To Be a Follower of Jesus.
Matthew 4:18 – 22; Mark 1: 16 -20; Luke 5: 1 – 11; John 1: 35 – 51.
What is expected of a disciple is a perennially intriguing and challenging question. At the commencement of Jesus’ public ministry, we are able to tease out a couple of the important elements of what it means to follow our Lord as He presciently selected His disciples – His first converts. God was looking for those He foreknew, whom He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son… and these… He also called… and justified (Rom 8:29-30), to follow Him closely in the formation of their new identity (Jn 1:39, 43). This invitation was not generally extended to everyone who may desire to follow Him; the Gospel narratives recorded that our Lord did turn certain people away, who had chosen perhaps from their own selfish motivations to stick by Him but clinging to their own individualism (cf., Luke 9: 57-62). One can believe in someone or his message, and yet in finality, not be personally committed to the person.
A disciple (distinctly different from the Twelve) is a chosen follower of the Lord, who is expected to have relinquished his own prior choice of direction in life to be able to fully comply with this new course: as the saying goes, he would be one who had burnt all his bridges behind him. Perhaps, that is what being lukewarm is all about – an unwillingness to be wholeheartedly committed to the One who is the creative Alpha and the Omega! This is a daunting pledge on this side of heaven that confronts every believer. It is inevitably taxing to trust someone with a recognizable physical form though fallible, but to trust Someone Who is invisible, despite His standing as Creator, is even more intractably complex. But learning to trust God, we must, for this progressive journey that charts and stretches our faith to continue if we are to intimately know Him; that is the crux of discipleship. For in the absence of a maturing personal relationship with our Lord, to declare to being a follower of Jesus is a misnomer.
Jesus’ disciples’ responses to “Come and you will see” and “Follow Me,” drew out from them their obedience as an observer and a learner for three years or so with their Master, thus enabling them to participate in His ministry. Essentially, Jesus was asking them to walk with Him and see for themselves what this new identity and life is all about. In hindsight, just like any professional apprenticeship, there is no easy way out of this process of intimate relational discipling, to which He had continually emphasized throughout the Gospels His non-negotiable requirements (Jn 15-17). For example, Nathaniel’s touchy interjection to Jesus’ uncanny knowledge about him under the fig tree, opened a window not only into the omniscience of our Lord, but an unflinching obedience that is required as a follower. The disciples’ testimonies of Jesus were first-hand eye-witnessed accounts of what He had said and done as they watched Him closely; they not only believed Him, but their whole orientation to life changed because of this journey they took with Him (Jn 1:36, 41, 43, 45, 46, 47, etc; “said” is a historical present construct, implying a testimony to a past event, i.e., to witness or testify). An evangelistic programme to orientate them to reach others was not required, as their excitement at discovering their Messiah, was sufficient impetus for them to passionately testify about Him to others; relational intimacy with God remains the basis for our obedience to Him. Hence, even the threat of death by their Roman persecutors later on, did not make them recant or deny their courageous faith. Jesus’ self-revelation to Nathaniel caps it all, when He says that He is the One who will bring us back to God (Jn 1:51); the process of reconciliation with God had begun as He stood before sinful man as a precursor of a redemptive analogy of the ‘new man’ in Christ.