To be a follower of Jesus is to become a disciple, a learner, an apprentice to a master craftsman. The idea of apprenticheship, where a student learns by watching and copying one with more experience in a skill, has become less popular in recent years, but in the past, this method was highly popular, because people knew that the skills needed to become a master builder or blacksmith, for example, took time to master and went beyond the theoretical to the practical. People knew such skills had to be absorbed and honed through repeated practice. As the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’; learning is often incremental.
Jesus took twelve men and trained them to follow Him and the works He was ding. He taught them with words and actions for 3 1/2 years alongside Him, sharing meals with Him, watching Him work and pray, often being baffled by Him, but ultimately learning what it meant to live by faith and not by sight.
Twelve was a symbolic number, reminding us of the twelve tribes of Israel. It’s not a huge number – you can’t share your life intimately with thousands of people. We should never despise small beginnings: those twelve disciples had enormous impact on the world. Nor should we forget that progress is rarely linear: Judas, after all, did not stay the course.
Last week, twelve volunteers painted an art mural at the Railway Embankment. I think it’s safe to say none of us had ever done anything like that before. We were dependent on an artist (Lydia Caprani) for direction and instruction. She had done many outdoor projects like this before. She instructed us on which paint and brushes to get, mixed colours with skill and taught us how to paint. We may not have changed the world, but we did transform a brick wall into a work of art, which was a good week’s work!
Learning a skill takes time, patience, commitment and humility. It means learning from those with more experience than ourselves and being prepared to follow through unfamiliar territory. Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matt 28:18-20) Discipleship will never happen overnight. Being a disciple, a follower, is a lifelong journey, working with the Master.