So, how do we prepare to become disciples or priests under duress in a tyrannical world? The disciples of Jesus were regarded as apostates and intruders of the earthly Israel of the Sadducees and Pharisees. These leaders believed that they were the true representatives of Abraham and of God; when indeed, they were the children of the devil (John 8:42-47). Would anyone, in our time, dare to categorize our godless leaders as evil? It will take the “Sermon on the Mount” to guide us through the evil maze we are in right now, and so will the Holy Spirit, who inspired Jesus, to give us the Sermon. I assure you, it was the best way for us during the holocaust. We were like sheep among wolves:
Lo, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and fog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and king of my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you (Matthew 10:16-20).
HOW DO WE PREPARE TO BE DISCIPLES TO FACE TYRANNY WHEN IT STRIKES?
Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, leaned on Moses (Deuteronomy 30:12-14), and came up with this formula:
But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and confesses with his lips and so is saved (Romans 10:8-10).
Now, if this is all we have done, then we have neglected Paul’s teachings on Jesus, who would never leave us on home base. We shall return and expand on this misrepresentation by many on Paul. Jesus, our Lord, gave us this caution and Paul does completely concur, for it too is a quote from the Scriptures, which cannot be broken (John 10:35). Jesus says:
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it because it had been well built. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:46-49).
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
The heart is the seat where God planted a tiny part of His Spirit when He made man. It is that “Spirit” in man, that has to be reborn. That was Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus: “You must be born again” (John 3:3). It shocked Nicodemus, who was a god-fearing and a teacher. Nicodemus’ heart and his spirit was filled with the traditions of their fathers, which no longer were congruent with the Law and with the Will of God (Mark 7:1-23). It was and it still is the same message for all teachers and for all preachers to: “Let the Holy Spirit search our spirits and our hearts and analyse what has become dear to us, whether it really belongs in our lives?” We might surprise ourselves that we harbour that does not agree with Jesus and with His teachings. To his disciples, whom Jesus authorized to teach, the Risen Lord Jesus gave this command: “Go, make, baptize, teach, and observe” in order to become disciples. While the apostles shall go out to find disciples, the Ascended Lord, His Spirit, would be with them for ever (Matthew 28:19-20). For that reason, Jesus imparted and implanted “His Spirit” and “His Breath” into his disciples (John 20:21-23). Jesus made this promise to his apostles:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandment. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:15-24).
Disciples are not born or become instant followers of Jesus. The twelve men spent three years with Jesus. Yet, they were not ready to face the world alone. Jesus, Himself, enlisted, trained, and sent his men out to gain practical experience. When Jesus departed from this world, He passed on His Spirit and His Mission to his disciples. Jesus based His order to go on the Command of God, the Father: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). While Jesus was on earth, He sent out his twelve disciples with specific instructions. The disciples were to find people who were willing to receive the good news. However, the visitors were not to overstay their welcome. And when the disciples were on their mission, they most certainly followed the “Sermon on the Mount.” It was a learning experience, as well a training experience, on the job. The second group appeared to miss the purpose of their mission, and were reprimanded by Jesus.
These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your purse, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is sorthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Low, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:5-16).
The Gospel of Luke recorded that Jesus sent out seventy others, who were overwhelmed with success. The seventy were not called apostles or disciples, but they were sent ahead of Jesus’ group to announce that Jesus was on His way to be with the people, who anticipated Jesus’ arrival. The name of Jesus did serve them well.
After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:1-2).
“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).
THE COMMITMENT TO BECOME A DISCIPLE OF GOD AND OF CHRIST
Commitment is the step number two in becoming a member in God/Christ’s Kingdom. For Moses, it was a promise, an oath, and a pledge to keep the Covenant and the agreement with Yahweh, the Lord. The same principle is at work between Jesus and his followers. To save man, Jesus’ cause heightened his demands for commitment to Him. Jesus said to one anxious follower, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:62). Then Jesus also said this:
“He who loves father or mother more than me s not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).
The act and the evidence of commitment was circumcision for the Jews and baptism for the Christians. Circumcision began with Abraham and was compulsory for every Hebrew and even the proselytes. After God had commanded Abraham to circumcise, Abraham obeyed and it became a perpetual tradition to cut the foreskin of every male. Moses, however, warned that real circumcision was to cut the stubborn foreskin of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16).
Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all his slaves born in his house or bought his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin; And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. That very day Abraham and is son Ishmael were circumcised; and all the men of his house those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him (Genesis 17:23-27).
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I command you this day for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the LORD set his heart in love upon your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as aat this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the might, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him and leave to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the LORD your God has made you as the stars of heaven for multitude (Deuteronomy 10:12-22).
THE LORD CHOSE JOSHUA TO REPLACE MOSES AND COMMANDED HIM TO RECOMMIT THE NEW GENERATION
The day Israel set foot in Canaan and set up camp, God ordered Joshua to recommit the people with circumcision and celebrate with the Passover their complete break with the past. Then, at the end of the conquest of the promised land, Joshua had the people reaffirm their commitment at Shechem.
At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the people of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. Though all people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people that were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, the men of war that came forth out of Egypt, perished because they did not hearken to the voice of the LORD; to them the LORD swore that he would not let them see the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their stead, that Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.
When the circumcising of all the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp till they were healed. And the LORD said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
While the people of Israel were encamped in Gilgal they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening in the plains of Jericho. And on the morrow after the passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year (Joshua 5:2-12).
“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house we will serve the LORD.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land; therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sns. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”
And the people said to Joshua, “Nay; but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourself that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put way the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, the stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD which he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance (Joshua 24:14-28).