A few weeks ago JR, a friend of mine tweeted a link to a video. His tweet read, “This is the BEST explanation of #discipleship I have ever seen. I’ve watched this over a dozen times.” I like JR and value his opinions and thoughts and was therefore intrigued, so I watched the video. Since then I have also watched this video over and over, and also with some friends.

It is indeed a compelling video on discipleship, and I would like to offer a few reflections about this video (you may want to skip my reflections and just watch the video and formulate your own, but please share them in the comment section).

The art of sword making

I. The sword maker (Korehira Watanabe) says that there are only a few people still making Japanese swords – I think this idea of a small minority is attractive to me, but also dangerous. It is attractive when I am part of a minority group who is really committed to something and who differentiates themselves from other people, whether it is rock-climbing, scuba diving, marathon running or discipleship. Jesus himself noted that the journey is not a mass movement. The danger in this is that one can become sectarian and create very strong boundaries of us/them or in/out.


II. The sword maker realized that he had to pass what he had on in order for a legacy to continue. In his words to, “…pass along the aesthetics and soul of the Japanese people through my swords.” For him his sword making is part of a bigger story (the Japanese story), making a sword is therefore more than just making a sword. He creates beauty. His legacy is therefore the creation of something beautiful that can be passed on.


III. He identified a Master and then studied under him, but this decision cost him something. His family didn’t believe in him. Discipleship always involves a cost and the cost will only be paid if the prize is deemed worthy. He says, “don’t ever come back home if you want to be a sword maker.” Jesus once said that, ““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, ESV)


IV. The sword maker says that there are “basically no directions or formulas left to make Koto (ancient swords)”. This touches on the uniqueness of every journey of a disciple and flies in the face of packaged trademarked product that you can take from a shelf and read over a weekend. The sword maker has been at it for 40 years! This is slow work, or mustard seed work.


IV. The sword maker talks about the way in which craftsmen hand down the tradition in a way that makes the tradition suffer. The modern methods thin out the tradition.


V. He wants to make disciples better than himself. He does that by passing on two things: technique and passion. It is the passion that will ensure that the tradition gets passed on to the next generation.