He was the True Disciple, the embodiment of what God wanted men to be in every aspect of life. He was the perfect example of the ones our Lord Jesus called “disciples indeed.” The greatest and noblest of those among the servants of God were not fit to loosen His sandals, as John the Baptist said. No one can compare with Him in any area. Yet we are still called to face His example and pattern ourselves accordingly (1 John 2:6). Though He forever towers above us in every way, though He cannot be equaled, still His is the image to which we are to be conformed (Rom. 8:29). We are to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). That very God came in flesh as the Lord Jesus Christ, the Pattern of true discipleship.
Messianic prophecy speaks of this aspect of His life, the true disciple, just as it does with respect to His offices of Prophet, Priest and King. “The Lord Jehovah hath given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth me morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as disciples” (Isa. 50:4 ASV, marginal reading).
When the Lord called disciples unto Himself, He taught them the demanding terms of that calling which were necessary for discipleship. It was ever a part of His character to be the faithful model of everything He taught. He called them to the way of the cross. He trod that path and never turned His face backward. He said they must deny self. He was the Selfless One who ever lived to please the Father and to minister to others. He called them to a life of sacrifice (Luke 9:58). He was the one that had not a place to lay His head at times, while even the foxes had holes and the birds of the air had nests. He said they must “forsake all.” He had nothing but the clothes on His back and ate the simplest fare, while living the life of an itinerant preacher. All that He preached, He lived. The life that He lived was the life of a true disciple.
No summation of His characteristics as a disciple could be exhaustive. “The world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Nevertheless, for our study let us consider seven aspects of discipleship that are illustrated in His matchless life.
Why should He leave the ivory palaces to come here? There He was the delight of the Father (Prov. 8:30). The angels worshipped Him and the glories of Heaven surrounded Him. Why come to this scene of woe to be despised and rejected by men? Supremely it was because He loved the Father and sought to do His will. “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6:38). He cried, “I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9).
The true disciple is committed to do the will of the Father, whatever the painful cost (Luke 22:42). He sought not His own glory but the Father’s glory (John 7:18; 8:50). The will of the Father directed Him to the needs of a lost world, and so He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He poured out His life for others, including the careless, the unlovely, the rejecters of His love. He loved those who did not love Him. But above all this, He loved the Father and sought His glory. His very death was to glorify God (John 21:19). He did it all voluntarily and not by compulsion, for true discipleship is never compelled. The call of the Godhead came, speaking prophetically of Christ, “‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here am I, send me’“ (Isa. 6:8).
It is ever the mark of the volunteer follower and pupil that He obeys and emulates His teacher. From the perspective of His manhood, that was Jesus’ path, walking under the direction of the Father as the Son of Man. “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). There was no disobedience in Him, not ever. He was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8). “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” is the amazing tribute of Hebrews 5:8. That is, He learned the experience of this discipline; He never had to learn to obey because of any trait of disobedience. The disobedient person cannot be a disciple. That would be alien to the concept. The disciple learns to please God and not self. Thus even “Christ pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3). The disciple is interested in receiving and relaying the message of God rather than his own words. “He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God” (John 3:34). “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself” (John 14:10). “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me” (John 17:8).
The deeds of the disciple are those which are commissioned by the Master. He is never called to do his own will. Thus our Lord says, “I have finished the work which
Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4). “The works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me” (John 5:36). The mark of the disciple is total obedience. That was the characteristic of the Lord Jesus.
Every believer is called to supremely serve God (Luke 4:8b; Deut. 6:13). We are further warned that we cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13; Matt. 6:24). It is not merely the preacher or other minister who is properly the servant of God. All of us are so called. Yet it is the disciple who uniquely understands the implications of this calling in his personal life. To serve the Lord is to follow Him (John 12:26). That means discipleship. Our Lord was the perfect Servant of God.
The Gospel of Mark is devoted to presenting this picture in varying ways. Jesus said, “I am among you as He that serveth” (Luke 22:27). He stated this in the context of taking a lowly place (vv. 25-26). Servanthood is a lowly calling, not a lofty one. If we wish to be chief, then we must be servant of all. If we wish to be great, then we must serve. So taught the Savior. Then He exemplified this by saying, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45 NASB). Even He took the towel, and knelt to do the lowly work that the disciples had overlooked or avoided. Like the lowly slave He did what represented the will of God. He made Himself the object lesson. The servant is not above his Lord. If the Master had done this for them, then they were called upon to do this for others while taking the servant’s place.
It is John who gives us one of the supreme marks of the Christian. “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). All disciples are called upon to love. We are called to love the Lord (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27), to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39), to love our fellow believers (1 John 3:14), and to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). The very personification of love is the Lord Jesus Christ. He was perfectly righteous, just, holy and faithful in every utterance or deed, yet He unfailingly expressed love.
