Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why disciples?

But Jesus called and gathered disciples for another reason as well: to found what sociologists have called “intentional communities,” small groups and cells of followers, some living within their home villages and towns, some on the road as itinerants. These cells would, by living out a particular kind of corporate life consistent with the path of faithfulness to God that he was calling Israel to adopt, make incarnate his vision of what faithful Israel should look like. This must not, mind you, be in any way understood as something tantamount to a desire on Jesus’ part to found a church. For as far as Jesus was concerned, there already was a “church,” one he wholeheartedly belonged to, namely, the ἐκκλησία κυρίου (ekklēsia kyriou), the “congregation of the Lord,” that is, the people of Israel. Moreover, he never spoke of the group he called into being except in terms of titles used previously by the prophets and his contemporaries to designate the people of Israel, one of which was, notably, “son” or “sons of God.” Rather, he called and gathered disciples around himself in order to accomplish what he believed was another task given to him by God, namely, to reconstitute Israel and to rescue it from what he and other figures of his day called the “wrath to come,” that is, the judgment, often embodied in national calamity, that the prophets declared was inevitable for Israel if they were persistent in covenant unfaithfulness.—The Disciples’ Prayer, page 86

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