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15. The disciples

Chapter 15: The Disciples

15.1 Introduction: Jesus And The Disciples

The Lord Jesus without doubt focused upon the twelve disciples; they were His special love, His predominant concern. And when they came to write up their records of their experience of this amazing Master, they bring this out very much. He clearly chose them in order to impress His character upon them, and then left them to continue the witness to Him. Even in high society, surrounded by the elitist Pharisees, He spoke parables which were to them- even though the others heard (Lk. 16:1,14; 20:45). There is a repeated feature, in Luke particularly, of the Lord teaching the twelve in front of a multitude- as if the huge crowds were there just listening to what the Lord was speaking specifically to the twelve. When one of the crowd interrupts, the Lord quickly returns His focus to the twelve (Lk. 6:19,20 cp. 7:1; 12:1,13,22). For Jesus, the disciples were His focus and priority. 

Those twelve men who walked around Palestine with their Lord are symbols of us all. There is a continuity in Luke-Acts between “the disciples” who followed the Lord, and “the disciples” as a title for all the Christian believers. We are their continuation. A study of them is therefore especially important for us. 2 Jn. 6 speaks of the commandment which we readers received " from the beginning" . But " the beginning" in John frequently if not always refers to the 'beginning' or [Gk.] 'first association' which the twelve disciples had with the Lord Jesus. Again, we are spoken of as if we are them, and their experiences were ours.  

Jesus And The Disciples: Identifying Himself With Them

The Lord’s basic understanding of us is that we are to become brethren in Him. He ever sought to teach the disciples to not only worship and respect Him, but to rise up to emulate His example, and to act and feel as part of Him. When He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, He commented that here was a man who had the good side of Jacob, an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile. But the Lord then goes on to liken Himself to Jacob, saying that Angels would ascend and descend upon Him as they had upon Jacob (Jn. 1:47,51). What He was basically trying to say to His new disciple was that ‘You’re like Jacob! But, I’m like Jacob too. And you will powerfully realize the significance of this a bit later on’. He was seeking always to build up an identity between Himself and His followers. This is so different to admiring a man as one admires a picture, and assenting to him as a leader. This is about a unique and intimate relationship, bonding and identity with Him. Nathanael no doubt puzzled over the Lord’s enigmatic words, as we likely have also done. His enigmatic style was to provoke just such reflection, to lead Nathanael to realize the force of the identification with Him which the Lord was inviting.