Make disciples

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in

heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing

them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching

them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you

always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We know this Scripture passage well. We quote it all the time. But do we truly

know it?

It doesn’t say, “Go and make converts to your way of thinking”. It doesn’t say,

“Go and invite people to your church”. It doesn’t say, “Go hand out tracts on the

street”. Jesus says, “Go and make disciples.” What is a disciple?

There are many ways to describe a disciple. Many books have been written on

discipleship. Jesus described a disciple in this way: “A disciple is not above his

teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like

his teacher, and a servant like his master.” (Matthew 10:24-25a) That’s pretty

clear: a disciple of Jesus will be like Jesus. Easily said, but who can achieve it?

In a single paragraph in the Gospel of Luke Jesus sets out a few basic

requirements for a disciple. He is very specific; He says, “if you don’t do these

things you cannot be my disciple”:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and

children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

(Luke 14:26)

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

(Luke 14:27)

Then, after a few verses describing the need to evaluate the cost of any task

before you start it, He sums up the cost of being a disciple:

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

(Luke 14:33)

Each of these statements are worthy of hours of teaching, but for this

introduction let us simplify. Jesus’ first statement says that our love for Jesus

must be so great, so deep, that our love for our family and even our selves looks

like hate in comparison. His second statement says we must bear all manner of

lies about us, injustice done to us, and humiliation in front of others. His last

statement says we must be willing to give up everything: not just fame and

fortune, but popularity, friends, the comforts of life, even life itself in order to be

a disciple.

This is Christian maturity, but who has seen it in real life? Far too many Christians

aren’t interested in becoming disciples, but merely fulfilling the absolute

minimum requirements for getting into heaven. We hear it in questions like, “Can

I lose my salvation?” (or, to state it differently, “How much sin am I allowed

before losing my salvation? I want to sin, but not too much.”) We hear it in

statements like, “There’s no tithing in the new covenant; that’s part of the law,

and we are not under the law.”

Jesus didn’t some to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The law said

the first ten percent belonged to God, and Jesus says to forsake all we have –

everything belongs to God. We try to live at the very boundary between “saved”

and “lost”, always staying on the “saved” side, but Jesus is calling us to live and

laugh and love in union with Him at the very center of the kingdom of God.

Disciples live in this heartland, and the thought of losing their salvation never

comes to mind.

Does this mean that inviting people to our church is wrong, or handing out tracts

on the street is wrong? Not at all! But if our goal is only to get people inside the

door of our church – even as members – that’s not a goal, but just an initial step

in a life-changing journey. That step supplies the necessary raw material, but the

hardest and most rewarding part comes next: Make disciples!

Word of God: speak!

Non nobis Domine+

by Fr. Dana Jackson

© 2020


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