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Rabbi was a scholar or teacher of Jewish religion. People considered Jesus as a rabbi and often addressed him with that title. He had disciples like other Jewish teachers. However, the discipleship of Jesus was different.

Bibles documents people who had disciples. The Pharisees, during the public ministry of Jesus, considered themselves as disciples of Moses (Jn 9:28) because they were students of the Law. Isaiah (Isa 8:16), John the Baptist (Mt 9:14; Lk 7:18; Jn 1:35-37; 3:25), and Pharisees had disciples (Mt 22:16; Mk 2:18; Lk 5:33). However, the disciples of Jesus were not mere listeners, but were his committed coworkers and successors to continue his mission.


TWELVE APOSTLES: Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, Moses selected one representative from each tribe to investigate secretly the situation of Canaan (Num 13:1-16) before invading that region. Jesus also selected the same number of apostles as the pillars of his church, the new Israel. However, they were not from the twelve tribes of Israel. They gave up everything and followed him full time.

David selected tribal leaders to represent the twelve tribes for efficient administration (1 Chr 27:16-22). When Jesus started his public ministry as Son of David, he reestablished the rule of the twelve princes through the twelve apostles he selected on the mountain. This showed the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom in a new form.

Jesus commissioned the apostles to continue his mission in the world. After his resurrection, “Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’” (Mt 28:18-20). Since Jesus considered his church as the new Israel, he said to his apostles, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28).

AN INTIMATE GROUP OF THREE APOSTLES: Out of the twelve apostles, Jesus had an inner circle of three. They were Peter, James, and John. Jesus allowed them, excluding others, to accompany him when he raised Jairus’ daughter (Lk 8:41-56), to the mountain for transfiguration (Mt 17:1-2), and to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer before his arrest (Mt 26:37; Mk 14:33).

SEVENTY (72) DISCIPLES: When Moses felt overburdened with leading the Israelites, God asked him, “Assemble for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be elders and authorities among the people, and bring them to the tent of meeting. When they are in place beside you, I will come down and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will confer it on them, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself” (Num 11:16-17). Jesus also selected seventy (72 in some manuscripts) disciples, shared his authority to preach and heal (Lk 10:9) sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit (Lk 10:1).

The seventy (72) disciples shared their experience with Jesus. They were rejoining when they said to Jesus,
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name” (Lk 10:17). Jesus affirmed it replying, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky” (Lk 10:18). Jesus assured them more power and protection (Lk 10:19). He promised their names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20).

Besides these specially designated apostles and disciples, Jesus had other disciples and followers (Jn 6:60). Those who could not agree with his teaching left him. “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn 6:66). There were women disciples who supported Jesus and his team for their survival (Lk 8:2-3; Mk 15:40-41). The secret admirers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took care of the burial of Jesus (Jn 19:38-40). When the disciples of Jesus gathered after the ascension of Jesus to select a successor for Judas Iscariot, they were 120. More must be there in Galilee because Jesus worked more there.


Life is valuable and no one must take his own life (Eccl 7:17). However, Jesus demands of his disciples that they dedicate their lives to the Kingdom of God (Lk 14:26). Such people might face persecution and even martyrdom. Jesus told his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20). He promised eternal reward for those who dedicate their lives for his kingdom (Mk 10:30). Unlike others, Jesus could offer such a reward in the afterlife because he came down from heaven.

Persevering to the attainment of eternal life is immeasurably valuable as compared to the preservation of temporal life in this corrupt world. Worldly accomplishments and the methods to achieve them are in total contrast to those of the heavenly. The world offers what Satan offered Jesus during his temptation in the desert: misuse of power, dominion over the world, and cheap popularity. Those who crave excessive wealth, conveniences, dominion, and fame will be tempted to use unethical means that include the exploitation of others to achieve their goal. The Scribes, Pharisees, and priests who confronted Jesus were pursuing worldly means for the purpose of selfish triumph.

The Bible gives several examples of self-centered people. In the parable of the rich fool that Jesus taught (Lk 12:16-21), the rich man, whose land produced a bountiful harvest, decided to build large barns to store his produce for furthering his luxurious living. Then came God’s voice, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?” He should have shared his blessings from God with his starving neighbours to gain the reward in heaven.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man and his five brothers cared only for themselves and did not help to lift the lives of Lazarus and others like him. The rich man ended up in the netherworld precisely because of that reason (Lk 16:19-31).

