Summary: They may be the three most powerful words in all of spoken language. You hear these words and life may never be the same, changing who you are, the life you’ve known, how you will look at life and the people in your life as well.
They may be the three most powerful words in all of spoken language. You hear these words and life may never be the same, changing who you are, the life you’ve known, how you will look at life and the people in your life as well. When these words were first spoken, the men who heard them had been minding their own business, going about their work and keeping to themselves. They were ordinary men like you and me. They had jobs, families, hobbies, and friends. When they woke up that day, they thought it would be like any other: get dressed, go to work, labor until you can’t do any more, go home, shower, eat and spend time with family and friends. In fact, as they went about their business that day, none of them knew that their life was going to change forever so quickly and so decisively.
Those three words spoken by Jesus that day were, “Come, follow me…” Right then, a decision had to be made. These fishermen could not have known or understood what they were getting into when they dropped everything and left all they had behind. Whatever ideas, hopes, expectations or even fears they had in their minds as they took those first few steps into the unknown never could have come close to what they were about to experience. It couldn’t have prepared them for what was about to happen, for everything they would see, hear and experience. Everything about Jesus, his teaching, his compassion, his wisdom, his power, his authority would be unlike anything they had ever experienced and it would transform every aspect of their lives: their minds, their hearts, their hopes, and their dreams and ultimately, their lives.
In just three short years, they went from uneducated, illiterate working class fishermen to standing before some of the most powerful men in the world and being accused of turning the world upside down. What started as a simple invitation and a response of immediate and complete obedience ended up not only changing their lives but the world itself. Here’s the first thing we learn from Jesus’ invitation: You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are. It doesn’t just say, “Follow me…” but “Come, follow me.” In that first word, Jesus makes it clear that you can’t stay where you are and follow him. You can’t keep thinking the same things, doing the same things, living the same life and follow Jesus. You have to get up and go where Jesus is going, get on the same path that Jesus is on and live the life that Jesus is living. Jesus isn’t someone you just add into your life. To follow Him, He must become your life.
Disciples in Jesus’ day chose a rabbi and followed them, seeking to learn what their rabbi knew, to live as he did and to become like him. They would go wherever he would and do whatever he did, all as a part of their training to become like him. A disciple follows right next to the Teacher rather than at a passive distance. There is power in proximity. Today, rather than calling someone a disciple, our society would use the word apprentice. An apprentice is someone who is bound to another, a Master of some trade or craft, for a certain amount of time, usually a few years, to learn an art or trade. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be an apprentice. The Master is Jesus himself. His art or trade is making disciples. And the amount of time is life-long. This is what we as Methodists call sanctification, the lifelong process of growing to become like Jesus, to live for Him and do His will in every aspect of your life.
When Jesus called the disciples, they may not have known where he would take them or the impact He would have on their lives. But in that split moment of decision, they left behind everything they had, everything they owned and everyone they knew. They went everywhere he went and did everything he did and it began to transform them. You can’t follow a person like that, live with them and spend the better part of every day and every moment for three years with them and not have it impact you. Slowly but surely, they began to think like him and act like him. And this was Jesus’ intent all along because he said, “Everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus’ goal was to make the disciples just like Him.
Yet, somehow and somewhere, we in the church have gone horribly of course in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We’ve taken the name of Christ, Christian, and used it almost blasphemingly. There are a lot of Christians in the pews and even more who never darken the door of the church but not many apprentices of Jesus. They believe in Jesus but they don’t follow or live like Jesus. When you compare most Christians and the lives they lead compared to the life of Jesus, the one we profess to believe in and claim to follow, in some there’s just a faint glimmer of Jesus but for many others, there’s no resemblance at all. Every disciple is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple. So what are the characteristics of a disciple?