Thursday, May 3, 2018
So, You Want to be a Disciple of the Master?
By Dan and Brenda Cathcart
Moed Ministries International
The video version of this teaching is available at:
Scripture reading for this teaching:
Luke 9:51-10:42 (Matthew 8:19-22)
In the Gospel accounts we see that Yeshua made frequent trips from His headquarters in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Galilee to Jerusalem, almost always at the time of the Feast days. The time of Passover was approaching with the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning the day following Passover, and since it was a pilgrimage feast, all males were required to go up to Jerusalem, specifically to the Temple, at this time each year.
Luke 9:51-53 NKJV 51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
There were several routs one could take from the Galilee to Jerusalem, the most direct route would mean traveling through the dangerous territory of the sometimes-hostile Samaritans. Why did Yeshua choose this route for their journey? After the transfiguration event, and knowing the fait that awaited Him in Jerusalem, Yeshua was determined that His disciples understood the dangers and costs that they too would face in the years to come as one of His disciples.
What does the Master Yeshua tell those who want to follow him? What must be the priorities as a disciple of Yeshua? What is the cost of true discipleship?
Again, Yeshua was most likely traveling with an entourage larger than just the inner circle of the twelve as they traveled through the territory of the Samaritans. As we just read in Luke 9:52, Yeshua sent messengers ahead to prepare for their over-night stay in a Samaritan village. Verse 53 indicates that they were not welcomed in the village when it was revealed that they intended to travel on to Jerusalem for the Feast day. The Samaritans did not recognize Jerusalem as the legitimate location of the Temple of God and resented the Jews for worshiping there. Their place of Temple worship was on Mount Gerizim.
This rather open hostility between the Samaritans and the Jews would intensify over the ensuing decades, resulting in open attacks against the Jews making their way from the Galilee to Jerusalem.
The origin of the Samaritans is a bit murky, but dates back to the Assyrian exile in 722 BCE. The Assyrians “replaced” the Jews forcibly removed from their land with another people. The Samaritans consisted of a mixture of imported foreign settlers and a small remnant of the locals who escaped exile. Over the ensuing centuries, they had come to believed that they alone were the true descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Jews in the land at that time were imposters. Sound familiar?
Many of the Samaritans refused to take in the traveling pilgrims. In the ancient near-east culture, this was considered an insult and a deplorable evil. One such Samaritan village was so proud of their inhospitality toward travelers, they even named it “Kefar Bish,” which means, “Bad Town.” The Disciples reported back to the Master Yeshua about the Samaritan town refusing to receive them.
Luke 9:54 NKJV 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"
I suppose they were recalling the words of Yeshua as recorded in Matthew 10:14-15.
Matthew 10:14-15 NKJV 14 "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 "Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!
Yeshua rebuked the disciples for their apparent over reaction to the hostile reception they received in the Samaritan village.
Luke 9:55-56 NKJV 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.
When John and Peter returned to these very same Samaritan villages just a few years later bringing the good news of salvation to both Jew and Gentile, they received a different welcome.
Acts 8:14-16 NKJV 14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Here it seems apparent that Yeshua was teaching them a lesson about forgiveness and mercy in the face of hostility and evil. As we see in just a few short years, Peter and John called down a different kind of fire on these Samaritan villages!
As Yeshua and the disciples continued their journey up to Jerusalem, Yeshua is approached by three individuals seeking him out to become followers or disciples. Perhaps these men wanted to commit themselves to true discipleship; to study and learn at the feet of the Master; to be one whom Yeshua would send out to the highways and by-ways of Judea and Samaria to prepare for the later arrival of Yeshua. Perhaps they even witnessed first hand signs and wonders performed by the disciples or Yeshua Himself. In the story of each of these three men, we see they each encounter and were confronted by an obstacle in their lives which would prevent them from obtaining what they seek.
Luke 9:57 NKJV 57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."
In Matthew’s gospel, in this same encounter, the man is identified as a scribe; a Torah scholar. He would, most likely be, not a first-born son, but a younger son of a relatively wealthy family, sent off to study the Torah as a full-time occupation supported by his family or perhaps independently wealthy enough himself to pursue Torah study full time.
