3. Teachings on Discipleship
Jesus’ teachings on discipleship
Following Jesus is a difficult undertaking. Our Lord told us to count the cost of following him lest we be the laughing stock of the community. I guess what he was really trying to tell us is that we should not be half hearted. Indeed, failure is bound to occur, we are human after all, however our minds should remain on the objective of joining him in the afterlife.
The primary underlying teaching on discipleship that Jesus repeats over and over is that we are simply passing through this world as pilgrims or sojourners. He keeps telling us to focus on where we are going, while at the same time giving us the teachings that will see us through this world and guarantee us a place in the afterlife with Him.
The two great commandments, a love of God (The blessed one) and a love of neighbor encapsulates all His teachings on being disciples. We live on this world to learn to love God and to learn to love others (as we would have them love us). How well we excel is the determinant for where we go in death. Our Lord expounds on his teachings in great detail, but in a nutshell the two great commandments speak it all. Familiarize yourself with Jesus teachings for they are the eternal words that we will carry with us into the afterlife.
Disciples should expect persecution (Matt 10: 17-25). Disciples should expect harsh treatment from the governing authorities. Persecution will come because of devotion to Jesus and thus a propensity for truth in all things. Is this any different today? Christians are the trouble makers; spoilers of the party; the prudes; don’t know their place; speak without being invited to speak; etc They are the ones that see the reality of things through a Jesus world view and are naturally forced to speak on the same. It is a disciples upholding of righteousness that will always get him or her into trouble. Speaking for the poor and down trodden; against consumerism; commerce for its own sake; profits before people and so on automatically places you against those that are complacent with a “way of doing things” due to its benefits.
Jesus is saying that we should not be concerned about our ability to fight. Let us speak for righteousness and what is correct and the holy spirit will give us the wherewithal to keep going even when we think the odds against us are insurmountable. This reminds me about the anti slavery advocate William Wilberforce. It is through his and others efforts that the British parliament outlawed slavery in the 1830’s. Mr Wilberforce was a staunch Christian and disciple. The same goes for Dr Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and so on. Some may not have been Christians, but they saw the truth of things, through a world view that mimicked that of Jesus.
Fearing God more than people(Matt 10: 26-33). It is only God that can destroy both body and soul. Men can only destroy the body. Disciples are asked to remember, no matter the hardship of being an adherent of the teachings of Jesus. We should not forget that we are pilgrims that will live on this earth for 100 years at most. Upon death, we are told, an eternity awaits us. Jesus demonstrated his power over death and he promises us a place with him for as long as we live as his disciples.
The unclean spirits that met Jesus (according to the gospels), were always firstly reverential towards Him and secondly terrified of what He was capable of doing to them (namely the destruction of their souls). Always remember that Jesus is on our side as disciples. If demons fear him, how dare we not?
Loyalty to Jesus. Disciples must be willing to take up their cross (a symbol of hardship and rejection) and follow Jesus. This is even at the expense of ones family, children, friends and so on. Jesus is simply telling us, it’s no walk in the park to follow Him! We are not meant to be Sunday Christians, but we should be reflective of and adhere to Him at all times.
Disciples should be humble (Matt 18: 1-5).The disciples want to know how to become the greatest person in the Kingdom. Jesus uses a little child to reveal that humility is the quality that defines greatness in the Kingdom. And humility is often demonstrated by how we treat other disciples of Jesus. This goes back to the beatitude on meekness.
those who cause disciples to stumble (Matt 18: 1-5).The expression little ones (least esteemed), in the verses, refers to disciples (adherents). Now Jesus warns of the dangers of causing others to stumble and fall spiritually. Those who make a habit of making others to sin, will pay a heavy price. We should never under estimate our influence on others for good or bad! In everything we do, we should make an attempt to edify each other rather than cause to stumble. You may be strong and have the ability to resist, however your fellow disciple may not. It is thus better never to present the opportunity for someone else to stumble.
