Arguably, one of the most personally intimidating verses in the Scripture is where Paul urges the Corinthian believers to “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). It has such a personal impact, not because I am from Corinth, or because it is a challenge to follow Paul (though it is!), but because I realize that every Christian leader is to say something similar to the flock—in other words, I realize that I too must say to you, “follow me as I follow Christ,” and the thought of urging others to “follow me” is truly intimidating.
Intimidating it might be, but it is also a marvelous portrayal of the Christian life—not simply Christian leadership, but the life of every follower of Jesus. To younger believers, to one another, to the world we say, “follow me! This is the way of Jesus.”
The notion of “following” is central to the biblical concept of a disciple. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow in His footsteps. It is not enough to agree with His teachings; not enough to admire Him; not enough to act like Him. Discipleship is following Him. To follow is to acknowledge that someone is ahead of you—you can’t follow Christ unless you are behind Him. For a prideful person, this is hard. To follow is to keep your eyes on the one ahead of you—you can’t follow Christ if you don’t watch Him. For an easily-distracted person, this is hard. To follow is to give yourself to another—you can’t follow Christ if you don’t submit to Him. For a selfish person, this is hard.
In some way, the three key Greek terms used in the Bible to describe a disciple of Jesus all encompass a characteristic of the follower:
mathatas—a learner, a scholar; one who accepts and embraces another’s teaching
akoluthea—a follower, an imitator; one who walks in the footsteps of another, with intimacy
apostolos—a messenger, a herald; one who obediently is sent with the authority of another
To be a disciple is to be a follower—one who learns, one who imitates, one who obeys.
Finally, to follow Jesus happens in a moment, and a lifetime of joy, struggle, peace, and challenge. Just like our salvation, our following Jesus engages every part of life. And, following is not just a daily struggle, it is also a daily joy and blessing. Discipleship is a life-long process, a life-encompassing process, and a life-giving process. I am excited to take this life-journey with you!
In preparation for worship on Sunday, read Matthew 28:16-20.
1. How do the notions of worship and doubt fit together here (vs. 17)? Is it odd to see doubt present at this point? Why would the author especially note this?
2. How does the assertion that all authority is given to Jesus (vs. 18) lead into the following sentences? What is it about His authority that prompts Jesus to the following commands?
3. Notice that Jesus’ command is that: a command. He does not preface things with modal inference—His is not a suggestion or option or possibility, but a command. What difference does this make? How would the passage read if we were to “try to make” disciples, or that we “should make” disciples?
4. List out all the verbs in verses 19-20. How do they relate to one another?
5. What is the connection/implication of the end of verse 20? Why does Jesus mention this at this point? Remember what follows… the ascension to the righthand of the Father.