All scriptures are taken from the ESV. The full text of this book can be found at about.me/jeremydillon
DAY 3: THE LEADER AS DISCIPLE Mark 1:12-2
My Father, ‘Charlie’ Dillon as he is affectionately known by many, is a great Sports Coach. An avid sportsman from a young age, he recently ran a fun run for charity at the age of 79, in which he finished the 5km ahead of two-thirds of the pack. 20 years ago, he was approached by the Cricket Federation for People with Disabilities (CFPD for short) to help develop young cricketers. A National Cricket coach himself, Dad took on the role, and soon found that this job wouldn’t be an easy one. Working with disabilities can be hard in whatever context, but he persevered, spending many hours teaching them how to hold the bat straight, or how to throw a ball properly. He has been rewarded by seeing those same players go on to represent their country at a National level. Like my Dad, Jesus was a great ‘Coach’ of others, despite the many struggles he went through with them. Today, we’re going to explore what made Jesus such a great ‘disciple maker’.
1) Jesus was a DISCIPLE HIMSELF. The Bible clearly says that Jesus and the Father are one (John 14:20), and that He would never do anything that the Father had not commanded (John 5:19). Like a loyal soldier, Jesus would go where His Father would say, and in His time. This would often bemuse people, including His own family.
When Christ started to acquire a following, His brothers implored him to go ‘national’ with His ministry, but He wouldn’t (John 7:3). In Acts, Paul and his companions wish to travel into Asia Minor, and other parts of what we call Turkey, but the Spirit stopped them (Acts 16:6). What happens next? Paul has a dream where he sees a man from Macedonia (Greece) beckon him to come minister to them (Acts 16:9). The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
2) Jesus inspires us with a VISION. In verse 16, we see Jesus walking by the Sea of Galilee. He calls Simon and Andrew, two fisherman, and also James and John using just two words: Follow Me. Indeed, Peter later says to Jesus that they have given up everything to follow Him (Mark 10:28). This isn’t a call to attend a meeting, or to subscribe to a website. It is the call to unite ourselves with a person, and to do what he does. It’s the same with marriage. I remember hearing a Canadian preacher once declare that no woman will follow a man who is nothing more than a ‘parked car’. He told us to get a vision that she will follow, which certainly made me laugh. Following Jesus is not about comfort, but about sacrifice. Notice what happens with James and John. They are called out from their Father’s business to serve Jesus’ family business of becoming fishers of men. Like many in Vietnam, they were expected to carry on the traditions of others, but chose to sacrifice their lives to follow Jesus. This is true bravery.
Today, many are looking for purpose in their lives. People stuck in dead-end jobs, frustrating relationships, and hopeless situations. Jesus inspires us to dream of something better. For so many, life is boring, but Jesus says that He has come to bring them life to the full (John 10:10). Does this mean constant partying, or an easy existence? No, but it does mean an adventure with God, who can transform our lives into something more.
3) Jesus’ AUTHORITY came from INTIMACY with God. Not only does Jesus inspire His immediate followers, but He inspires those in the Synagogues too, both with His teaching, but also with His ability to cast out demons. This ability to inspire people with His message comes directly from His intimacy with His Father. He is an Ambassador for the Kingdom. What does that mean? It means that just as a Prime Minister or President or Monarch sends an envoy to speak on their behalf to another country, He has the authority to speak for His Father. He forgives sins, commands storms, and speaks for God, because He is God, and has spent time with God. Paul says that we are Christ’s Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), as if He God Himself were making His appeal to the human race through us personally.
To be an Ambassador of Christ means to be a disciple of Christ. To be a disciple of Christ means to imitate what He says and does because we have seen His example. Therefore, I would argue that noone has the right to speak for God without first listening to what He is saying. The prophets of Jeremiah’s day prophesied falsely when they told the people that all was well in the land (Jeremiah 28:15). Jeremiah preached the truth, despite his unpopular message. He was hated, but had God’s authority. Popular opinion is not a sign of God’s anointing. For us as believers, as in verses 22 & 27, spending time with our Heavenly Father in His Word and in prayer is the most important time we have during the day, because then we teach with authority. It is through this time we get to know His heart, and the things He is passionate about.
In Acts 4, the Pharisees take note that the Apostles ‘had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). They knew them, and what they stood before, and despite being unlearned men, the presence of God was with them as they boldly proclaimed the resurrection. Why? Because they were witnesses of it (Acts 1:22). They had heard, and they had seen, because when Jesus was raised to life, He continued to teach them things about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). However, like any top athlete, there is only so much we can do on the training ground. We are called to real life, and Jesus, on leaving the Jordan, and later the Synagogue, is confronted by hell’s finest.
Following God is costly, as many of us discover soon after we become Christians. For me, it was the challenge of being the first member of my family to accept Christ, but for others it may be different. As Jesus showed, being faithful to the Word of God is more important than being loved by people. A servant is not above his master (Matthew 10:24). If they insult us, it’s because He was insulted. Immediately after His baptism, and what would be quite a high point in Jesus’ ministry, He is sent by the Spirit into the Wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (notice He is not sent by the devil, but by God, and for God’s purposes). This doesn’t make sense to us in the natural, but to be a disciple is to be faithful to God’s purpose in the midst of adversity, and to allow that adversity to help draw us closer to God, as muscle is built in the gym. God shows us His love through chastening and discipline (Hebrews 12:6), and here, Jesus’ love of the Bible will strengthen His resolve, even when, at His lowest point physically (Jesus hasn’t eaten in 40 days, remember?), He is tempted to satisfy His earthly needs and desires for fulfilment and power.
As we meditate on God, we take on His strength (Isaiah 40:31). Of course, the way of God is always going to be hard, but ultimately worth it. He knows the authority given Him from above over the power of evil, and also the affirmation that comes from being God’s Chosen Son, as we saw in the last chapter. The friendship of God is given to those who Fear Him with awe (Psalm 25:14). Why does Jesus do so well? Ultimately, discipleship is about imitating God, as dear children (Ephesians 5). In fact, the word Disciple in Greek refers to someone who imitates another’s work. In Thomas A Kempis’ famous book ‘The Imitation of Christ, he says:
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, save to love God, and Him only to serve. That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.” (Thomas A Kempis- The Imitation of Christ).
One man who knew the experience of serving the vanity of this world was Solomon, the great King of Israel, who in some ways ‘imitated’ his own father David by chasing other women (1 Kings 11:1). The Bible says that he loved them so much that he gave himself to their gods. He chose to allow them to ‘disciple’ him in the ways of idols like Ashteroth and Molech (verses 5-7) when he should have been a devoted follower of the One True God Yahweh. At the end of his life, he laments his actions in the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:1-3).
To conclude today’s study then, the reason Jesus was so great at discipling others, I believe, is because He Himself was a great disciple, and a Follower of God. He always does as the Father does. He never deviates from the course, even when He is tempted. Is this a blind faith? No, it is because He knows the goodness of His Father, and that temporary solutions to life’s problems will not in the long run provide long term change. Remember the words of Christ in John 17: And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:5). This is someone who trusts because He knows that all outside is mere vanity. Jesus chooses the cross, because it pleases the Father. A disciple wants to please His Master, so let us do the same.
1) Who are the people you try and imitate? Are there any negative influences that you need to surrender?
2) What does it mean to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28)?
3) Would you consider yourself to be a disciple?
4) How can you become a more devoted disciple of Jesus?