This is the first sermon in the ‘Path of Discipleship’ series and will lay the groundwork for what is to follow. The idea is that Jesus doesn’t call us simply to sign up for an idea, subscribe to a philosophy or join a club. Rather, he invites us to be disciples. The word ‘disciple’ today may be unfamiliar to us apart from its use in church, but in the times of Jesus it was commonplace. It simply means ‘learner’ or ‘apprentice’, and it was common for religious leaders and public figures to take on ‘disciples’ who would be taught to walk in the ways of the master. This is the invitation that Jesus extends to us, and in the series we will explore what this involves.
Bible Texts: Mark 1:16-19, Mark 2:13-14, Mark 8:34
These three short passages from Mark’s gospel all contain the same instruction: ‘Follow Me’. From gathering his first disciples in Simon and Andrew, to then adding Levi to the team, and ultimately expanding the invitation to any who would respond, Jesus’ call was simply to follow him. For the original hearers, this would have been a very practical thing. Jesus was an itinerant preacher touring the towns and villages of Israel, ultimately heading to Jerusalem and the cross. Being his disciple literally meant leaving life behind and following him around wherever he went. It is similar to the Old Testament Israelites following the pillar of cloud and fire through the wilderness. Where it went, they went. and yet the idea of ‘following’ is a very apt metaphor for what it is to be a disciple today. It is more than just being part of a church of claiming to be Christian. Following Jesus means being with him, becoming like him and doing what he did.
Be With Jesus: This is the most basic component of the instruction to follow. Jesus wanted these disciples to be with him and get to know him. It is through spending time with Jesus that we are shaped and formed, that we learn to truly know him and that we are empowered to do the things that he calls us to do. We prioritise being with Jesus today through the spiritual disciplines, which include things like prayer, fasting, studying scripture, Sabbath and much more.
Become Like Jesus: When Jesus asked the fishermen to drop their nets, he followed it by saying, “I will make you fishers of men.” The specifics of this will be picked up in the next point, but here we see a promise of Jesus to form them. Walking with Jesus means learning and being transformed to look like him. This affects our thoughts, words, attitudes and practices. The life of following Jesus is a life of constantly being remade in his image as we hear his voice and respond.
Do What Jesus Did: Jesus promised to make the disciples fishers of men. We see this in the Levi story as he invites Jesus into his network of relationships, and even more so as the gospels progress and the disciples are sent out two by two to preach the gospel and heal the sick, just like Jesus had been doing himself. The apprentices are stepping into the shoes of the master.