Are you really a follower of Yahsh'ua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) or is 'Christian'/ 'Messianic' just a label you wear? Are all 'Christians' and 'Messianics' talmidim (disciples)?
A talmid (Hebrew) or disciple (from the Latin disciplus) is a follower, pupil or adherent of a teacher or spiritual leader. Numerous examples are found throughout Greco-Roman history and its literature of respected figures who gathered disciples in order to teach and lead them. In the Tanakh (Old Testament) the word 'disicple' appears only once in English (Is.8:16) though the same Hebrew word (talmid) is translated "learned" (Is.1:4) and "taught" (Is.54:13). The word "scholar" if from the same root (1 Chr.25:8). Like the Greeks and Romans, Jewish Rabbis gathered groups of apprentices or learners around themselves in ancient times to teach them the I>Torah.
In the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) the Greek word mathêtés (literally, 'one who directs his mind to something') is used most often of the intimate followers of Yah'shua (Jesus) who trevelled with Him on preaching tours and were taught and instructed by Him, although it is also used to describe followers of other figures such as the talmidim (disciples) of John the Baptist (Mk.2:18; 4:14; Jn.1:35), of Moses (Jn.9:28) or of the Pharisees (Mk.2:18; Lk.5:33).
A general distinction between Yah'shua's (Jesus') talmidim (disciples) and "the crowds" is made, with the former as committed followers who confessed Him as the Messiah and forsook all to follow Him (Ac.6:1-2,7; 9:36) and the latter as onlookers not seriously attached to Him. Yet even some of those in the larger group of 'talmidim (disciples)' turned away from Yah'shua (Jesus) and went back to their former lives when they found out that His teaching was difficult to accept (Jn.6:60,66).
We can identify three concentric circles of talmidim (disciples) in the New Testament Gospels, starting from the outside and working its way to the centre:
- 1. A large group of followers, from which the Twelve are chosen (Lk.6:13,17; cp. Mt.8:21);
- 2. The Twelve, who were designated as shlichim, 'apostles' or 'emissaries' and were especially called by Yah'shua (Jesus) to travel with Him and learn (Mk.3:16-19); and
- 3. A Core Inner Circle (which we at NCAY call the Presiding Patriarchate) consisting of Kefa (Peter), Ya'akov (James) and Yochanan (John) who alone accompanied Yah'shua (Jesus) on certain key occasions such as the Transfiguration (Mk.9:2-13) and the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt.26:36-46).
The names of the Twelve are listed in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13 (minus Judas) as:
Luke informs us that in the early Messianic Community (Church) the term talmid or 'disciple' came to refer to the growing band of believers in Yah'shua (Jesus) (Ac.6:7; 9:26; 14:21-22) along with the term "Christian" which, though initially given to believers by opponents of the Besorah (Gospel) in Antioch (Ac.11:26; cp. 26:28), caught on and was also adopted by the first talmidim (disciples) (1 Pet.4:16).
- 1. Simon Peter (Shimon, Kefa)
- 2. Andrew (Andri)
- 3. James (Ya'akov)
- 4. John (Yochanan)
- 5. Philip
- 6. Bartholemew (Bartholomi)
- 7. Thomas (Toma)
- 8. Matthew (Mattityahu, Levi)
- 9. James the son of Alphaeus (Ya'akov ben Alfai)
- 10. Thaddeus, probably the same person referred to in some lists as Judas the son of James (Lebai ben Thaddai/Yehudah ben Ya'akov)
- 11. Simon the zealot, also called Simon the Canaanite (Shimon)
- 12. Judas Iscariot the betrayer (Yahudah from Qerioth)
A similar notion of of an expanding circle of talmidim (disciples) is suggested by the 'Great Commission' (Mt.28:18-20) in which the risen Messiah commanded His closest followers to "make talmidim (disciples)" of people from all national and ethnic groups. Yah'shua's (Jesus') purpose in discipling was to make His followers like Himself, preachers and teachers of the good news of the Kingdom:
The life of Christian/Messianic discipleship as presented in the Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) calls for supreme devotion to Yah'shua (Jesus) through acceptance and application of His lofty demands and mitzvot (commandments). Committment to Him must come before all other attachments (Lk.9:57-62; 14:25-33) that will provoke the greatest of resistance from the Adversary and his agents (Rom.18:3). Being a talmid (disciple) of Yah'shua (Jesus) is not the pursuit of an easy life:
"A talmid (disciple) is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40, NKJV).
Nevertheless a dimension of Christian/Messianic discipleship includes the promise of simcha (joy) and ultimate benefits for those who take up the cross to follow Him (Lk.14:12-14; 18:29-30). Indeed, the greatest sign of discipleship is spelled forth clearly by the Master:
"Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My talmid (disciple)" (Luke 14:27, NIV).
"A new mitzvah (commandment) I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My talmidim (disciples), if you love one another" (John 13:34-35, NIV).
To find out more about Christian/Messianic discipleship, read the articles that follow in the register below and the many others scattered throught the website.