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Discipleship Part 2: Disciples And Teachers

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explain that we are all disciples and analyse who we decide to follow.

Preparation and materials

  • Familiarize yourself with Flannery O'Connor’s novel Wise Blood (Faber and Faber, 2008).
  • Ask two students to read – one to read the passage John 13.21–30 in the ‘Assembly’, Step 4, and the other the quote from Flannery O'Connor’s novel Wise Blood in Step 7.
  • Have available the song ‘Gotta serve somebody’ by Bob Dylan and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Everyone in this room is a disciple. It's impossible not to be as the word 'disciple' comes from a Latin word, discere, which means 'to learn'. Disciples are 'learners' and, whether you like it or not, that's what you are.

    The Hebrew word for 'disciples' is talmidim. The Hebrew word for 'teacher' is rabbi. If you look around you, you will see all the rabbis that you have been given by the government – your 'history rabbi', 'chemistry rabbi', 'PE rabbi'  . . .

  2. You don't have much choice about going to school – the government requires you to be here, there's pressure from your family, society as a whole. All of them believe that the more education you have, the better. What do you think?

  3. Can people be compelled to do things? The trouble with compulsion is that it breeds rebellion. Most students recognize and accept the authority of their teachers, but it only takes one disruptive 'disciple' to cause trouble for everyone. 

    In the past, the solution seemed easy – physical punishment. There are probably one or two teachers here old enough to remember the caning of a fellow student or even themselves for some misdemeanour. 

    Some teachers reacted against this form of discipline by advocating 'free' schools, where pupils did not have to attend classes if they did not want to. One school like that still exists. It's called Summerhill. Perhaps you would prefer Summerhill to your own school? Maybe even there you would find some inevitable disharmony between teachers and pupils or, should I say, rabbis and disciples.

  4. Jesus, we are told in the Gospels, spoke with natural authority. His twelve disciples freely took him to be their teacher. We know the names of them all – Matthew, Peter, Mark . . . One of them, however, the twelfth disciple, didn't have the familiar halo round his head. 

    Why did Judas, one of Jesus' closest disciples, betray his teacher? That question has fascinated people for 2000 years. Was Judas in control of his actions? Listen carefully and see what you think. 

    Ask Reader 1 to read the passage John 13.21–30.

  5. What do you think was going on? The story, as told by John in his Gospel, seems to be implying that the death of Jesus and Judas' betrayal were preordained. Judas seems almost to be acting out a role, as if he has no choice in the matter. What about Judas' free will, though?

  6. Some think Judas was greedy – he was in charge of the disciples' communal funds). Some think that he felt Jesus wasn't revolutionary enough – his surname, Iscariot, has been taken by some to imply that he was a guerrilla, fighting against Roman rule. Maybe he was jealous. Maybe he just got sick of all that religion! In the end, all we do know is that no one knows.

  7. People who are brought up going to church or in a very religious family sometimes feel the need to break free from that. A novel by the American Christian writer Flannery O'Connor tells of a young man, Hazel Motes, the son of a preacher, who does exactly that – he rebels against his upbringing. 

    His father intended for him to become a preacher and he does, only he decides to found the 'Church without Christ'. Its aim is to preach against the teachings of the Church. Here's an example of one of his sermons, preached from the roof of his car, outside funfairs and cinemas, in the hope of finding disciples. 

    Ask Reader 2 to read the following quote from Flannery O'Connor’s novel Wise Blood.

    I preach the Church without Christ. I'm a member and preacher to that church where the blind don't see and the lame don't walk and what's dead stays that way  . . .  I'm going to take the truth with me wherever I go. I'm going to preach there was no Fall because there was nothing to fall from and no Redemption because there was no Fall and no Judgement because there wasn't the first two. Nothing matters but that Jesus was a liar.

  8. Hazel Motes doesn't win any disciples – they prefer the funfairs and the cinemas. In the end, his rage against the Church and his compulsive commitment to the truth make him more of a disciple of Christ than others who claim to be Christians. That is because, although he rejects his faith, his life turns out to share Christ's example.

Time for reflection

Everyone looks for figures of authority to help give shape to their lives. Who do you look to as your role model? A football player? A rock star? A film star?

Given what some of these people get up to, maybe Jesus isn't such a bad example to follow after all! Whomever your leader is, you don't have to just blindly accept what he or she says or what the Church says. Perhaps discipleship inevitably involves disputes with your teacher – just as it can in school!

Ask questions. Find out more for yourself.

Heavenly Father,
We thank you that you have given us the freedom to make decisions about shaping our lives.
Also, that you go on loving us when the choices we make and the patterns we follow take us far from you.


'Gotta serve somebody' by Bob Dylan

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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