Why do we tend to ignore women disciples of Jesus? Here’s reason why we shouldn’t.
Who are Disciples?
Jesus said in Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple,” but what is a disciple of Christ, and who are His disciples today? The word disciple comes to us from the Old English word discipul (fem. discipula) which comes from the Latin discipulus, meaning, “pupil, student, follower,” and said to be from the word discere from which we get the word “discern” and that comes from the root word, dek which means “to take, accept” (hint: Matt 28:18-20), so a disciple is a student or learned who is following the teachings of someone and “takes it” or “accepts” as their own. According to Barnhart and Klein, it comes from a lost compound word, discipere , which means “to grasp intellectually,” “analyze thoroughly,” and is from dis- “apart” plus capere “to take, take hold of,” like “carpe diem” is Latin for “seize the day.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for disciple is “mathēteuō” and it means a “student, learner,” or “pupil,” so that’s what disciple means, and it has nothing to do with masculine or feminine.
To Be His Disciple
A lot of people say they are Christians or believers but few say they are Jesus’ disciples or they “follow Him,” but there are still disciples of Jesus Christ today and the way you can identify them is whether they follow Jesus’ teachings or not. Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40), so does a person forsake all, including family relations, in order to follow Christ? If not, they are not a true disciple of Jesus. They might think they are, but Jesus gives a very narrow definition of who is a true disciple of His. Discipleship is anything that calls someone to live in Christ, equips them to live like Christ, or sends them to live for Christ, and authentic discipleship always strives to raise up men and women who love God above all else. No wonder Jesus said we should count the cost (Luke 14:28). Can you be a disciple without evangelism (Matt 28:18-20)? “Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24), and that means to do what Jesus commands, which includes the Great Commission, so “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), and “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), so every Christian should know, if they don’t already, it is a very narrow path that leads to eternal life, which is why so few find it (Matt 7:13-14), “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14), so another point is, Jesus chooses His disciples, not they who choose Him. Christ said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16a).
Today, since more women attend church than men do, there may actually be more women disciples than men, so yes, by all means, Jesus had women disciples, meaning He discipled women too. It wasn’t long before Jesus “went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1), but “also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:2-3), so not only were women disciples of Jesus, they also provided for His earthy ministry “out of their means.” When Jesus was being crucified, more women were present than men, since the men had ran for their lives after Jesus was arrested, and so at Calvary, “There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41). Remember that a disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ, following wherever He went and doing whatever He commands. Being a disciple has nothing to do with being male or female. It has everything to do with following Him, at whatever the cost. The universal proclamation to make disciples cannot exclude women since the call to salvation is universal. That means it must necessarily include women, so being a disciple has nothing to do with being a man or a woman. Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:35), so it is male, female…in fact, all who call upon the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13), regardless of who they are.
To be a disciple of Christ’s you must study His textbook, the Bible. It’s like enlisting someone in the Army and issuing them a rifle that they never learn how to clean and shoot. The risk when we don’t “fully” disciple new believers is that they will almost always become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior, and hypocritical in witness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book on the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, and the cost for his being a disciple of Christ was his death in a Nazi prison camp. He said if you want to be a disciple, look to Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer desired to be a disciple of Christ and then entered into the sufferings of Christ, which is just what Paul desired, writing that it was so “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10), and that’s exactly what he found, or as Bonhoeffer has said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Sometimes that is the cost of discipleship.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is host of Spiritual Fitness and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.