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What Is A Disciple?

The Greek word that is translated as "disciple" is "mathete". The basic meaning of "mathetes" is one who learns. "Mathetes, when used in the context of following Jesus suggests that the learning is expressed in outward behaviour. The learning is not merely intellectual, yet begins with the intellect and then is demonstrated in a personís life.

The word "mathete" was used in Classical Greek by the philosophers meaning an apprentices.  In Jewish culture "mathete"  was used in a teacher pupil relationship.  The Rabbi would teach the student the Law of God.  

When speaking of Jesus, "mathete" is used to denote those who followed His teachings, who learned from Him.  This eventually meant more than a teacher pupil relationship.  One who became a true "mathete" of Jesus gave himself to Him as a servant gives himself to his master.  So the teacher pupil aspect of "mathete" as seen in Judaism became a Master servant relationship when applied to Jesus' followers.    

Jesus had hundreds, if not thousands of disciples who listened to what He had to say and tried to implement these things into their lives. Did He get to spend lots of quality time with each of these disciples?  No.  He chose 12 men to be apostles that He spent quality time with. Still both groups, the twelve, and the thousands were called disciples, or learners.  

Yet even among the thousand of disciples Jesus brought up the subject of Lordship. In Luke 6:46 Jesus says, "you call me Lord Lord, but do mot do what I say".  At this point Jesus is raising the standard.  He is bringing the Master servant relationship into the discipling process.  So "mathete" means something much different to Jesus than it did to the Pharisees who had their own "mathetes".  There should be a much higher level of commitment in Jesus' thinking. 

So depending on the context of the word "mathetes" will determine its usage and definition.  It meant something different to each group, and still does today, with our varying Christian definitions of what a disciple is.

Still, we should first and foremost derive our definition from what Jesus thought.  Therefore a true disciple of Jesus is one who has given his life to Jesus, not as a teacher, but as Lord.  From that point on he is learning from the Master.    

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