The discussion group on David Bosch’s book, Transforming Mission, met earlier this week to discuss chapter 2 of the book. This chapter has as its title Matthew: Mission as Disciple-Making.
About eighteen months ago I posted two articles which I wrote on how I believe we should understand the great commission in Matthew 28: The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (1) and The Great Commission of Matthew 28 (2). What I wrote there was essentially how Bosch explains the Great Commission.
What I would like to concentrate on, after reading chapter 2 of Transforming Mission again, is Bosch’s understanding of discipleship, as it appears in Matthew. Matthew’s understanding of disciple is not the same as Mark and Luke’s understanding of the term. In their case, disciple refers mainly to the twelve followers of Christ, the Apostles. Matthew has a much broader view on what a disciple is. As he describes it, a disciple is any follower of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s time, therefore, there were many more than only twelve disciples. And as history progresses, so the number of disciples kept on growing. The Twelve had modeled their lives unto the life of their Master and when they receive the command to make disciples of other people, the implication is that they have to model to others what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus.
A very interesting phenomenon is Matthew’s use of the word Lord (kurios in Greek.) The only people who address Jesus as Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew, are the disciples and those who suffer and come to Jesus for help. Jesus’ opponents constantly address Him as Teacher or Rabbi. The only time when one of the disciples address Jesus as Rabbi is in the case of Judas Iscariot during the betrayal of Jesus.
In the context of Matthew’s understanding of discipleship, where the Twelve became the prototypes of the disciples who came after them, a disciple would be someone who has accepted that Jesus is Lord and who lives out the teachings of Jesus. Mission, at least as Matthew understands it, can never mean merely accepting Jesus as Saviour. Obviously it means this as well, but disciples are saved for a purpose: not only to go to heaven one day, but to demonstrate the love of God and of Christ in the world in which they live. Becoming a disciple, means, as Bosch puts it (p 82) “… a decisive and irrevocable turning to both God and neighbour” – clearly illustrated in Matthew’s rendering of the Great Commandment.