January 2018 Newsletter - "Discipleship" by Raul Ayala
Blessings everyone! This month has been a very interesting month for me. I found myself going way back to the foundations of Messiah and his battle against the Pharisees. In this time I found myself going back to the way that the Jewish people studied and raised their children to follow Yah and how that same pattern was used by the Early Church and the followers of Messiah.
In the time of Messiah, children were raised in a three-tier system of understanding. At the age of 5 according to the Talmud, children were allowed to start school in memorization of Torah, or the Five books of Moses. These were considered the elementary courses that lasted until age 10, and by this time the children would have all of the first five books of Moses memorized. After this point, the child was considered part of the Jewish community and allowed to enter into a second session of memorizing and learning the rest of the Old Testament. The third section is composed of the best students who went to seek out a rabbi and to take on his "yoke" of understanding and study, learn, live the exact same way as his rabbi. In Hebrew thought the Yoke is what joins two oxen together, the older ox is paired with a younger unlearned ox and it teaches him how to plow the fields to a mark, or an end destination at the other end of the field. Spiritually we can see that the older ox is Yeshua, and we are the younger oxen paired to him, and he is teaching us how to the walk according to his "yoke" or instruction. When messiah says, "Take my yoke," he was saying something the Jews would of have known for years. He was saying: take my instruction and let me lead you in my truth.
Beyond this, when a disciple, called a talmudin, decided to be under a rabbi, he gave his life to fulfill the teachings that were being passed down to him. To walk out, live, and teach others those exact same teachings. With Yeshua's disciples we see the same pattern. He gave them the "keys" to the kingdom; these keys were the understanding and explanation of Torah. Just like the rabbis would give their students "keys" and "yokes" of understanding, Yeshua was giving his disciples the ability to explain, interpret, and teach others the Kingdoms instruction.
When the disciple reached a level of maturity that was as close to the rabbi as possible, his rabbi would release him and send him out to bring others into his image. Messiah in his great commission gave a like instruction, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Mathew 28:19. Most talmudin, or disciples, in the Jewish faith left their families, children, and entire work to go and follow their Rabbi. Yeshua likely told his followers "Come, follow me." Jesus said, "and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him," Mathew 4:19. Similarly they immediately left all and followed after Yeshua.
According to the Early Church historians, "There were two types of services, a eucharistic and a noneucharistic. The noneucharistic assembly met every morning except Sunday for the reading of a lengthy passage from the Old Testament and a homily on the passage read. These daily assemblies were for both the faithful and catechumens. The Gospels were not read in these assemblies because, in those days, catechumens were not admitted to the reading of the Gospel until the last weeks preceding their baptism. These readings and homilies proceeded systematically through the Old Testament. Based on the average number of verses covered in Origen's homilies on the Old Testament, Nautin [historian] concludes that the entire Old Testament would have been covered in approximately three years, which, according to the Apostolic Tradition, corresponds to the length of the catechetical instruction." These systematic approaches were in similar fashion to the pattern of Messiah's ministry which was three and a half years, and the Jewish Catechismal process which after memorizing Torah was approximately another 3 - 5 years.
A very powerful note is that by the time that the disciples met Yeshua, they already had all of the five books of Torah memorized and were "unlearned" not because they didn’t know anything but because they never reached a level to learn from a rabbi and to dedicate years to understanding the interpretation of the Word. When a Jew would not pursue further learning or were not accepted as a talmudin, he would go back and learn the family trade. We can see why the disciples were so quick to leave their trade by realizing they were given a chance to follow the greatest rabbi, the Word himself. In the Early Church that Messiah established, for 300 years they followed the same system and had a discipleship process called a "learner" or Catechismal process, where a person or catechumen would come into the ministry and submit to the instruction, lifestyle, and correction for three years. After three years and during that three-year process, they would be inspected and tested to see if they were living a pious life, and then they were accepted as a Christian and baptized into the faith.
As we can follow, from the Jews, to Messiah, to the Catechumen of the Early Church, they followed a system of completely giving their life to make the plan of God come into this Earth. When we realize the level of sacrifice and depth that Messiah required when he said, "Follow me," and "Go make disciples of all nations," we realize that the church today doesn’t have disciples at the level that the founding church had. When Yeshua said there would be a "great falling away," we see it even clearer when we put the modern-day Christian next to the Early Church Christian. We have to understand that Messiah requires today and for eternity the same level of disciple and the same level of sacrifice that he instituted by his Apostles.
To water that down is to shave the coin and preach another Gospel. We can’t have disciples on a cotton candy discipleship program, because it’s not Messiahs discipleship program but man’s carnal wallet-building discipleship program, creating pew-sitters and not ambassadors for the Kingdom of Yah. We must, as the Body of Christ, go back to the blueprint that was set out before us, and we must understand the Hebrew discipleship program Messiah was raised around and implemented for His disciples. The Kingdom of Yah is not in laziness but in devotion, sacrifice, and commitment to do whatever it takes to bring the Kingdom forward. Christ and his divine religion is not in Sunday morning entertainment but in a lifestyle of the Kingdom!