The fathers care and protection of disciples (18: 10-44). We are told not to look down upon other disciples (little ones), perhaps especially those who fall into sin. God is extremely committed to restoring his struggling children. In fact even Angels watch over them. In the parable of the lost sheep; lost coin; prodigal son and so on, Jesus teaches us that we are to be like our father and do all in our power to recover that which is lost (lost disciples).
Community discipline (Matt 18: 15-20). Jesus assures the church that their binding or loosing (that is withholding or extending forgiveness) has Gods authority behind it. This assumes they share Jesus’ goal of restoration and follow his guidelines. Matthew 18: 19-20 is often quoted out of context and taken as a blanket promise rather than related to Church discipline (it follows from verse 18).
The need to forgive. (Matt 18: 21-35). Peter asks how many times he is to forgive fellow disciples. According to Jesus we should do so infinitely. This assumes that the disciple repents and seeks forgiveness. The parable of the unmerciful servant drives home the point. We should be as our father in heaven who forgives, no matter the size of the debt. Judgement however awaits those that refuse to forgive. The teachings on discipleship are not easy.
Jesus teachings on divorce (Matt 19: 1-12).Some Jews felt divorce was permissible for minor reasons, such as cooking a bad meal, while others permitted it for something major e.g immorality. Jesus points back to Genesis 1-2, stating that the original design was one man, one woman. He concludes that anyone divorcing his wife except for marital unfaithfulness and
marries another woman commits adultery. Jesus also states that remaining single is viable, however one needs to be certain that God is calling them towards that lifestyle. Divorce has become almost the norm in our society. There are obviously times when its called for however I find that more often than not, its the commitment to the institution that is lacking. It is the reason why marriages are more like dating, as soon as there is a new interest, we agree to part. What I wonder is why marry in the first place?
My two cents on marriage is that it is the best way to live the teachings on neighborliness. What better opportunity to practice loving another as we love ourselves….
The kingdom belongs to the child like (Matt 19: 13-15).Entry to the kingdom of God is only achieved through child like faith. Listen to Jesus’ teachings on discipleship and act accordingly, even if we have questions. Jesus’ teachings are a reflection of our creator’s thoughts. It may be wise to simply acquiesce to His authority and simply act. The ways of God are not the ways of men; so why bother questioning? There is an afterlife that we have to contend with after this one. He who knows about where we are going, and has demonstrated that knowledge is somebody to revere and follow without question.
What does it take to obtain eternal life? (Matt 19: 16-26). Jesus moves the focus of this young man from self to his relationship with God. It reminds us of the section in the sermon on the mount which describes material possessions as a rival God. The disciples then wonder who can be saved since it is generally assumed that rich people have been blessed by God; Jesus’ statement is thus confusing. He however reassures them that what seems impossible to people is possible with God.
Rewards for following Jesus (Matt 19: 27-30).His disciples will be given responsibilities to reign with Christ. Additionally anyone who has left possessions and family in order to follow Jesus will receive one hundred times as much and will also receive eternal life. The teachings on discipleship have been taken very seriously by saints, both recognized and not over the centuries. Jesus’ parables on finding a great treasure makes me reflect on this. Imagine, thousands over the years have traded great wealth, nobility, and family all in a desire
to live the as Jesus disciples by living among the poor and trading riches today for riches in heaven after death. How truly wonderful and mysterious. I guess, you only know, when you know.
Disciples should seek service over status ( Matt 20: 20-28).The two brothers James and John are seeking places of highest honor in the kingdom of God. Jesus immediately connects glory with suffering. They quickly and naively boast that they can suffer and Jesus assures them that they will. Jesus then goes on to elaborate on servant leadership. Pagans use power to control and dominate, but servants of God use leadership to give to others other than taking away. If James and John are to be great, then they should be prepared to be the lead slaves. Jesus dies in our place as a sinless substitute for guilty sinners; the ultimate act of servant leadership. The teachings on discipleship are not easy.