As I have been writing the last couple of blogs on discipleship realise that when I think I’ve nailed talking about it, I realise there is still more to write.
I was wondering about how Jesus made disciples?
I thought that primarily he took a risk on them, they knew they were chosen by him, he called them to come and follow him, and they left absolutely everything to come and follow him.
I wonder whether those we work with feel like they are called by Christ or whether they simply feel a bit guilty and are doing us a favour?
I was thinking how most roles in Church fee really devalued because most people end up doing them because “someone had too” rather than they were chosen, head-hunted to fulfil a role that was about the advance of God’s Kingdom, real people receiving real salvation. Jesus made it clear their calling was bigger and beyond what they might initially see (hanging out with an itinerant preacher) but instead “they were going to be fishers of men”.
Jesus shared his life with his disciples for the next three years, he only had 12, although others gathered around from time to time, and 3 of those he gave extra time and opportunities. I was wondering in our Churches as a Pastor we normally only see people when they are either in crisis or doing something exceptional, most people we only get to see a for a few moments each week. Perhaps we are too worried about quantity of numbers rather than quality of relationship? Jesus clearly really knew the 12 really well. Living with people show us what we are really like beyond the surface veneer of polite spiritual niceness.
Jesus also let people see what he did, before equipping them to go and do it themselves (Luke 9), he gave them real responsibility as he sent them out to proclaim the good news of his Kingdom with no safety net (they went out without coat or cash) and yet they came back rejoice because ‘even the demons fled at their command’. Jesus’ discipleship was not peripheral stuff, they were doing preaching, healing and deliverance not stuck on coffee duty! Yet his discipleship was much much more about who they were rather than what they did “don’t rejoice because the demons submit to you, but rejoice because your name is written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).
How often in discipleship do we get confused between role and identity? -Something Jesus was keen to draw a distinction on.
Jesus didn’t lower his standards of discipleship, he was prepared to set the bar high and didn’t drop his standards no matter what… “let the dead buy their own dead…No one who puts his hand to the plough and keeps looking back is worthy to be my disciple” (Luke 9.62).
Jesus looked at the Rich Young Ruler and loved him, and yet said this “one thing you lack, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor and then come and follow me” (Matthew 19.21), it is the same demand that he makes of the fishermen who leave their nets, their livelihood, their father, to come and follow Jesus (Matthew 4:20). If that was us in our Churches I wonder if we’d be chasing the rich young ruler down the road with a gift aid form?
I think we need a compelling vision, a challenge, no one wants to give their life for an easy goal, a wimpy small vision, a pathetic challenge, a mediocre cause and yet too often this is how we sell being a disciple of Jesus.
It is an on-going challenge, were we never reach the goal, a quote I read tonight really spoke to me “The Church is a Prayer-filled Missionary Movement, Continually discomforted by the consequences of its own gospel”…
Peter, the leader, one of the first disciples, still kept on messing it up and needing to keep on learning. In the Galation Church still messed up as Paul’s rebuke shows (Galations 2:12). we are life long learners, and yet how many times do people think they have got there and act like they have got it all sorted?
Jesus gives praise when the disciples get it right, here is Jesus’ response to Peter realising that Christ is the Messiah:
Matthew 16.17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20
Yet Jesus is also prepared to give back tough and hard feedback as Peter finds out to his cost, when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of dying on the cross Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
And whilst we are talking of Peter, here is a guy who messed up spectacularly, blowing it when it mattered the most, denying Jesus three times before his execution, and yet Jesus re-instates him, asking him the one and only question that actually really matters when we think about discipleship “do you love me?” (John 21:17).
I wonder in our discipleship do we have the grace to pick up the broken and restore them even when it goes badly wrong and is really messy?
Jesus’ call is extravagant, the task is audacious, and the grace in Christ is incredibly.
I have never been discipled like this, not have I ever managed to disciple anyone like this, but I think this shows us Christ’s standard for discipleship being so so much greater than our own thinking around discipleship.
And I’ll close with this thought, these disciples were faithful to Christ, despite massive cost even to their lives, but in doing so they changed the history of the world through their faithful and courageous obidience.