What is Discipleship, it’s requirements & training?
Jesus’ calling of the disciples is not for the benefit of the disciples, but for God’s purposes. Often times, people think discipleship is to make one more spiritual or to make one’s head big. They are not the end goal. The end goal is for God’s benefit, that they would preach about the kingdom and call others to repentance and faith.
For the next few months, let’s explore the study of the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:1-13 is a Trinitarian passage where we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit working together. In verses 1-13, we see Jesus is presented as “God’s designated ruler”. And as God’s designated ruler, Jesus’ mission is to bring God’s rule to the world. The Holy Spirit empowers Him (1:10). God the Father announces the identity of Jesus publicly. He says, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (1:11). The language that we see here is the language of coronation as seen in Psalm 2:7, which is a Messianic psalm, composed about 900 years before Christ.
Now those whom He called to follow, He said He will make them become fishers of men (1:17). What does it mean to become “fishers of men?” It was a familiar term during Jesus’ time, both from the Old Testament and during the contemporary nature of Jesus’ time. They would allude to Jeremiah 16:16 and Ezekiel 17:19-21. This term was also used in the Qumran literature and Pseudepigrapha. These expressions mean to lure by the bait of the teacher’s teaching. The disciples are to bring sinners back to God. The disciples are to fish people from the sinful world, and bring them to God for judgment, for repentance and for belief.
Jesus was going to train the disciples to do something they had never done. Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen and they were called by Jesus to be fishers of men. They would go around, announce the gospel, and bring sinners to God by the proclamation of the gospel. They would preach to great multitudes, plant churches, lead people to Christ and change cultures. This is discipleship! This is the call that Jesus places on these ordinary men!
Jesus had some requirements on discipleship.
1. Relationship with Jesus (verse 17)
There had to be a proper relationship with Jesus. He uses this word, an adverb, “behind” (verse 17a). He says, “take a position behind Me.” It is a position of a student or a disciple.
2. Total commitment to Jesus (verse 18–20).
They had to leave relationships and nets. There were lot of encumbrances. In Mark 1 we see that Peter was a married man and when Jesus called him, he left everything and followed Jesus. It showed commitment.
3. Active promotion of Jesus’ mission, i.e., “fishers of men” (Matt 28:19-20).
They are required to be committed and promote only Jesus. People today are in the business of promoting themselves and what they are doing. When you are called for discipleship, you should be promoting Jesus’ mission, and not personal agendas.
4. Jesus is certain about the transformation of the disciples.
He says in verse 17b, “I shall make you to become,” it is an emphatic future. These disciples would not have travelled much or spoken in public, but the training that Jesus would offer them would transform them. Isn’t it amazing that we see in Acts 17 that the disciples turned the world upside down?
Jesus’ recruiting of His disciples was by His sovereign election. It was not based on who they were. They were merely fishermen, who probably did not have much of an education. They were chosen purely by God’s grace. The disciples did not fill an application and get admitted in Jesus’ school. John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus is the initiator of the call.
What were some of the initial stages of Jesus’ training? What did it include and exclude?
# The disciples had to have a radical separation from their former allegiances in order to be free for their new allegiance to Jesus. They could not serve two masters (verse 17). They could not travel in two boats. Their previous allegiances must have included to their family, business, and community. Jesus was not asking them to severe it, but to have the priority of allegiance to Jesus first. They had to walk with Him and experience Him so that convictions were formed. They were completely transformed during their four years of discipleship.
# They had to be free of encumbrances: nets and families (Matt 5:29-30). Mark seems to underline the responses of the disciples here. Mark is recording these so that he wants the same responses from those who will hear the call of Jesus. Discipleship will not take place through going to bible school or memorizing Scripture. While these are helpful there’s a lot more that needs to happen.
# They were to be characterized by obedience (verses 18-20). Someone has said, “Faith needs to be an act before it becomes the content.” The disciples did not ask any questions. The writer of the Gospel, Mark does not say whether they knew Jesus or not. They were probably seeing Jesus for the first time. When Jesus called them, they left everything and followed him. That showed obedience, an important factor for discipleship.
# There is an emphasis for “immediately” or “at once” (verses 18-20). You will see a lot of these adverbs in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, and they followed Him immediately. He goes further and sees the sons of Zebedee. He calls them and they leave everything and follow Jesus at once.
# It was going to be an ongoing journey with the teacher. The disciples ate with Jesus, walked with Jesus, slept where Jesus slept, and they went from one city to another, and they were always with Jesus. Jesus’ training was not going to take place in a classroom nor was it about following a curriculum, like a module or a semester. The content of Jesus’ training was Jesus Himself. When we look at the big teachers during Jesus’ time like Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle, they would talk about the world, metaphysics and other things. But the discipleship that Jesus was taking them through was different. Conviction does not come through spending a few months in a seminary or in some special classes. But it is a lifelong journey with the teacher and the content of the training was Jesus Himself.
How should you and I respond to Jesus’ call? His call is available to us too today. In the Great Commission, Jesus said to, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” How are we responding to that call? Do we have the same enthusiasm and obedience just like the disciples of Jesus? What are the encumbrances we have today that is preventing us from fully obeying the call of Jesus? Accept Jesus’ call completely without delay. May we respond like the disciples of Jesus, immediately, with right priorities and follow Him.
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