Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples”. This was Jesus’ final command to his disciples as He left this earth to return to the Father in heaven—five simple words that form one small statement. But this final command of Jesus summarizes His purpose for those who call themselves His followers, His disciples, those who wish to learn from Him. While this commission from Jesus has been performed for millennia since the ascension, it is often vague or misunderstood so that those who believe themselves to be “making disciples” really are not. So what does a disciple-maker do? What does it look like for one to make a disciple? In order to make disciples one must know what a disciple is, what the characteristics of a disciple are, how Jesus made disciples, how one will make disciples, as well as what success will look like in making disciples. This series will engage those topics starting with what a disciple is. We will examine a disciple as a follower, learner, and apprentice today.
First, a disciple is a follower. In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus calls His first disciples. In this passage Jesus is simply walking beside the Sea when He spots some fishermen out at sea. In the midst of His walk Jesus calls to these fishermen and gives one simple command, “Follow Me!”. The first thing Jesus does is give a call to follow. He simply wants the men to get to shore, get out of the boat, and follow Him. But He does not stop there. Jesus gives them a charge for their future as well. He tells them He will make them fishers of men. Jesus does not just call people to follow Him, but calls them to a purpose. And how do the fishermen respond? They follow Him…immediately. All of the men leave their nets, their boats, and fathers to follow Jesus. Disciples follow Jesus.
Second, a disciple is a learner. In Matthew 5-7, after calling the fishermen to follow Him, Jesus proceeds to teach them. In 5:1-16 Jesus first teaches the disciples about themselves. He teaches them what a disciple looks like. He instructs them on what a follower of His really is like. Then in 5:17-20, Jesus continues by teaching them who He is and what He came to do. Christ informs them that He is not just a man keeping the Law, but the One who came to fulfill it. He is teaching them about His person and purpose. Finally, in 5:21-7:27 Jesus teaches the disciples about righteous living. The Son of God walks through seemingly every specific about righteous living for a follower of Jesus Christ. Disciples learn from Jesus.
Third, a disciple is an apprentice. In Matthew 14-15, Jesus enlists His disciples as fellow servants. In chapter 14 Jesus and the disciples are in the midst of 5,000 men and Jesus calls the disciples to feed the crowd. However, it is in this situation that the disciples not only recognize their lack of supply, but show their ignorance of the supplier. So Jesus provides a miraculous meal and has the disciples apprentice Him in serving the meal. As the next chapter unfolds, Matthew 15 records a similar situation, except this time the crowd is smaller and the supply larger. Unfortunately, again the disciples do not understand the supplier that they have before them. But before the end of the day, Jesus does empower them to serve yet again. So we see in these two chapters that Jesus’ followers actually serve alongside Him in ministry. Disciples are apprentices of Jesus.
In conclusion, while understanding that a disciple follows, learns, and is an apprentice is important, there is one foundation to every disciple of Jesus. This foundation is the confession Peter utters in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. What Peter was uttering was divine revelation concerning the person of Jesus Christ. Peter was confessing Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. He was recognizing Jesus as the only God-man able to save him from his sin. This is the foundational belief of every disciple of Jesus Christ. Have you confessed this? Do you believe this? If so, how can you follow Jesus this week? How can you learn from Him? How will you serve as an apprentice of His?
Make sure to stop by next week where this series on discipleship continues with the internal characteristics of a disciple!