What is a Disciple? (Luke 6:39, 40)
What is a Disciple?
Luke 6:39, 40
(One Lord: So Great a Salvation)
December 30th, 2018
I. Your Teachers
Do you remember who taught you how to ride your bike? Do you remember when and how it happened? My memories of that event are a bit sketchy, but old family movies have helped me fill in the gaps. On those old silent movies I could see my Dad, in front of our house in California, trying to steady my bike as I rolled forward into an uncertain future. Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike? Did you fall off a lot? How about any musical instruments you play? Who taught you? Did you take lessons? Do you remember who taught you how to throw a football? Do you remember learning to do fractions?
How about this one? Who taught you to be defensive when verbally attacked? When was that lesson? Do you remember who taught you that you really, really need all the stuff you have in your room... or your house? Do you remember who it was that taught you to be afraid of offending other people by telling the truth? Who was it that taught you about the importance of wearing the right clothes, of having the right friends, of getting the right job? When was your first lesson in lying or in lust? Who was it that taught you about selfishness and slander?
When it comes to some of our most fundamental attitudes and perspectives, pinpointing when, and where, and from whom we learned these lessons is almost impossible.
Don’t misunderstand me. If we believe what God has said in His word, then we know that all of these attitudes result from the presence and power of sin within us. But just like clay is shaped and formed by an artist’s hands, so too is the sin inside you shaped by a variety of outside forces. I’d like you to keep these ideas in mind as we look together at God's word, specifically, Luke 6:39, 40.
II. The Passage: “When He is Fully Trained” (6:39, 40)
Listen to what Jesus tells his followers in these verses:
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Jesus here, as he often did, uses a parable to make His point. And this parable in Luke 6 is so short you might have missed it. Did you hear it? Jesus tells us His listeners, “wouldn’t it be absolutely ridiculous for a blind man to try and lead another blind man? Wouldn’t a situation like this, wouldn’t a relationship like this, only end in tragedy? Of course it would”.
But why that lesson? If we assume Jesus is not simply giving advice to the visually impaired, what larger point is he making here with this specific parable?
Well, if we look at the second verse in this couplet, it becomes clear that the issue is guidance. Do you see that? The thread connecting these two verses is the thread of discipleship. But what is a disciple? Disciple is one of those words we often hear used in church settings or read in Christian books, but if asked to explain it, we may struggle to spell out the importance or implications of the term.
So what is a disciple? What does God's word tell us? And why is it so important? I thought this study might be an important complement to our ongoing study in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' 'mountain message'. Remember, those lessons, whether you've recognized it or not, were given to Jesus' disciples and are all about discipleship. Therefore, it's critical we hear those lessons with the ears of a disciple. But to do that, it's important that you're able to answer that question based on your own Scripture-informed convictions.
So... what is a disciple? The Greek word we translate “disciple” is used 261 times in the NT. In translating Luke 6:40, the NIV translates this word as “student”, and the NASB as “pupil”. Along those lines, I think in light of how the NT uses this word, we could also add the words “learner” and “apprentice”. Discipleship was not unusual in Jesus' time. We are told both the Pharisees and John the Baptizer had disciples. But why discipleship to Jesus?
Let's do this: let's look at three ideas about discipleship that come right out of this small passage. The first idea we find in verse 39. We learn there that...
1. We Are All Looking to Be Led (v. 39)
What does Jesus mean when he talk about the “blind leading the blind”? Well, when Matthew quotes this parable in Matthew 15, Jesus explicitly identifies the Pharisees as the ‘blind guides’. But in this context, the parable is related to hypocrites who have a critical spirit, or as we might say, Jesus is talking about when the 'pot calls the kettle black'; when you want to point out another's sin without first recognizing your own.
But the parable applies in both contexts because both are about being guided by lies and not the truth. Do you see that the emphasis in the parable is on the one being led? “Who is guiding you”, asks Jesus. “and where are you being led?”
I put the question to you and to myself this morning. Who are we learning from? At whose feet are you sitting throughout the week? Who or what has your ear? Who or what formed the shape you take now? To whom are you looking for guidance? As I asked you at the beginning of our time together, who was it that taught you to be the way you are?
The writer Dallas Willard asked this same question in his book The Divine Conspiracy. Listen to how he puts it:
Who teaches you? Whose disciple are you? Honestly. One thing is sure: You are somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live. It’s hard to come to realistic terms about this. Today, especially in Western cultures, we prefer to think that we are “our own person.” We make up our own minds. But that’s only because we have been mastered by those who have taught us that we do or should do so. Such individualism is a part of the legacy that make us modern. But we cer-tainly did not come by that individualistic posture through our own individual and independent insight into ultimate truth. Probably you are the disciple of several ‘somebodies’…
If you think about it, not only are all of looking to be led, but all of us have been taught about life in a school tainted by sin. Our parents are tainted by sin. Our teachers are tainted by sin. Our siblings are tainted by sin. Our friends are tainted by sin. Our entertainment is tainted by sin. Our news is tainted by sin. Even the seemingly harmless places we go (the grocery store, the restaurant, the salon) are all tainted by sin. We have been nurtured to act and respond and speak and think in ways that are fleshly, that are carnal, that are based on the wisdom of this fallen world.
Yet what the world does not know, but we should know, is what Jesus tells us here. Blind. The world is blind. The wisdom of the world is blind. Sin is blind. And just like the parable teaches, that relationship can only end in tragedy.
So when we ask, “what is a disciple”, we must first admit that all of us, that every person is, that you are, a disciple of someone or something. But Jesus also reminds us here that...