Yeshua invited him to follow but issued a stern warning.
Matthew 8:19-20 NKJV 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
In other words, Yeshua was letting him know that being one of his disciples would require him to dispense with his comfortable life as a scribe and Torah scholar. He would be required to “hit the road” as an itinerant disciple with no apparent means of supporting himself, relying on God through others for his daily provision as well as even a place to lay down his head at night.
For this man, the cost of discipleship may have been too high. If he was indeed wealthy and comfortable in his life as a scribe, which seems likely, what was his answer to Yeshua’s challenge? What would be our answer if faced with a similar choice? Did this man choose then to follow Yeshua and reconcile himself to an itinerate lifestyle? We do not know; the Bible makes no further mention of him.
In the next verse of Luke’s gospel, we see another man asking to join with the Master.
Luke 9:59 NKJV 59 Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
Yeshua immediately invites this man to follow Him, but the man has an objection or condition to his commitment to discipleship.
Luke 9:60 NKJV 60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
Yeshua was telling this man, first things first. In other words, there are priorities to following Him. Discipleship must take precedent over other obligations and duties of one’s life.
Yeshua’s answer is a bit puzzling, however, in light of the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Certainly, burying one’s father is an important obligation and should take priority. Yeshua taught at length about honoring one’s parents and even rebuked some Pharisees for neglecting their parents in favor of sacrifices and offerings.
Mark 7:10-13 NKJV 10 "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 11 "But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"-' (that is, a gift to God), 12 "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
Would Yeshua encourage someone to neglect such an important obligation? Would burying his father be so incompatible with discipleship? I don’t think so, but what is implied by Yeshua’s words to this man?
In the ancient world, as it is today in Jewish culture, a person is usually buried within twenty-four hours of their death. I suppose that would imply that this man’s Father died that very day. If that is the case, then why is he out speaking with Yeshua, inquiring about becoming a disciple rather than attending to his family obligations?
Perhaps the man’s father was ailing and near death and he wanted permission to wait until after the death of his father. Another explanation for this odd request would be the traditional method of burial at the time. After a person dies, their body is placed in a burial chamber, usually a cave naturally occurring or one that has been carved out of the rock. The body is placed on a stone shelf within the tomb and sealed for eleven months. The ensuing eleven months are a mourning period where the surviving sons recite the kiddish daily.
After the eleven months are completed, the burial tomb is re-opened and the body, now just bones, is gathered and placed in a small stone box called an ossuary, which is then stored somewhere else in the family tomb. After this second burial, the tomb becomes again available and the daily mourning ritual ends. Perhaps it was during this eleven-month period that this man approached Yeshua about becoming a disciple.
In this case, Yeshua’s answer makes more sense. If the man’s father was already dead, he had no further obligation to his father. He may have been requesting time to complete this second burial of his father’s bones.
Yeshua apparently regarded this request as an unnecessary objection to immediate discipleship. The Talmud records the tradition of placing equivalent importance on the obligation of honoring one’s parents, including the burial of deceased parents, and on the study of the Torah. Yeshua was asking this man to set aside the other equivalent obligation of burying his father to pursue the immediate need for proclaiming the kingdom of heaven. Did this man drop everything and follow Yeshua?
When a third man approached Yeshua to inquire about becoming a disciple, Yeshua had yet another kind of answer.
Luke 9:61-62 NKJV 61 And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." 62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Yeshua’s answer to this man’s request is reminiscent of the story of Elijah and Elisha.
1 Kings 19:19-21 NKJV 19 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, "Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." And he said to him, "Go back again, for what have I done to you?" 21 So Elisha turned back from him and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen's equipment, he gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and became his servant.
In the 1st Kings account we see that Elijah consented to Elisha’s request. Yeshua did not consent to this man’s request to return home to say his goodbye’s. Yeshua’s lesson here may be one of divide loyalties. His words in verse 62 sound proverbial. If a plowman looks back over his shoulder, he will most likely veer off course and not plow straight furrows. In the same way, a true disciple committed to following the Master, cannot stay on the straight path while looking back or with divided loyalties.
