Discipleship

Matthew 8:18-23, NLT

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

21 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

INTRODUCTION

This passage reminds me of another in Luke 20 where the Scribe comes to trick Jesus with a question on taxes. He approached Jesus with what he thought was flattery but you and I know that it is true…this is what he said…Teacher, we know that you’re honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don’t pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. {Luke 20:21, Msg.} Whoever this Jew was, he got it right: Jesus was honest and straightforward and He did not pander to anyone. In other words, He did not kiss up, did not try to please of appease but told the truth in love. This brief story concerns the cost of discipleship. I do believe that Jesus wants followers. He commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Why would Jesus command us to make disciples if He does not want disciples? At first glance, you would assume by the tone of the text that Jesus is discouraging discipleship but actually He is just being thoroughly honest.

Three things you need to be a disciple…

  1. YOU NEED TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY. If you will look carefully at the text, you will notice that the Scribe addresses Jesus as “Teacher” or Rabbi. Some translate it master: the Greek word is didaskalos which means teacher. You will also note that the person referred to as one of His disciples addressed Him as LORD {kyrios} which means he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing;  the owner; one who has control of the person, or as in the state, a person’s sovereign. As you can clearly see, there is a huge difference between acknowledging Jesus as Teacher and acknowledging Him as LORD. Long story short…If Jesus is not your LORD, you are not His disciple. Jesus must be more to you than a good man or a good teacher. Before becoming His disciple, we have to come to know Him as Savior and LORD.
  2. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT DISCIPLESHIP CALLS FOR COMMITMENT. Jesus said in Matthew 16…“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus told the Scribe…”Foxes have dens and birds have nest but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.” Jesus had a headquarters in Capernaum of Galilee but He wasn’t there much. His mission demanded that He be on the move. After He left Nazareth, He literally had no home. He simply wants the young man to think this thing through: is he really ready to surrender his life to Christ. Jesus also said in Matthew 16…If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Was this young Scribe ready to give up his life and lose it for Christ sake. Jesus is not trying to discourage him but He does want him to count the cost. Jesus is not glorified by short-term disciples. He wants those who will endure the hardships of discipleship. He wants those who stick with Him to the bitter end which for the believer is the sweet beginning. We have all seen these “Flash in the pan” disciples: they do more harm than good. Jesus honestly calls for honest commitment or surrender.
  3. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT JESUS MUST BE PREEMINENT IS ALL THINGS. Jesus must come first. The disciple said, “I will follow You but first let me bury my father.” It is doubtful that the boys father is actually dead and the funeral is in a day or two. In Jewish life, the eldest son had an obligation to take care of his father. The young man is probably telling Jesus, “I want to be your follower someday but first I must fulfill my family obligation.” Jesus answer was no, “You let the dead bury the dead.” I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant but for years I have assumed that this was a reference to those who were not called to be disciples. This boy probably had siblings that could take care of his father. Some think it is a reference to the unregenerate…unsaved people can take care of their parents. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant, perhaps not but one thing is sure: when He calls we lay everything aside and follow. Jesus becomes our life. He is our LORD, our Sovereign and we are at His bidding.

Personal Testimony

I struggled with this when God called me to preach. I was not a model child. I was a bit on the rebellious side and got into a little mischief to boot. I didn’t really begin to appreciate my parents until I was an older teenager and then God called me to preach and I left and never returned to live among my folks. Forty years ago, June and I packed up for New Orleans and Danville is as close as we’ve been to home since. I missed most of Mother and Daddy’s retirement years because I was away, yet I knew and they knew that God had called me away. Neither of my parents ever questioned my loyalties. They knew that I loved them but my ultimate commitment was to Jesus. In the early years, I thought I was making this huge sacrifice but I don’t feel that way anymore. Life is short here on earth and I am glad that by His grace, I chose to serve Him. I always comforted myself with the thought that in heaven, I would not be restrained by time and there I could enjoy my parents. I don’t think my parents thought that my following Christ meant that I loved them less. I’m not going to say that I was the greatest son in the world because that is not true, I know several that will put me in the shade. I have one friend who calls or checks on his mother everyday and I was not that good of a son but I did try to show my parents that I loved them.

I am trying to say two things: [1] I don’t regret following Jesus although it did mean living a part from my precious parents. I was blessed with six siblings who could help them when I was not available and I am thankful. I sure it would have been tough had I been the only child. [2] I don’t feel like I’ve made a sacrifice at all. Ten, perhaps fifteen; most definitely thirty years ago I would have played my little violin…poor pitiful Bro. Jack, he gave up so much to follow Jesus; now I am ashamed that I ever thought such cockamamie thoughts. Serving Christ has been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. I have seen things and heard things that I would not have dreamed would happen in this world. I could not have sat down and dreamed up a better life. To think that as a boy, I wanted to be the next Johnny Unitas. I wake up with bed sweats when I dream about that now. Can you imagine being chased by a man that is 6’8″ and weights 380 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. God is good and I have no regrets about spending a life time in His Son’s service. Thank You Jesus!

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