The disciples carefully watched everything Jesus did. They shadowed Jesus as He travelled from town to town, teaching and healing those who were sick. Then, they helped Him feed the hungry by passing out the loaves and fish. They served together with Jesus, side by side. But the day finally came when the only way they could keep learning was to go out and serve on their own, but Jesus kept an eye on them, offering guidance, answering questions, and celebrating their victories. He was preparing them for the day they truly would serve without Him, continuing his work of sharing the Kingdom after Jesus returned to His Father in Heaven. We, as disciples, learn to follow Jesus and take our place in God’s Plan the same way.
A disciple is an apprentice – someone who is learning from Jesus how to live the life He wants us to live. Unless we are apprenticed to Jesus we cannot live out the mission and calling that Jesus gave us. We have to be disciples if we want to make disciples. We can’t bring others to a place of being apprenticed to Jesus if we ourselves aren’t apprenticed to Jesus. But if we are disciples of Jesus, progressively becoming like Him in thought, word, and actions, we will live out our calling. The question we haven’t answered is, “So what do we actually do if we want to be disciples of Jesus?” After all, being a disciple of Jesus has got to be more than a vague spiritual feeling. Being a disciple has to be more than just trying harder. Bill Hull describes how Jesus transformed these raw recruits into mature disciples. According to Hull, these are the five hallmarks of a disciple in training:
1. A disciple submits to a teacher who teaches how to follow Jesus.
2. A disciple learns the words of Jesus.
3. A disciple learns Jesus’ way of ministry.
4. A disciple imitates Jesus’ life and character.
5. A disciple finds and teaches other disciples who also follow Jesus.”
Being apprenticed to Jesus is a regular pattern of every day life. We take His direction, doing things Jesus’ way. We obey His commands and instructions, and follow His example. We do what Jesus did…and Jesus did a lot of things:
Jesus fed hungry people.
Jesus comforted hurting people.
Jesus welcomed children.
Jesus never allowed violence.
Jesus confronted religious hypocrisy.
Jesus put kindness and compassion above all else.
Jesus stayed in constant contact with the Father through prayer.
Jesus taught others to pray.
Jesus talked with an outcast, foreign woman.
Jesus spent time talking with enemies as well as with friends.
Jesus forgave those who harmed Him.
Jesus obeyed the Father’s will even when it hurt.
Jesus is patient with the ignorant.
Jesus met people where they were.
Jesus spoke truth to those in power to defend those who had no power.
Jesus trusted the Father despite His fear.
Jesus treats us better than we deserve.
Jesus got his hands dirty touching the poor and the ill.
Jesus accepted suffering and struggle as part of God’s work.
Jesus challenges us to change.
Jesus taught others to follow God.
Jesus healed the sick.
Jesus comforted the broken hearted.
Jesus resisted temptation.
Jesus invited others to join Him in His ministry.
Jesus shared the good news with as many people as possible.
Jesus kept moving around.
Jesus gave to the poor and needy.
Jesus was baptized.
Jesus knew the Father’s purpose for his life.
Jesus recognized and complimented people for their faith.
Jesus confronted and commanded demons.
Jesus forgave sins.
Jesus accepted even the most unacceptable people.
Jesus forgave the unforgivable.
This goes much deeper than just doing what we see Jesus doing. A parrot can mimic speech, but it doesn’t know what it is saying. We can simply mimic the actions of Jesus and it will be of great benefit to the world, but Jesus is looking for more than that. We are not parrots or robots. We are disciples who love God with all our heart, MIND, soul, and strength. We can be smart about the things of God and make some important decisions in situations Jesus never mentioned. By imitating the life of Jesus, and thanks to the Holy Spirit, we develop the character and the mind of Christ. That means we begin to think like Jesus thinks and that’s good, because we will find ourselves in all kinds of situations that Jesus never faced. How would Jesus respond to nuclear weapons, Internet pornography or global terrorism? There are no stories in the gospels where Jesus deals directly with these things, so there are no concrete teachings for us to follow. How do we know what to do?
This where character comes in. Jesus healed sick people because Jesus is compassionate. He shared everything He had with anyone who needed it because He was generous. Not only that, he was meticulously unselfish, seeing a fascination with pleasing ourselves as the source of all sin. These qualities explain a lot of the decisions Jesus made. The better we understand and develop a Christ-like character, the easier it becomes to confidently respond with Christ-like clarity to the situations that are shrouded in shades of grey. Because Jesus is compassionate, we will choose to make time for people who are struggling and help them any way we can. Because Jesus refused violence, we will choose to forgive our enemies and love them instead of retaliate. Because Jesus valued and defended the poor and powerless, the poor will be a central concern in our lives and ministry together. But these choices do not come naturally to us. They must be learned, practiced, and encouraged in others. We learn it best the way the Twelve learned it: in a group of fellow disciples led by a mature teacher.