His Own - John 13. 1
A. C. Hinton, Uxbridge
As IN THE PREVIOUS ARTICLES, the word we are considering must be associated with a second word, in this case Teacher, to bring out the meaning.
In his Expository Dictionary Mr. W. E. Vine states that although the literal meaning of this word 'disciple' is 'a learner', the disciple was not only a pupil but also an adherent. So we must think of him as one who has been taught or trained in some teaching or certain ways and who adheres to that teaching and conforms to those ways. In several Scriptures the word is applied to all who followed the Lord. Some of those turned back, finding His teaching too hard, John 6. 60, but continuance (or abiding) in His word is the proof of true discipleship - 'then are ye my disciples indeed', John 8. 31, i.e., ye are truly My disciples. Notice how He links My words with My disciples and how His disciples and His teaching arc associated in John 18. 19. His words are now made known to us by the Holy Spirit, John 14. 26 ; 16. 13.
The terms of this discipleship are recorded in Luke 14, v. 25-33 :
a. 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.'
These relationships are sanctioned by God and in any other context love, rather than hatred, would be the appropriate thought. But here a devotedness to the Lord is called for that accepts His claim as supreme, a love so complete and compelling that in comparison with it all other love is hatred. This is a hard saying, but there is more :
b. 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple'.
The 'coming to' Him is not sufficient ; there must be the 'coming after' Him, i.e., in a path of the same character, which inescapably involves for the disciple, as it did for the Teacher, the bearing of a cross.
Another hard saying and still not all - for those who, after counting the cost, are prepared to 'finish it', v. 28 :
c. 'Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple'.
So the path in which the true disciple comes after Him requires not only the bearing of a cross, as His path did, but also the forsaking of all that is the disciple's own, again as He did, Phil. 2. 5-8. How strikingly different all this is from the easy living and the shallow thinking about the claims of Christ and the Christian pathway that are prevalent today.
In Matt. 10. 37-38 the one who does not fulfil these conditions is described by the Lord as 'not worthy of me' i.e., not a worthy learner in His school and so not a credit to the Teacher. On the other hand, the one who learns well will bear much fruit and the Teacher will gladly own him as a genuine pupil who does Him honour, John 15. 8.
Notice also how the Father has His place in this as we have seen in connection with My Sheep and My Servant (vol. 8, page 24 ; vol. 9, page 22) - His glory is involved.
God's dealings with Abraham were on the lines we are considering. Other examples of true disciples are Levi, Deut. 33. 8-9, and Paul, Phil. 3. 7-8. We can take warning from one who was called by the Lord to enter the pathway of discipleship but who turned away. We can find encouragement in the promise of recompense, both present and eternal, for those who respond, Luke 18. 22-30.
A further point is referred to in John 13. 35 - 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another'. He was about to leave them and they would not be able to seek Him as hitherto. But they would still be His disciples and proof of this would be given to the world by their clinging one to another. Testimony that they did so was borne by Tertullian, in the words 'the heathen are wont to exclaim with wonder, See how these Christians love one another, and how they are ready to die for one another !
It is a thought worth pondering that only in the measure that we merit this description can we carry out the com¬mission of Matt. 28. 18-20. Only those who themselves know and conform to 'all things whatsoever I have commanded you' are able to teach these things to others. Those who do, can look forward to the day of manifestation, when everything will be seen in its true character, and the Father will be glorified and the Teacher honoured as the pupil receives the prize.
The next paper in this series will be entitled MY FRIENDS