We want to take a closer look at discipleship because we need to know in these end times what true discipleship is or else we will not be a true disciple of Yeshua. You see, we look at discipleship through Western eyes but Yeshua is Jewish and so discipleship takes on a whole different meaning through Hebraic eyes. We see that John the Baptist had disciples and so did every other Rabbi and even the Prophets. So it is important that we understand what a true disciple is. Before Yeshua returned to His Father, He tells His disciples to go out into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20). If you note, He did not tell them to make converts. So what did Yeshua mean? Let’s take that closer look at what it means to be a true disciple and what is the cost?
How to Become a Disciple of the Master
Yeshua’s disciples were all Jewish and so they knew Torah and how to observe it, so it was not as much teaching them the Word of God as much as it was how to observe it His way. We know that Yeshua was the Torah made flesh and so keeping Torah His way would have been the perfect way. A disciple would live with his teacher and travel with him wherever he went. He would learn from his master everything about him and how he went about living out the Word of God. We see here that Yeshua tells His disciples in Matthew 28 that they were to teach the people to observe all His commands. In other words, show them how I lived out Torah, so that they may do likewise.
You see in Deuteronomy 24:8 the words “diligently observe and do according to all that shall be taught you.” In Psalm 119:34 we see words like “that I may observe Thy law,” and “keep it with all my heart.” We see in all of these Scriptures that to be a disciple one must be diligent to observe all of God’s commandments with one’s whole heart. Moses tells the people in Deuteronomy 6:25, “So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and survival, as it is today, and it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us.” God tells the people in Deuteronomy 8:1, “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.”
We see that the people were to be careful to observe the commandments of the Lord. So to be a true disciple one must be diligent and careful to observe all the commandments of the Lord and all that was taught him in keeping those commandments for righteousness so that you may live. How do we begin? Moses tells us, “to fear the Lord for our good always,” and Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Paul tells the Ephesians in chapter 5:15, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.”
So we begin by fearing the Lord, then we must be diligent and careful to observe all of our Master’s teachings and ways. The disciples asked Yeshua one day, “Teach us to pray.” His disciples knew how to pray, for they were devout Jews and they followed Torah but they wanted to observe how He prayed: Did He sit or stand? Was He carefree or serious about His praying? They even wanted to hear the tone of His voice when He prayed. You may think that all of that is silly but not to a disciple, because he wants to be just like his teacher.
Yeshua was the Father’s disciple. In John 8:26-28 and in John 12:50, Yeshua said that He only did what He saw His Father doing and that His words were only His Father’s words. He was the exact representation of His Father (Hebrews 1:3), and so too we must be the exact representation of our Lord Yeshua. Yeshua asks His disciples, “Can a blind man lead a blind man?”
In Matthew 10:24, Yeshua tells us about the relationship between a disciple and his teacher. He says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.” Luke adds, “But everyone, after he has been trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). So we see that to be a true disciple we must be trained to be like our teacher Messiah, not like our minister or pastor or priest but Yeshua, who is our Teacher. It is His example that we must follow in every way shape and form. We are going to continue looking into this and we will see just what Yeshua did that we must follow to be a true disciple of our Teacher, Yeshua.
Identifying with the Master
One way we know that we are a true disciple of Yeshua is that the world will hate us. Yeshua tells His disciples that because the world hated Him, that it will hate us also. He begins to tell them about the persecution that will come to the true disciple. He says, “Whatever I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the rooftop.” Like Yeshua who spoke what He heard His Father say, so too we must follow His example even if it means persecution from our own family. In Matthew, Yeshua speaks of a time when brother will betray brother and father will betray his son, and He tells them that they will be hated by everyone for His name’s sake. But to the one who endures, he will be saved (Matthew 10:21-22).
Yeshua was speaking about a time when His disciples would meet great persecution, which they did, in the first century and many followers were put to death because of just that. They were betrayed by family, friends, and informants. But Yeshua’s prophecy also reaches to the time when true believers will be persecuted for His name’s sake just before His second coming. The last generation before the coming of Yeshua will see great persecution because the world will hate true believers. It will be a time like no other. The true church of God will experience tribulation and martyrdom and this will be the true testing of our faith. Yeshua tells His disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who is able to destroy both the soul and the body in Gehenna” (Matthew 10:28).
Yeshua goes on to tell His disciples, “Are not two birds sold for a cent? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father. And as for you, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more precious than many birds” (Matthew 10:29-30). Yeshua reassures His disciples that even though they will encounter various trials and tribulations and even death, their Father knows and is aware of what is happening in their lives; just as He reassured them in chapter 6 that the birds of the air neither sow nor reap but the heavenly Father knows their needs and feeds them, so too our Father is aware of our needs and knows what is happening in our lives.
Yeshua warns His disciples that a time would come when they would be told that they could no longer speak in His name and if we choose not to acknowledge Him before men that He would not acknowledge us before His Father (Matthew 10:32-33). Yeshua goes on to say, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I did not come for peace but a sword. For I have come to separate a man from his father and a daughter from her mother and a bride from her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be the people of his house. Whoever loves his father or his mother more than Me does not deserve Me, and whoever loves his son or his daughter more than Me does not deserve Me” (Matthew 10:34-37).
Yeshua will separate the sheep from the goats, the wicked from the righteous, the true from the false. The Apostles said to Yeshua, “We have left everything for You.” So too, we must leave behind everything and follow Him, no matter where it may lead, even if it leads us to our death.
Following the Master
To be a true disciple of Yeshua means that we must pick up our cross to follow Him. We must deny ourselves and lay down our lives to follow Him wherever He may lead us. Yeshua tells His disciples in Matthew 10:38 that whoever does not pick up his cross and follow after Him is not worthy of Him. What does this mean, “to pick up your cross”?
You hear people all the time say, “it is my cross to bear,” but is that a correct interpretation of this Scripture that one’s own suffering is his cross to bear? We see in Matthew 16:24 Yeshua adding two other words to that sentence and that is “deny himself.” Paul proclaims in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” This is a declaration of a true disciple, one who walks in the footsteps of his teacher.
Paul writes again in Galatians 5:24, “Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Again in chapter 6:14, “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 tells us, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but from the world.” Paul writes to the Romans in chapter 6:5-6 and verse 11, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God.”
So we see that picking up his cross and following after our Master is the disciple following in His footsteps, for He goes on to say in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” So to be a true disciple we must not only be crucified to this world but we must deny our flesh which is all part of being put to death: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, and greed which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
We have been looking at what Yeshua’s take is on being a true disciple of His. We have found that as followers of the Messiah we must walk in His footsteps. We must be exactly like Him. Years ago, they they had the saying, “What would Jesus do”; well, the Scriptures tell us just what He expects us to do. Paul writes, “Imitate me as I imitate the Master.” Paul was a student who became like his Master and so he had disciples following him. This is what Yeshua meant when He said, “Go and make disciples, teaching them everything I have commanded you.” Paul writes in Philippians 3:10-11, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Messiah Yeshua.”
This is the Great Commission; this is true discipleship.