Who can be a disciple of Jesus?
We have looked at what a disciple was and why we should be calling disciples. We have seen that the call to disciple is not an option but a mandate, and looked at some examples of what happens when it is not done. We have I hope scratched the surface of what it means to be a disciple. We have discussed that we should be raising Gods children so that when they are old they will not depart. I hope we covered that we should be teaching them to eat solid food and how to walk out their salvation.
Today I want to pick from where we left off with that discussion and see who can be a disciple and how to reach and disciple them.
The who is really an easy question but one I always enjoy answering. I enjoy answering it because I think the Bible enjoys answering it. Some verses to name a few Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13, Romans 11:17, John 1:12, John 10:16, and others. These verses all echo the statement from Jesus in Matthew 11:28:
“Come to me all you, who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”
If you want to come to Jesus then you come. If you want forgiveness then you come, if you want to trade your sorrow for His joy then you come, if you want healing then you come. Come and not only receive Jesus come and be His disciple.
If we look back through Biblical history we see this constant reverberating message from God saying I am calling people who are not a people to be my people. Look at the longsuffering of God with the Canaanites, the forgiveness He offered to the people of Nineveh. Matthew starts his Gospel account with a genealogy and he is sure to include Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth all gentiles. Bathsheba may have been a Hittite but at bare minimum she is known for what? Cheating on her husband. God says over and over again, I want you.
If we look at the disciples Jesus called we can see from the start of His ministry on earth that is calling all people unto Himself. Here is Jesus’s starting lineup.
Peter, fisherman, Andrew fisherman, James the Elder, fisherman, John fisherman, Philip fisherman, Bartholomew (Nathanael) probably had some money and did not work, James the Lesser or Youner, Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, also known as Jude the troublemaker, Matthew (Levi), he was a publican or tax collector, Simon, the Zealot another troublemaker, Thomas Didymus aka the doubter, Judas Iscariot, the traitor.
Jesus choosing His team chose 5 fisherman, a socs, two troublemakers, a tax collector, a nobody, a doubter, and a traitor. I think it is safe for us to assume He will take anyone. On the cross He tells one of the two men that will be with Him in paradise. So I say again If you want to come to Jesus then you come.
It is not always easy to call disciples.
A mother went to wake her son for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on his door, he said, “I’m not going!” “Why not?” asked his mother. “I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “One, they don’t like me. Two, I don’t like them.” His mother replied, “I’ll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you’re 47 years old. Two, you’re the pastor!”
There are many different ways to go about fulfilling the Great Commision. There are different tactics (schools, feeding the poor, clothing, etc) we can take, differing opinions on the best way to fulfil it. Groups like Samaritan’s Purse, Gospel for Asia, Compassion International, and New Tribes just to name a few all these groups have different focuses and different methods but they all share a similar trait namely seeking, saving, and maturing Christians.
Because it is hard I sometimes wish it was called the minor commission, or the the little job, or even perhaps the if you get around to it commission, but instead God chose to place a major emphasis on us reaching and maturing people.
I often looked at the calling of the disciples as a single event almost like gym class. Jesus lined up everyone against a wall and said you, you, and you. However once again the Bible corrects my thinking and I see something different. When I look at the Biblical narrative I see something unexpected. I see something challenging.
I see five different types of disciples. Now at different times in peoples lives they can move from one stage or another and some actually cross over into different groups, but by and large you have five. With there being different groups different tactics need to be used to reach and teach them.
The first is a group I have called the Saved Seekers. John 1:35-39
I place John and Andrew in this category. These are typically your Christians who are saved and trying to grow. They are serving, ministering, and always on the hunt to do and learn more. They typically do not need a lot of guidance, but instead they need opportunity to use their gifts. They need someone to point them in the right direction someone to hold them accountable, someone to minister to them when they reach out for it, but for the most part they are ready to go batteries included born again men and women of God. These are those who seek out ways to grow. They are by far the easiest group of people and often the smallest and rarest to find. If you do happen to find one it is actually more likely they found you.
The next group I have dubbed Multistage Mullers
Peter is in this group all by his lonesome. Peter is usually in his own group if you notice. There is a lot that can be said about Peter, but for this lets just focus on what it took for Peter to become a disciple of Jesus. If you think Peter was just called and responded correctly then you have not paid attention to Peter’s life. Peter denied Christ, was rebuked by Jesus, fell asleep in the garden, and got scared and sank. Peter was not a model of active obedience at first. To see what it took to call Peter you need to look at John 1:40-42, Matthew 4:18-22 (Mark 1:16-20), and then Luke 5:1-11. If we read them we see that there was time in between these different events. Some people take time. For some you need to really get in there and work them like old clay. For some reason life has made them a little harder, a little rougher, a little more off. You need to add some water here and there and mix gently. You need to be easy and rough. You really have to work at with these people.
It starts in John 1:40-42 where Jesus just introduces Himself. The next event is Matthew 4:18-22/Mark 1:16-20 where Jesus tells Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and He will make them fishers of men. Then we have Luke 5:1-11 which occurs after Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and after Jesus teaches the fisherman to fish and Peter says to Jesus “Depart from me for I am a sinful man O Lord.” Peter finally got it. It was a good day.
