I had never heard the term discipleship, other than from the Bible, until I was in college. I thought that it was some kind of modern spin in talking about Christianity. After learning more about discipleship, I learned that it actually predates Christianity all together.
Ancient Jewish rabbis would have several disciples who would follow them around to learn their way of life. You could almost think about it as a modern day apprenticeship with one big difference. Discipleship wasn’t just about learning a subject or a particular skill. Rather, it was about learning the entire way the rabbi lived.
A disciple would learn from his rabbi how to teach and how to study, but he would also learn how the rabbi treats other people; how he lives out his relationship with God; and how he works. He would even learn the more mundane things like how he eats and how he uses his free time. Discipleship was about becoming like the rabbi in everything through IMITATION, like the saying goes, “more is caught than taught.”
Imagine what the early disciples would have learned from Jesus through being with him for three years. I mean, really take a moment and imagine -- I bet it was incredible to see Jesus’ intimacy with the Father on a daily basis, or how he looked at the poor and the sinners.
Imitation is still how we become disciples of Jesus in the 21st century. We can learn to imitate Jesus through praying, reading the Bible and through the teaching of the Church. In addition to these, we can learn to imitate Jesus through imitating other disciples of Jesus. This is exactly what St. Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Who is a person in your life that you know is a disciple? How can you spend intentional time to learn about their way of life? Those kinds of friendships can truly be transformational!!