Summary: Disciples look like Sheep, Snakes, and Doves. Follow like a sheep; Shrewd as a snake; Innocent as a dove.
Discipleship Series # 1
What Does a Disciple Look Like?
SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 4: 17-22
For the next 6 weeks, we’re going to be studying DISCIPLESHIP – in sermons and in our Pueblo groups… When we think about Discipleship, it makes sense to look at the calling of the first Disciples which we just read in our TEXT. When I think about those men, I wonder: What would it have been like to be one of the first Disciples? If I had been around back then, would Jesus have called me? Well, the truth is that Jesus HAS called me. And He has called you. We are ALL called to be disciples.
So what does it take to be a Disciple? In Matthew 10:16 Jesus gave a surprising description of what a Disciple looks like: He said to his disciples:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
That is an odd assortment of animals. Why would Jesus say his Disciples are like sheep, snakes, and doves? Well, let’s try to figure it out.
What do sheep do? They follow. Whether it’s another sheep or a person, sheep tend to follow someone. Even children understand that. Think of the old Nursery Rhyme: Mary had a Little Lamb. What did the Lamb do? He FOLLOWED her to school one day…
But Jesus did more than compare us to Sheep. He said I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. When sheep smell a wolf nearby, they do two things. They bunch up close to each other, and they stick close by the Shepherd. (Either that or they end up as mutton with mint jelly on the wolfs’ table.)
That is what the first disciples of Jesus did. They stayed close to the Shepherd. They followed him day and night --- 24 / 7. They went everywhere Jesus went. They not only learned his teachings; they watched his life. They saw him in the best of times and worst of times. They saw him when he was rested and when he was weary. They saw him when he was happy and when he was sad. They were Jesus Disciples because they followed him daily.
Are you following Jesus? Does he direct your life every day? Do you learn something more about Him every day? Are you daily learning the Jesus Way? In other words, do you look like a SHEEP? That is the only way to look like a Disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. And then he added, Therefore be as shrewd as snakes … Matthew 10:16
2. A Snake
Why would Jesus want a Disciple to be like a SNAKE? We are used to thinking of the Serpent as a symbol of Satan. This makes more sense if you remember Jesus said we are sheep among wolves. Well, when was the last time you heard of a wolf successfully attacking a snake? If you think about it, a snake knows when it is time to “strike.” But a snake also knows when to “keep a low profile” … so to speak…
The problem is that a naïve Christian will try to “strike” in the wrong way and say the wrong thing at the wrong time. A naïve Christian doesn’t understand that Christian values are unpopular with some people. A naïve Christian may not know that certain people in our society are dead set again Jesus Christ and everything He stands for.
Many Christians start out naïve. We start out thinking that everyone who hears the truth will accept it like we did. It takes a few bad experiences for most of us to learn to be a little shrewder. I remember one of my first lessons.
I was a naïve straight-out-of-Bible-College Youth Minister in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the time. I attended a Preachers Meeting where we were urged to write local TV station and protest the fact that they had started broadcasting a daily show that featured a Psychic.
Well, my first mistake was assuming all those preachers were going to run home and do what they were told. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who wrote a letter. My second mistake was assuming the station manager would respect my point of view. All he did was forward my letter to the Psychic. I got back a scathing letter that called me … among other things … one of those intolerant torturers like the ones in the Spanish Inquisition. I can still remember that burning sensation on my skin as I turned red from the unexpected insults.
Since that time, I’ve written letters of protest many times. But I’ve never again been shocked by the repercussions. That experience prepared me to expect opposition when I spoke out for Christian principles. Dueling with the Devil is no picnic, folks. There are some wolves out there.