Right through the gospels we see Jesus calling people to become His disciples. Jesus is not calling us to become devotees or just to follow Him for a while. Jesus is calling everyone to become His disciples. In order to become the disciple of Jesus, one should respond to the call wholeheartedly.
We see this call and response in the life of Mathew.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Mathew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. – Mt 9:9
What made Mathew become a disciple of Jesus is his response. Some other Bible translations use the word “immediately” Mathew got up and immediately and followed Jesus. The word “immediately” means without hesitation, a spontaneous response to the call. Thank God in those days there were no discernment retreats. Mathew did not tell Jesus, “please wait I will make a discernment retreat to know if you are really calling me.” Mathew wholeheartedly responded to the call of Jesus. This is very important for us to become disciples. All are called to become the disciples of Jesus. Discipleship is not optional! On the other hand a devotee is one who hears the call of God and does not respond to it.
In the Epistle of James the writer says “be doers of the word and not hears only.” A devotee is one who only hears the word of God and goes away and does nothing about it. A disciple is one who hears the Word and applies it to his life. James 1:22-25
Meaning of the term Disciple
The dictionary meaning for the word disciple means – Pupil, student, Learner. From this we can say that a disciple is a Pupil or student of the master. Like a Guru and sishya.
A Devotee is one who is one merely concerned about the externals. Not really concerned about change. They will go for all retreats, conventions, pilgrimages, adorations etc, but there is little or no change at all. Their life styles remain the same.
Who is a disciple?
For me a disciple IS ONE WHO FOLLOWS THE LIFE STYLE OF JESUS! In Mathew 10:25 Jesus is saying “it is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master.” A disciple is one who imitates the Master. Eph 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” When Jesus asked Mathew to “Follow Me”, he was calling Mathew to follow His lifestyle.. 1 Jn 2:6 “he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” This calls for a change of live style. This is what St. Paul meant in 2 Cor 5:17,
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.
The call of Jesus in the Gospels is to become a Disciple and not just a pious devotee.
What is discipleship?
Therefore if one wants to become a disciple and follow the life style of Jesus, there should be discipleship. What is then Discipleship? Discipleship is “Evangelising oneself in the Power of the Holy Spirit.” We need to open our lives to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, so that every area of our lives becomes like Christ. This is a very important aspect of a disciple.
The goal of discipleship
Then we can achieve the goal of discipleship of making Jesus the Lord of our lives for the rest of our lives.
How to become a disciple?
- LK 5:1-11
1 While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. 2 And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 7 they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.
Verse 3 Says “Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.”
Jesus wanted to teach Simon an important lesson. But He realized that Simon was the expert fisher man and He was the carpenter. The only way Simon would listen to Jesus was for Jesus to get into his boat. By doing this, Jesus was actually stepping into the life of Simon Peter. The only way Jesus will teach us His mysteries and the secrets of His Kingdom is by stepping into our lives the way He stepped into the life of Simon. Jesus will not teach us from outside of our lives. He wants to come in. Then he asked Simon to Put out the boat a short distance from the shore. A fisher man will tell you that fishes are caught in the deep and not in the shallow water.
Hence if we want to become His disciples two things are very important:
- Allow Jesus to step into your boat (LIFE)
- Allow Jesus to move you from shallow waters to deep waters
For this is happen we need ongoing formation:
- Systematic Teachings
This will bring about a NEW WAY OF LIFESTYLE!!
Fr. Tom Forrest says, “An ignorant preacher is more dangerous than sin!” It is formation that will take us from the shallow waters to the deep waters and make us disciples.
Who are not disciples?
- Crowds/multitudes don’t make disciples. In the days of Jesus large crowds and multitudes followed Him, but at the end of the day Jesus had only twelve. Disciples are made in small groups and not in large gatherings. Hence it is very important for us not to just look at numbers. Numbers don’t mean anything. Even Jesus could not do much with large crowds. Remember in the parable of the multiplication of loaves, Jesus said “you follow me not for who I am, but because I give you something to eat.” If we were present at that time, we too would have followed Jesus. We would have had breakfast, lunch and dinner free. Man wants his stomach to be full too. So sometimes we don’t know why they were following Jesus. Some followed Him, because He was a powerful preacher, some followed Him because of His healing and miracles, some followed Him because He gave them food to eat, maybe some followed Him because they liked His hair style! We never know. Friends, what motivated you to follow Jesus?
- Political parties/members of a club are not disciples. They are members of an organization. Discipleship is the commitment to follow a person i.e JESUS.
- Devotees who do not obey the Word of God.
How did the disciples respond to the call?
Read the following four passages of Scripture and find out for yourself.
- Matt 9:9-13
- Jn 1:35-39
- Matt 4:18-22
- Jn 1:43-45
If we want to become disciples, we need to wholeheartedly respond to Jesus. Both the call and response are important to make us His disciples.
Why does Jesus call us?
- To Be With Jesus: Mk 3:14 “He appointed twelve, that they might BE WITH HIM and he might send them forth to preach” A disciple is called primarily to be with His Master. Spending time with the Master and listening to Him is very essential for a disciple. In Lk 10:38-42 we see how Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him. How important it is for a disciple to safe guard his time of prayer with the Lord? Let us not imitate Martha. Jn 17:24 Jesus said “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with mewhere I am.”
- To Share the Good News: A disciple is called to share the good news. eg Mary our Mother. She went with haste to share the good news to Elizabeth. In the first decade of the Joyful Mysteries, the Annunciation is followed by the Visitation. This should happen to every disciple. Mother Teresa says Evangelization is to have Jesus in our hearts and then take HIM to the hearts of others!! Only a true disciple can do.
Pope John Paul in Ecclesia in Asia section 23 says “Mission is contemplative action and active contemplation. Therefore, a missionary who has no deep experience of God in prayer and contemplation will have little spiritual influence or missionary success.”
Purpose of the Call
- To reveal the Father: Jesus wants us to know the Father. It is important for a disciple to pray to the Father too. A disciple should have a Trinitarian Relationship, i.e to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. St. John’s gospel is called the revelation of the Father. The word father comes 108 times in the gospel.
- To bear fruits: Jesus calls us to be His disciples so that we can bear fruits. Gal 5:22,23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. A tree is known by its fruits!! In the life of a devotee, the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be absent.
- To share in His Cross: Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” A disciple is called to share in the sufferings of Christ. We are all called to carry our cross daily. It is important for a disciple to learn to endure suffering. A disciple is one who follows the life style of Jesus. Ecclesia in Asia section 49says “However important programmes of formation and strategies for evangelization may be, in the end it is martyrdom which reveals to the world the very essence of the Christian message. The word itself, ‘martyr’ means witness, and those who have shed their blood for Christ have borne the ultimate witness to the true value of the Gospel.”
A devotee will struggle with this teaching of Jesus.
God calls everyone to become His Disciple. We need to respond wholeheartedly to Him. A disciple is one who follows the life style of Jesus and this can happen when discipleship i.e evangelizing oneself takes place. This will help us to make Jesus the Lord of our lives for the rest of our lives.
A Disciple is one who has:
- J – Jesus first
- O – Others next
- Y – Yourself last
For a disciple, Jesus should always come first. Nothing else should take that place. Mathew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Others should come second. Christianity is others centred. We should be prepared to reach out to others, and then yourself last.