Discipleship: What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple of Jesus?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

At the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry he commissioned his followers to carry on his work; the work of making disciples. This commissioning was not just to the eleven disciples, or even to his larger group of followers. But it is given to his church. It is our responsibility today to make disciples of all nations. But just what is a disciple? It is important to know just what it is that we are commissioned to produce. Without that knowledge, how can we know if we are being faithful to his commission or not?

Defining Disciple

The word used in the New Testament for disciple is mathētēs. According to William Mounce this word means learner or disciple and is a technical term for the followers of Jesus. It is also used for the followers of John the Baptist, for Moses, and for the Pharisees.

In the New Testament world a disciple was one who would join themselves to a rabbi, or teacher, becoming a part of his school. This involved leaving behind the life they had known and spending all of their time with their rabbi. In a sense, it was like going off to college. The difference being that you had one teacher rather than many.

Being a disciple was not an end in itself. A disciple was ultimately expected to be a rabbi himself, teaching other disciples the things they had learned, and were learning, from their rabbi.

Not a Fan

A fan is someone who sits on the sideline and cheers on their team or favorite performer. They may invest some time in learning about their team or performer. And they may invest in purchasing some of the appropriate swag so that they can fly the team colors. But the fan watches the performance from the stands. They do not get directly involved. And if their team disappoints them, they may switch their allegiance to one they find more satisfying.

But a disciple is not a passive observer, or consumer of entertainment. A disciple is much more than a fan. He is an active part of the team. He invests time in preparing to play. In learning the play book. And in practicing with the team. And on game day he is suited up and ready to play, performing whatever role he has been given.

Being a Disciple of Jesus

Jesus called twelve men to follow him and be his disciples. These men left behind their nets, their tax booth, and whatever else they did before. And they followed Jesus wherever he went, learning all he had to teach them. And, in the end, he told them in turn to make disciples.

So, were these twelve men unique as disciples? Or are they examples to us concerning what discipleship means? I believe that the latter is true. They are examples to us of what discipleship is all about.

Discipleship is a term that we often give lip service to. But all too often we substitute being a fan of Jesus for being a disciple of Jesus. But, as Christians, we are not called to sit in our padded pews cheering on the worship team and preacher and paying our entrance fee. We are called to discipleship. To giving up the life we had. And following after Jesus, learning from him and becoming like him.

On Being a Disciple

So just what is involved in being a disciple? Many books have been written on the subject. And it is not likely that I will have anything unique to add to the subject. Nonetheless, it is my goal for with A Clay Jar to explore the life of a disciple of Jesus. What is involved in this life. And how can one be successful in the life of discipleship.

I enjoy learning and teaching theology. But discipleship is much more than just an intellectual exercise. It is my hope and prayer than these posts on A Clay Jar will be more than just reading material that might provide some intellectual stimulation. My prayer is that they will prove helpful to those who are interested in being disciples of Jesus rather than just fans.

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don’t miss any other posts. 

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