The Bible makes it clear that Jesus desires for us to be His Disciples. What exactly does this mean? Are we prepared to answer this call? There are many Bible verses that give us directions as disciples but today I want to focus on Matthew 16: 24-27.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”
Before going further what does “discipleship mean?” Wikipedia says this: The term “disciple” is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman), coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning a learner; while the more common English word is student. I don’t know about you, but I long to be a pupil, an apprentice, alearner and astudent of Jesus Christ.
I realize those of you reading this come from many Christian denominations but I think this description of discipleship in the Catholic Catechism makes clear what we are called to. “The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it: All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks. Service of and witness to the faith is necessary for salvation: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1816)
Okay, with both the etymology of the word “discipleship” and the catechetical definition as our under-pinning, let’s go back to review Mt. 16: 24-37.
In this passage Jesus tells us what we must do to be His disciple. In verses 24, 25 and 26 He gives us three key points to follow and in verse 27 He tells us what the results of following or, God forbid, not following these 3 points will be. Let’s examine each key point.
In verse 24 Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Look at this simple sentence. In only sixteen words, Jesus lays out the road map for the faith journey of our entire life. There are just three markers to find the way – self-denial, the cross and follow Him. However, with every journey the path must begin with the first step. And what a first step it is. How then are we to “deny ourselves?” Are we truly willing to drop the outward persona that has been so carefully crafted? Are we willing to allow light to shine on the inward darkness we all harbor and cling to? Our journey will not end with Him if we will not let it begin here.
Lose my life:
In verse 25 we read; “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Wow, do we really have to lose our life as the great martyrs did? The short answer is – well maybe. But before we are overwhelmed with those implications, how about we look at the life we live every day. Maybe it’s time we lose a life consumed with regrets. Or we lose a life focused on grudges for those wrongs done to us, or on “evening the score” with our enemies. Perhaps, maybe it’s time to lose the most debilitating life of all – a life lived in fear; fear of the future, fear of the next stranger we meet, fear of seeing ourselves for whom we really have become. Isn’t it time to lose this life for His sake?
Don’t chase after the things of this world:
Verse 26 says this: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” During our normal day, what do we think about the most? It has been said that we become what we ponder. Take some time this week and assess where your thoughts reside. What have I gained and what have I lost? Look beyond just the material wealth that we normally associate with this verse. Look at the rationalizations we make to justify our “positions.” Think about the lustful, sly looks we give toward someone else or the plotting and manipulation to get “what we’ve earned,” or to pronounce sentence on those who will get “what’s coming to them.” Think about the little transgressions we can pull off because no one is looking or the neglect we exact toward someone in need because we’ve earned the right to sit on our thrones. What are we thinking about? This becomes the treasure we seek. Is this the treasure we truly desire?
Finally we are told our conduct matters:
The wrap up, here is verse 27: “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” Renowned Christian teacher and writer Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.” There is something deeper happening to us when we are washed clean by Grace. Everything changes. Our eyes are opened and the path is made clear. But will we walk it? Will we “make the effort” as Willard states? Grace does not excuse or marginalize our efforts and conduct. Grace exults everything for the glory of God. And Grace will ultimately call into account all that we are and all that we do.
We must commit ourselves to work faithfully at following these four points. We all know at times we have stumbled, but we also know our God is merciful. We must remember he is also just. He tells us we are saved by His grace, but He also tells us that we will be repaid according to our conduct. I am aware there are things in my life that I can work on and there are areas for improvement. I’ll bet the same is true in your life too.
Our world is desperately in need of true disciples. Let us take up our cross and follow Him.
Here are some additional biblical verses you might want to read to gain additional insight into your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ: Luke 14:26, Luke 14:27, Luke 14:33, John 8:31, and John 13:34-35
Lord, I want to be your disciple. Give me the strength to deny myself, accept whatever cross in lifeI haveand take it up for your sake and grant that Imay follow in your path. Amen.