’ words, simply because they have not understood the way Hebrews think. We would take Jesus’ words literally, thinking that He meant that He was poor; He had nowhere to lay His head. Not so Jesus. Those who heard Him would ask the question, “What do foxes do in dens; what do bird do in nests?” The answer, of course, is that they don’t sleep in dens and nests; they reproduce.
What did Jesus mean? At that moment, He was the head but He did not yet have a body on which to ‘lay’ His head to reproduce Himself in the world. On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell on the assembled believers, the church was born, which is His body. From that time on, He as the head, worked through His body, the church, to reveal Himself to the world. Those who wanted to be His disciples at that moment needed to wait until His work on the cross was complete and the Holy Spirit had come to indwell His body to replicate Him in them and fill them with His life.
Jesus took His disciples to Israel’s “red light” district in the region of Caesarea Philippi where pagans worshipped the goat-god Pan by having intercourse with goats. It was in this disgusting environment that He asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”
The first step for anyone who would be a disciple of Jesus is to be convinced of His identity. Who is He? Who did He claim to be? How did He authenticate His claims? Is He who He said He is?
Peter answered for the rest, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He may not have understood all of the implications of his confession but one thing is sure. Jesus accepted his testimony as the truth and a revelation from God. It would take many more experiences for Peter to understand the full implication of what he had just said, including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and culminating in the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
Until the would-be disciple comes to that unshakeable conviction that Jesus is the Son of God. it is impossible to be His disciple.