2. We Must Recognize the Position of the Teacher (v. 40a)
The blind guidance of sin, of the world, of the flesh, is that you are your own master; that you are numero uno in all things. But As Jesus tells us at the beginning of verse 40, “a disciple is not above his teacher”. As Peter explained it in II Peter 2:19...
For whatever overcomes [rules over, controls] a person, to that he is enslaved.
If you are guided by fleshly, worldly principles, however subtle, then are submitting yourself as a slave to sin. But listen to what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 23:8...
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
A disciple of Jesus has “one teacher”, and our position under that Teacher never changes. Yes, we may be tempted to follow other teachers, and we may wander at times. But by God's grace, a disciple of Jesus will return to that singular focus; he or she will ultimately look to Jesus as Teacher (capital “T”). You see the Christian life is a relationship in which we joyfully accept our position as the perpetual student and Jesus as the perpetual teacher.
Is that how you think about your relationship with Jesus? Is he Creator? Yes! Is he King? Is he Redeemer? Yes! Is he High Priest, Mediator? Yes! Is he God the Son? Yes! But is he Teacher? Do you daily look to him through that lens, with that submissive mindset?
And that brings us to a third point. Jesus also teaches us here that...
3. Our Goal is Imitation
Notice again how Jesus explains discipleship at the end of verse 40...
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Think again about that word “disciple”. Being someone’s disciple or apprentice is about learning from that person in order to be like them, and learning from that specific person because her or she is an expert in their field or discipline. But if we think about discipleship in this way, then we must ask “How is Jesus an expert? Why follow Him?” If someone were to ask you, “Why should I become a student of Jesus?”, what would you tell them?
Well, unlike earthly Masters, who often excel in one skill (like painting or music for example), and are incredibly accomplished in their ability, Jesus is absolutely perfect in His skill, in His field of expertise. What field is that? Jesus is an expert in living life in the reality of the reign of God. As Jesus said in John 8:29 about his relationship with the Father, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him”.
So what does it mean, practically, that Jesus is our teacher? Well, if Jesus is an expert at living life in the reality of the reign of God, then His curriculum is going to be about that very same thing. And where do we find this curriculum? Well, it’s found throughout all of Scripture. A very good, maybe the best, example of His lesson plan, is found in Matthew 5-7, that 'mountain message' of Jesus. These teachings are at the heart of what any student of Jesus should know. That's why studying Jesus' 'mountain message' is so critical.
So let's stop for a minute and think about what we've learned. Now, in light of everything we've talked about, listen to the beautiful invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30...
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
As our Teacher, Jesus wants to correct all of our warped misconceptions about living, He wants to do away with our corrupted wisdom. He wants to teach us about God and God’s ways, the ways of the Kingdom of God. Remember the distinctiveness of that path:
Where the world would teach ‘don’t get mad, get even’, Jesus teaches ‘turn the other cheek’.
Where the world would teach ‘lust is healthy’, Jesus teaches ‘lust is adultery’.
Where the world would teach ‘life is about having’, Jesus teaches ‘life is about giving’.
Where the world would teach ‘image is everything’, Jesus teaches ‘the heart is what matters’.
Are you a disciple of Christ? A student of Jesus? Listen again to what Dallas Willard says about this issue in His book ‘The Divine Conspiracy’:
First of all, we should note that being a disciple, or apprentice, of Jesus is a quite definite and obvious kind of thing. To make a mystery of it is to misunderstand it. There is no good reason why people should ever be in doubt as to whether they themselves are his students or not…Now, people who are asked whether they are apprentices of a leading politician, musician, lawyer, or screenwriter would not need to think a second to respond. Similarly for those asked if they are studying Spanish or bricklaying with someone unknown to the public. It is hardly something that would escape one’s attention. The same is all the more true if asked about discipleship with Jesus.
Friends, you should not have to think long about that question. Many Christians today have learned that being a disciple and being a Christian are two different things. But I think Scripture makes it quite clear that the Son of God was calling disciples and not just converts. The gospel is about God calling people to follow Jesus through the forgiveness of his cross and the power of his resurrection. Remember what Jesus taught us...
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
III. The Cost and the Cross
So let me try to summarize things. What is a disciple of Jesus? Well...
A disciple of Jesus is someone who is with Jesus in order to learn from Jesus in order to be like Jesus. (2x)
Notice the three parts of that statement are about presence, posture, and purpose. Think about how those three things have been and/or should be shaping the way you live your life. Presence: through prayer and the word, are you daily seeking to walk with Christ by faith? Posture: in walking with Jesus by faith, are you humble and hungry, desperate to live differently? Purpose: is that new path you're seeking the path of God's kingdom, the path Jesus embodies? Are you eager to become more and more like Him?
Please remember what Jesus himself said. Please remember his hard words...
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple...  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26, 27, 33)
This relationship is not be entered into lightly because it demands us to give up the reins, something contrary to our nature. Jesus says, “If you are NOT willing to make me your one and only, first and foremost; if you are NOT willing to give up on your corrupted wisdom and seek first the rule of God in all things, then don’t do it. Don’t come after me. The road of discipleship is a hard road. If we don’t think it’s a hard road then we should probably be suspicious of just what road we’re actually on.
But... even though it’s a hard life, it is by far the best life possible.
Yes, discipleship to Jesus is a path to becoming like Jesus, in our attitudes, affections, and actions. But we can't ever forget where the power to change comes from:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Jesus became like us that we might become like Him. He died for us, that we might live for Him. Only the cross and empty tomb can give us the heart of a disciple, and only the Spirit of God, by the grace of God, can make discipleship to Jesus transformative. Let's thank Him.