Serving the Master Yeshua is a true privilege but there is a cost to discipleship. These three potential new disciples or followers received specific warnings, but the other disciples should take lessons from Yeshua’s encounter with these three as well. They too would face life or death challenges in the years ahead.
Yeshua went on to declare that all things had been handed down to Him.
Luke 10:22-23 NKJV 22 "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." 23 Then He turned to His disciples and said, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see;
The Greek word translated here as delivered is number 3860 in the Strong’s dictionary meaning to yield up, transmit or to put in trust. It implies a handing down of knowledge or tradition from a teacher to pupil. Yeshua was declaring that He had received all insight and revelation from the Father and He was able to reveal this knowledge to His disciples.
First Fruits of Zion in their work The Chronicles of the Messiah put it in these terms.
“The simple meaning is that no one knows a man as well as his son, but at the same time, no one knows a son as well as his father. Yeshua applied this concept to His unique filial relationship with God. He drew upon the esoteric wisdom-tradition of early Judaism which personified Wisdom in relationship to the LORD. The one who issues forth from Him, rejoices before Him, and reveals Him to men, but is ultimately known only to Him.
The writer of Proverbs 30:2-4 laments that he does not know the name of the son of the Holy One and complains about a lack of knowledge.
Proverbs 30:2-4 NKJV Surely, I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One. 4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if you know?
The disciples of the Master did indeed stand in a unique position of knowledge and revelation. They were given divine wisdom in the form of the Son of God in their midst! The Father chose them to reveal His Son and the Son in turn revealed to them the fullness of the Father. Luke 10:23-24 from the Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels.
“O, the gladness of the eyes that see what you see! For I say to you, many prophets and kings have longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you are hearing but did not hear it.”
Peter states it quite well in his first epistle.
1 Peter 1:10-12 NKJV 10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things which the angels desire to look into.
Generation after generation of righteous men; prophets, priests and kings as well as the common man of the past, had waited patiently for the revelation of the Messiah. But when God sent His Son to dwell among men, He revealed His kingdom not to the wise and intelligent kings, scribes and Pharisees, but to the common fishermen and the despised tax collectors.
There is a Messianic blessing in a Jewish text which I will leave you with.
“Blessed is the generation whose eyes behold Him! Blessed is the eye which waited for Him whose lips open with blessing and peace, whose speech is pure delight, whose heart meditates in trust and tranquility. Blessed is the eye which has been given the privilege of seeing Him!
We are also called to be disciples of the Master. We too, through the power of the Holy Spirit are privileged with knowledge and wisdom like that imparted to the original disciples. If we wish to be a true disciple of Yeshua, we face the same choices and challenges that the three inquirers did on the road to Jerusalem. How will you answer the call to true discipleship?
1. What new insight did you gain by reading this blog? How do you respond to this new insight? How will you realign your life based on this new understanding?
2. The Samaritans appear to be the first people to practice a kind of “Replacement Theology.” Discuss how their practices are like those of the Gentile based Christian Church arising from the 4th century AD. How is replacement theology manifested today?
3. When Yeshua and the disciples faced the inhospitality of the Samaritan village, in His response, Yeshua referred to Sodom and Gomorrah. Referencing the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, how are the two situations alike?
4. In Luke 10:13 Yeshua speaks a condemnation of the Galilean towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Why would Yeshua speak a condemnation of the very towns and villages where he spent most of His time and where He performed most of His signs, miracles, and wonders?
5. Yeshua sent messengers ahead to Samaria. After this event, Yeshua sent out seventy messengers to “every place and town He sought to go.” (Luke 10:1). Yeshua previously sent out just twelve disciples. What is the significance of first the twelve, then the seventy? How was sending out the twelve and the seventy different than sending messengers ahead to Samaria?
6. Hospitality was lacking from the Samaritan village (Luke 9:52-56). Contrast this lack of hospitality with the hospitality Yeshua received when He visited another village where Mary and Martha lived. (Luke 10:38-42)
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