Some Bible characters preferred temporal happiness by losing their glorious future. Esau sold his birthright as the firstborn to his younger brother Jacob for bread and lentil stew (Gen 25:29-34). A rich young man approached Jesus for advice on the attainment of eternal life. Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mt 19:21). He went away sad, unwilling to oblige. Judas Iscariot, who left everything and followed Jesus as an apostle, later desired wealth under the influence of Satan. He betrayed Jesus and ended up committing suicide. By the end of his public ministry, referring to Judas and Psalm 41:10, Jesus prayed to his Father, “… none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn 17:12). Paul wrote of Demas, his fellow worker (Philem 1:24): “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” (2 Tim 4:10).

World history presents many greedy sovereigns who waged war for extending their kingdom, killing many people and causing enormous destruction for others. The ambitious fights of people such Alexander the Great (356 BC-323 BC), Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and others for popularity, power and pelf had tragic endings. “The covetous are never satisfied with money, nor lovers of wealth with their gain” (Eccl 5:9). They face powerful temptations to do evil for achieving their selfish goal and end up in destruction to themselves and to others. “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:9-10).

Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mt 19:23- 24). The hurdle of the wealthy to reaching heaven is the difficulty they have in voluntarily sharing their resources with the poor. When the disciples who heard this asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” the reply was, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:25-26). The conversion of Levi (Matthew) and Zacchaeus are examples of such salvation by divine intervention.

Forgetting the commandments of God who provides us wealth is a grave sin that leads to destruction. Before their entry into the Promised Land, Moses reminded the Israelites, “Be careful not to forget the LORD, your God, by failing to keep His commandments and ordinances and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and your herds and flocks have increased, your silver and gold has increased, and all your property has increased, you then become haughty of heart and forget the LORD, your God, … You might say in your heart, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth.’ Remember then the LORD, your God, for He is the one who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as He has now done, the covenant He swore to your ancestors. But if you do forget the LORD, your God, and go after other gods, serving and bowing down to them, I bear witness to you this day that you will perish utterly. Like the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so shall you too perish for not listening to the voice of the LORD, your God” (Deut 8:11-19).

Often one becomes rich by unjust means and that is punishable because it involves the exploitation of others. That needs to be rectified as in the case of Zacchaeus, who declared to Jesus his willingness for restitution by saying, “If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk 19:8). Others might inherit wealth or gain prosperity by God’s blessings and their hard labour. Still, they should share their resources with those who need them.

Our eternal soul and its salvation are more important than the comforts of this life. We should seek joy in sharing than happiness in acquiring wealth for ourselves. We have to realize, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). As we journey to heaven, we should convert our worldly riches into spiritual assets for the eternal glory in the afterlife. John advises in his epistle, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17).

Ecclesiastes says, “For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it” (Eccl 2:21). So, Jesus teaches us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:19-21).


Once our life in this world is over, no one can recover lost grace. That is illustrated in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Abraham could not even send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue while he was suffering torment in the flames of the netherworld (Lk 16:24). No wealth left behind in the world can save one after one’s death. He could have used it for virtue while he was alive in this world. Missed opportunities never return.

Psalm 49 presents the fate of the selfish who ignore God and the poor. “This is the way of those who trust in themselves, and the end of those who take pleasure in their own mouth. Like a herd of sheep, they will be put into Sheol, and Death will shepherd them. Straight to the grave they descend, where their form will waste away” (Ps 49:14-15). The psalm continues: “Do not fear when a man becomes rich, when the wealth of his house grows great. At his death he will not take along anything, his glory will not go down after him. During his life his soul uttered blessings, ‘They will praise you, for you do well for yourself.’ But he will join the company of his fathers, never again to see the light. In his prime, man does not understand. He is like the beasts – they perish” (Ps 49:17-21). Thus, the most valuable part of a person, the eternal soul, will be lost beyond recovery.


Jesus told the Jews who believed in him the condition for becoming his disciple, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples” (Jn 8:31). According to Paul, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” (1 Cor 12:4-7). Regardless of whatever be our position in the family, church, or society, Jesus wants our service as his disciples. Let us serve God and his people in the name of Jesus.

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