Disciples of Jesus

A third feature of discipleship naturally follows from the third element of Jesus' call — the call to 'follow me' (§13.2c). 'Disciples' were those who responded to that call; they had become followers of Jesus. This is not to ignore again the likelihood that Jesus' call to repent and believe was addressed to all Israel (§13.3), nor to forget that there were many who 'followed' who should not be described as 'disciples' (§ 13.2c) or that 'circles of discipleship' (§13.8) which merge into 'the poor' and 'sinners' of/within Israel cannot be delimited with any precision. But neither should we underplay the clear recollection that Jesus called for a personal following.57 He was at the centre of the circles of discipleship. Whatever

55. Hence the corresponding implication that the child of such a father can be bold in making requests known — as illustrated by Mark 5.27-28; 10.47-48; Matt. 8.8-9; 15.22-27.

56. Jeremias, Prayers 11; Schrenk stresses still more that 'the synthesis Father/Judge, Father/Lord makes any lack of respect impossible by imposing submission to his holy rule' (TDNT 5.985, and further 995-96); also worth noting is the authority and power of the Father assumed in the petitions of the Lord's Prayer.

57. That Jesus did gather around himself a group of committed disciples is one of the securest historical facts (Meier, Marginal Jew 3.41-47; bibliography 82-83 n. 1); interalia, Meier points out that prior to Jesus no Palestinian Jewish author speaks of 'disciples' (44) and that the term is completely absent in a large number of the Apostolic Fathers (84-85 n. 6).

other relations were involved in that first discipleship, it was determined primarily by the relation of the disciple to Jesus. The discipleship for which Jesus called was discipleship of Jesus.

Martin Hengel, whose richly documented study on The Charismatic Leader and His Followers remains fundamental, has stressed that this was a feature which clearly distinguished the discipleship for which Jesus called from the other voluntary groupings of the time. There are no equivalent stories of 'calling' and 'following after' in rabbinic tradition. And there is no hint that the recruits who joined the Qumran community were responding to some call. Both groups certainly attracted pupils and members, but the element of personal call to (as it would appear) targetted individuals was distinctive of the group round Jesus. Earlier on we hear of disciples of prophets ('sons of the prophets'), but the only close parallel or precedent is Elijah's summons of Elisha to be his successor.60

However, there is some danger of exaggerating the distinctiveness of the immediate discipleship of Jesus, and Hengel discounts too quickly the idea of Jesus as 'example' or 'imitation' of Jesus in the Gospels.61 Attention should also be given to the following features.

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