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What does it mean to be disciples of Jesus? (First part)

Luke understands the discipleship primarily as the recipients of Jesus’ training until they are commissioned to continue his work (22:28-30; 24:47). [The mission of the disciples will begin in the second volume of the Lukan work: The Acts of the Apostles].

One of the ways Luke helps to build a bridge between his two volumes on the subject of discipleship is with the prominence in Acts of “the Way” as a description of the community of Jesus’ followers and its teaching (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). In Acts “the Way” designates a people who align themselves with and serve God’s plan, especially as witnessed in the Scriptures and manifest in Jesus (cf. Acts 18:24-25; cf. e.g., Luke 1:6; 20:21). This usage is rooted already in the Gospel of Luke – both in its utilization of the term “way” (odòs) and in the attention it otherwise gives to the journey motif. Drawing on Isaianic material, the narrative shows that John’s role is prepare the way of the Lord (1:76; 3:4-5; cf. 7:27; Isa. 40:3-4; Mal. 3:1), so that he (i.e. Jesus, already identified as “Lord” in 1:43) might “guide our feet in the way of peace (1:79; cf. Isa. 59:8). More pervasive than such echoes as these, though, is the emphasis on the formation of disciples on the way.

This journey motif is especially transparent at the end of the Gospel, in 24:13-35. Two disciples were making their way to Emma’s (24:13), talking about what had happened in Jerusalem; jesus joins them on their journey (24:15) and asks them what they were discussing as they walked along the road (24:17); Jesus travels with them to Emma’s, instructing them in the Scriptures (24:27); having come to recognize Jesus, the disciples remark, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the Scriptures to us?” (24:32); later, these two report to the other disciples “what had happened on the road” (24:35). Readers of Luke may be reminded of the longer journey in the center of the Gospel, stretching from 9:51-19:27, on which Jesus teaches his disciples on the way to Jerusalem. [ … ]

Two motifs are outstanding in this journey. First, Luke emphasizes its destination – Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ “exodus” (9:31, 51). By this expression Luke refers to “Jesus’ pathway through death to exaltation at the right hand of God” – that is, Jesus’ aim is to fulfill the purpose of God for which he was sent and to which he has committed himself.

Second, 9:51-19:27 is overwhelmingly didactic in content [ … ] The disciples appear more often in this section than elsewhere in the Gospel, often receiving instruction (10:23; 11:1; 12:1, 22; 16,1; 17:1, 5, 22; 18:15, 31). This is not in every case private instruction (cf. 10:23); [ … ] Jesus gives positive instruction and warnings on the way of discipleship that serve also as a challenge and invitation to prospective followers. Luke thus makes use of the journey motif to solidify the relation between disciples and master, to provide instruction on the way of discipleship, and to encourage people to join him on the journey of serving God’s purpose. (From Joel B. Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, Cambridge 1995, pp. 102-105)

[“I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote. “I do not want a church concerned with being at the center and then ends up by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.” (Pope Francis)

The Christianism is in relation to our lives, because Christians follow a message that change life while making “the Way” in the world. It is not matter of moral rules, but of placing the Jesus’ word at the center of our lives, while living with all our sins and inconcistencies.]

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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