Sometimes it takes time. Some people need a lot of coaching and encouragement. You need to be diligent with these people. They are not just jump in people, they are watch and see what happens people. They are not the entrepreneurial type. No they want to make sure it is the real deal before signing on. You need to be honest with them, they do not work well with flakey. But if you look at Peters life after the resurrection there was no doubt he was in. Peter died upside down on a cross. That is commitment and an understanding of what it means to follow Christ.
The next group I want to look at is the Willing Waiters.
This is the group I place Philip and Nathanael in. Specifically Philip but Nathanael is always there if Philip is. I think about the kid in the Incredibles who is always hanging out just waiting for something amazing. When it happens he is all excited and says “that was totally wicked.” Now I spend most of my time growing up in New England and I can tell you that few things are totally wicked. Jesus however is. Philip hanging out somewhere then Jesus comes along and says follow me, he does, and then tells his friend Nathanael about Jesus. Willing Waiters are no less devoted, no less connected, no less involved they just don’t jump at everything. They are careful about where they invest themselves. But when they’re in they are in. The most popular account has Philip being crucified upside down and still preaching. Make no mistake these folks are in to win it. We must realize that there are countless people sitting around waiting to follow the right thing, and there are countless “groups” and “causes” trying to get these people on board. We should be looking for these people because they are waiting for us.
The fourth group is called the Desperate Destitutes.
Matthew is quickly becoming one of my favorites. To call Matthew Jesus looked him in the eyes and said “Follow Me” as told Luke 5:27. Matthew did not need much convincing because he had no preconceived notion of self righteousness. Matthew knew how bad he was, and he was ripe for the picking. Matthew to me represents all the hurting people. All those that feel they need to get cleaned up to get right with God. Those who are very aware of their faults and failures. I was a Matthew. I knew how bad I was. Not proud of it but not unaware either. Matthew just needed an invitation. Some people just need an invitation. Then when they get it they are sold. They are dedicated. Think about Luke 7:47:
Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.
The thing about Matthews is they need to know they are accepted. They just need to know they are wanted. They need to be told and understand that they are part of the whomsoever that Jesus died for. They need to know that they can come to the cross just as they are. They then can become some of the most dedicated disciples you have ever seen. They will quickly become Saved Seekers.
I think it important to look at Luke 18:9-14. Remember that Matthew was a tax collector and tax collectors were hated by everyone. No one liked them. I think but cannot prove that Jesus told this parable for Matthew. To encourage him. Because the Desperate Destitute need a lot of encouraging in the beginning. You know what else I notice? That Matthew the author of a Gospel account does give us a retelling of this parable. That tells me he got it. I would imagine that when Jesus told this He looked right at Matthew and Matthew knew he was ok now.
Lastly I want to look at Apollos or the Faulty Fervent.
These people are a lot like Apollos in Acts 18:24-28 who understand portions of the Scriptures and are very passionate but miss certain aspects of the truth. These people are on fire for God and ready to run. The Bible literally uses the word hot (zeo) which is used to describe boiling water. These people love Jesus with all their heart and will drop the Gospel wherever they are but often times they are missing some important things. They need some Godly people like Aquila, and Priscilla to explain the way of God more accurately to them. You have to be very careful with these people to not put their fire out but to have it burning the right fuel. An important thing to note about some of these people is the thing they are usually missing is a little word called tact. Now I am not trying to say Apollos was missing that but that is something that is usually missing from these fine folks. They lack the ability to use tact and rightly divide the Word.
Some think that it might actually have been Apollos who wrote the book of Hebrews. Now whether or not that is true does not mean as much as the fact that he is thought of as the one who wrote it. He went from needing to be taught to being one who is assumed wrote an extremely important book. That should tell you what you need to know about these people.
We can see then that there are many types of people who can be discipled and that they can cross groups but the important thing is that we disciple them. That we spend time with them teaching them more accurately the things of God. We do this by spending time with them and inviting them into our lives.
We need to keep something in focus here. We need to remember that the purpose of this thing called Discipleship has only one purpose. It is not to grow a church, or to lay some shallow claim that we have built something special. No the purpose of this thing called discipleship is to see lives changed. It is to see hearts, lives, and minds changed by the power of Jesus. If that is not the point, if Jesus is not the point then all we are left with is building filled with empty vessels. We have to remember why we are doing it because it can be a thankless job. The cost to call them is high and the cost to be a disciple is high.
In the middle of the 19th century a Welsh missionary was working in India where he came across a village and was able by the grace of God to bring one of these men to Christ. That however is where the story turns. The villager was brought before the chief and told to renounce his new found faith. His response was was “I have decided to follow Jesus.” They pushed him further and threatened his family his response was “Though no one joins me still I will follow.” His wife was killed and as they executed him he sang “the cross before me the world behind me.” It is said that his faith led to the conversion of the chief and other villagers.
I close with this thought. He was only a disciple for a short time but changed the village and countless others because of his testimony. What can we do with no such threat hanging over our heads and the freedom to preach His name?
Just a thought,