Summary: A message on discipleship.
THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
INTRO: These three Scripture passages contain the calls of four of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Certain truths leap out of the passages. The first thing to notice is that Jesus issues the call to discipleship.
In the Greek, the calls of Phillip (John 1:43) and Matthew (Mark 2:14) are in the same words. It might be phrased, “Be my follower.” The verb means “to join one as his attendant, to accompany another.” It is in the imperative mood and hence a command.
Jesus is the Caller. The would-be disciple is the called. He takes the initiative. We give the response.
Another thing about the call: it Demands a Response. In response, Philip found Nathaniel and shared the good news of Christ. Peter and Andrew “immediately left the nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:18, NASB). Matthew “rose and followed him” (Mark 2:14, NASB). The immediacy of their actions is confirmed by the use of åýèõò (euthus) translated “immediately” elsewhere in the New Testament (see Acts 9:18, 20; James 1:23-24; Rev 4:2).
Not everyone responded positively to Jesus’ call. A certain ruler received a strong call from Jesus (Luke 18:22). The call was the same call issued to Peter and Andrew, to Philip, and to Matthew. Nevertheless, the ruler gave a response, negative though it was. The young man, with the potential of Peter, with as much promise as Philip, turned his back on the Caller.
No person, having been confronted by Christ, can remain neutral. Ignorance is no longer an option.
The call issued by Jesus is based on prior relationship. Concerning Philip and Matthew we can only surmise that they knew Jesus before responding to His call. Of Andrew and Peter it is stated that they had a prior acquaintance with Jesus. It is unrealistic to assume that men would leave job, family, and community to commit themselves to a total stranger. This is not how disciples are made, then or now.
The would-be disciples had heard Jesus previously. They had evaluated His message. They had talked about Him in the still hours of the night. They spoke of Him in the village markets. They questioned others in the synagogue about Him. In other words, they had weighed the issues, sized up the person of Jesus, and cast their lot with Him. Discipleship is not a committal made out of ignorance.
The prior relationship suggests that evangelization precedes discipleship. We must be evangelized before we can be discipled. The same holds true of others whom we would disciple. Some in our churches who have never been evangelized are attempting to become disciples. They are attempting to experience the joys of the new life without the pains of the new birth. This is impossible.
In another sense we cannot separate evangelism and discipleship. To know Jesus as Savior is to know Him as Lord. To experience the new birth is to anticipate growth toward maturity. To become a follower of Jesus is to become a disciple.
Another suggestion: Discipleship Comes about Through the Process of Following Christ. There is no such thing as instant discipleship. Furthermore, there is no such thing as easy discipleship.
Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17, NASB). Note that becoming fishers of men (being discipled) is contingent on following Jesus.
Only by following Christ can we become true disciples. We can’t sit on the sidelines and become disciples. We can’t just study about discipleship and become disciples. We must get into the act of following. It becomes an irreverent act to pray that God will make us disciples if we are doing nothing to be disciples.
The call Christ issues is to a permanent and continuing relationship. It is a call “till death do us part.” Part-time discipleship is a contradiction of terms. To speak of temporary discipleship is to misunderstand the concept of discipleship. The call is open-ended. It has no time limits. It knows no bounds of space or time.
This does not mean that the initial call is the only call. The resurrected Christ admonished the curious and concerned Simon Peter not to be so concerned about Christ’s will for John (see John 21:22). Rather, said Jesus, concentrate on your responsibility to follow me (same term as used for the initial call of Peter).
The call to discipleship is a lifetime call. It is not for the weak-hearted, the half committed, or the camp follower. It is for those who are willing to commit themselves, soul and body, to the great disciple maker.
A final major idea drawn from the early disciples’ call is that one is to model himself after the Caller. One of the definitions of ìáèçôÞò (mathatas) is: “to cleave steadfastly to one, conform wholly to his example, in living and if need be in dying also.”