“When Jesus had finished saying these things the crowds were amazed at His teaching because He taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law” (Mt. 7:28-29).
The crowds of people following Jesus were amazed at His teaching, for He taught as a Spokesman from God—not as the teachers of His time who were simply reflecting the authority of the Law. Jesus had just demonstrated the inadequacies of the Pharisees’ religious system. The righteousness they knew was not sufficient for entering His kingdom.
Like the Jewish rabbis, Jesus was gathering His own group of disciples and was training them. We are reminded of His words to Simon and Andrew in Mark 1: “Follow Me.” It was a simple phrase, yet one loaded with meaning. When Jesus called the twelve disciples (and many others who followed Him during His earthly ministry), His command demanded a response. In His call to discipleship, Jesus challenged the disciples to three things.
First, Jesus challenged the disciples to live with Him. The call “Follow Me” had a very real physical application. Jesus did not say these words and then walk away never to be seen by the disciples again. He expected them to leave what they were doing in order to physically walk after Him.
For three years after this call the twelve disciples lived with Jesus. They travelled to many different places with Him, seeking food and shelter in a host of ways. They saw Jesus in the morning when He got up and at night when He laid down. They watched Him pray, heal, preach, and teach. They observed Jesus in His dealings with difficult people. Through all of their experiences with Him, they learned that Jesus’ lifestyle was radically different from the one they had learned from birth. They were challenged to live a new life.
Second, Jesus challenged the disciples to learn how to live as His disciples. This new life did not come easily to them. They were naturally brash, selfish, and uncaring. Jesus had to teach them to be gentle, giving, and compassionate. On many occasions, He took the disciples aside in order to instruct them. When He told parables, He would explain the meaning to them after the crowds had departed. The disciples were often as “deaf” as the crowds when it came to understanding parables. Jesus asked questions of them, taught them, admonished them, prodded them to take steps of faith, nurtured them, and loved them.
Theirs was a special relationship that went much deeper than the one Jesus had with the crowds that followed Him for two reasons: First, Jesus had committed Himself to the disciples in every way. He made Himself accessible to them and confided in them. He had great expectations for them and occasionally showed frustration with them. You might recall the time the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus asleep in the boat when a great storm came. Jesus chided them for their lack of faith. Jesus had committed Himself to His disciples, so He had great expectations of them.
Second, theirs was a unique relationship because the disciples were committed to Jesus in return. They had a growing love for Christ, and a desire to be obedient and loyal in everything. At times, they struggled with their faith, sin, and weaknesses, but they wanted to be faithful. They loved Jesus and were willing to give up everything (eventually most of them even gave up their lives) for this Man from Galilee.
Third, Jesus challenged the disciples to prepare others to hear the Good News. One of the marks of good students is they are able to do what the teacher has instructed them to do—even when the teacher is not present. Knowing this, Christ trained His disciples by encouraging them to take steps of faith on their own.
As the disciples travelled with Jesus, they spent most of their time observing their Master at work. Then, when they were ready, Jesus sent them out two-by-two to prepare towns for His coming. The disciples preached as they had seen Jesus preach. They sought faithful God-fearing people in the towns as Jesus had done. They healed the sick and comforted the bereaved as Jesus did. They learned what ministry was all about by spending time with Jesus and imitating their Master.
In what ways is our disciple-making like that of Jesus? In what ways is it different?