Summary: The Rabbis observed that there are four kinds of disciples. As we make disciples, it is imperative to make the right kind and to BE the right kind.
We know the importance of Disciples:
* Great Commission -- Matthew 28.18-20
* Discipleship in action -- You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2.1-2
Let me read a passage from Avot (The Fathers) in the Mishnah. Avot 5:15 says: 'there are four types among them that sit in the presence of sages'. In other words, according to the rabbis there are four types of disciples --"the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sifter (sieve)."
1. The sponge -- he is the one who soaks up everything. Symbolically the rabbis are saying that the sponge is a disciple who has no discernment--he just takes it all in and records it all; the trivial and the important; it doesn't matter -- there is no discrimination on his part.
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding [discernment] that I may live. Psalm 119.144
2. The funnel -- he takes in at this end and lets out at the other. What kind of student is that? We could say that is the student who is quick to perceive, but he is equally quick to forget. He is very bright, he takes in very quickly, but then he forgets it equally quickly.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1.22-25
3. The strainer -- it lets out the wine and collect the lees. This person is the one who forgets the essential but retains the unessential. By analogy, this is the Christian who can answer all these obscure questions, like: who are the Nephilim? Or they can recite the most obscure trivia from the Bible, but when it comes to the important stuff, they don't know it--this is the disciple who strains the gnats and swallows the camels (Matthew 23.24).
4. . The sifter -- it extracts the coarsely ground flour and collects the fine flour. This is the kind of disciple that the rabbis most admired -- the one who memorizes the good in all the material but rejects the worthless; he retains what is good and excellent and he rejects what in unimportant and what is trivial. The rabbis were always interested in a student's discernment, a student's skill at learning; not just mere repetition.
21 And he said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." 24 And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Mark 4.21-25
Which category of disciple are you?