The Character ofDiscipleship

At the beginning of chapter 13 a number of questions were posed with a view to gaining further clarification on the significance of Jesus' teaching on the kingdom of God. So far the Jesus tradition has provided quite an extensive answer to the first: For whom did Jesus intend his message of the kingdom? Uncertainty remains, however, as to whether Jesus realistically hoped for a national revival. Or did he simply seek out those who would respond, without necessarily having any clear idea on how the few who responded should be related to any wider hope for national restoration? Jesus would be neither the first and certainly not the last whose vision of what his vocation should expect to achieve was less than clear. Of course, the uncertainty may be simply that of the historian looking back, rather than of Jesus himself. But so far as the question initially posed is concerned, uncertainty remains regarding key elements of the answers as indicated by the Jesus tradition.

Further clarification is likely to be forthcoming from our second question, when we focus attention more closely on those who did respond to Jesus' preaching, rather than the unavoidably vaguer hopes for Israel as a whole. So we ask again: What did Jesus envisage his talk of the kingdom would mean for those who responded? How did he expect the kingdom to impact upon their lives? What did it involve to 'follow' Jesus? There is bound to be some overlap with material reviewed in chapter 13: not surprisingly, the first three characteristics correspond to the first three features of Jesus' call (ยง13.2); and we will be confronted with the same uncertainty in due course. But an overview of the character of the discipleship to which Jesus called is important in itself, and not least for those who in subsequent centuries have seen in that discipleship the precedent and in at least some measure the pattern for their own.

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