Millions of little ones have sung, “Jesus loves the little children of the world.” For did He not overrule the disciples and call the children unto Himself, saying, “Of such is the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14)? But the list is endless. He loved the rich young ruler who went away sadly from His summons (Mark 10:21). He expressed love to the outcasts. He loved even His enemies and persecutors and prayed for them from the cross (Luke 23:34). But He loved the Father supremely and said so publicly (John 14:31). The disciple must first love God intensely before He can properly love others.
agape love, which is the love of God, is sacrificial, not sentimental. It springs from the will, not just the emotions. It depends not upon a lovely object, but proceeds from a great heart. It is not understood by those of this world (John 1:5-10). The determination and zeal of the disciple must always be tempered by love. The True Disciple was the perfect demonstration of true love.
It may appear that compassion is the same as love, but there is a difference. Admittedly there is a relationship between the two. Compassion has the thought of a sympathetic inward suffering when conscious of the distress of others and then a desire to help them. The disciple cannot be unmoved by the needs of others. His compassion was enormous inward sympathy toward the sorrows and needs of others. His compassion was associated with action. He noted the multitudes that were as “sheep having no shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). His heart went out to the sick (Matt. 14:14), the hungry (Matt. 15:32), the blind (Matt. 20:34), the lepers (Mark 1:41), and the bereaved (Luke 7:13). He moved to relieve their affliction in dramatic fashion.
Our God is a God of compassion, unlike the heathen or mythological gods. He has intimate personal concern for the needs that abound in this world. The terrible scenes of suffering and pain are the product of a sin-sick scene and are not the perfect will of Him who created everything beautiful. Though sin has desolated the world, the Lord cares deeply. The disciple must also care and be touched with the feeling of the infirmities of others. As our Savior was active on earth, so He continues to minister compassionately in Heaven as our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:15). The Lord Jesus has compassion like no other person that ever lived.
The disciple must commune often with his teacher. He needs to listen carefully. He must wait for instructions at times. He must report on his ministries. There must be a review of what he does. He should express appreciation for the help given. He must contemplate the Master at great length. Thus, prayer is the lifeline of the disciple.
Our Lord was a man of prayer. “Early in the morning, a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). The disciples noted their Master’s habit of prayer. “As He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’“ (Luke 11:1). It was because He was a man of prayer that they saw their need as disciples to be men of prayer. He taught prayer by example and not simply by precept. He prayed as His public ministry began (Luke 3:21).
He prayed before important decisions (Luke 6:12-13). In great agony He prayed searching for the will of God (Luke 22:44). He prayed for His disciples that their faith would not fail (Luke 22:32). Marvelously, He continues His present ministry in Heaven, still praying for His own (Heb. 7:25). Never was a disciple more characterized by prayer than the Lord Jesus.
The life of a disciple is the life of faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (God) (Heb. 11:6). “The just shall live by faith” is a phrase repeated four times in the Word of God. Faith’s proper object is the Lord and His Word. Faith is dependency, a leaning upon Him, a looking to Him, a reliance on Him for every need that is in accord with the Word of God. That dependency is seen in the True Disciple. “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30).
He taught the disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). For in whatever was needed, He looked to God the Father. He depended upon Him for bread to feed the multitudes (Matt. 14:19), for tax money with which to pay His and Peter’s taxes (Matt. 17:27), for a colt to ride into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:2). It is never recorded that He publicized a personal need, yet neither He nor the disciples ever lacked. He never showed anxiety about personal needs and taught His disciples to refrain from worrying about tomorrow (Matt. 6:25-34). His ministry appointments were by Divine arrangement, without advance communication (John 4:4-7). His future was Divinely planned, and He rested securely in that plan, living His life one day at a time.
The Lord Jesus is the perfect example of all He asks His followers to be. His motivation was rooted in love for His Father. His obedience reflected that love. His servant attitude was a leadership model. His love was supreme, for God, for others. It was marked by tenderness and compassion. He waged spiritual warfare by prayer, by faith, by the Word of God. All that He was and did, we are called to follow.
It is convenient at times for us to think of Him as so far above us that we excuse our own lack of effort to imitate Him. That is one extreme. The other side is to feel guilty because we are not
all that He is in character at present. This is not helpful either. Yet His life is the perfect standard which should not be lowered. As long as we are conscientiously “pressing toward” this standard, we can be sure God is pleased. We will be perfected only in Heaven. But we need now to “pursue” godly character traits, to make them goals toward which we strive, in the power of the Spirit.
Lesson 2 Jesus Christ: The True Disciple
1. The life of Jesus was a life of obedience to the Father (Phil. 2:8; John 17:4). What hinders your complete obedience to the Lord and His Word? How can you overcome this hindrance?
The life of our Master eloquently demonstrated what it means to be a disciple. We are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). As you have read this lesson, what one or two characteristics of Jesus Christ, the True Disciple, have challenged your way of serving Him or living for God?
3. The glory of the Lord, the King of all, took the lowest place when He came to earth (Luke 22:27; Mark 10:45). In what way is it difficult for you to have inward humility of attitude?
4. Read 1 Corinthians 13, especially verses 4-7. How did Jesus exemplify this in His life, as your example?
5. What is genuine compassion, as shown in the life of Christ? In what areas do you sense a lack of compassion in your life toward others?
6. Give at least
three examples of Jesus’ prayer life which demonstrate areas where you need to be praying more effectively or intensively. Consider such verses as Mark 1:35; Luke 22:32,41-44, as well as John 17:1-26.
7. How did faith characterize the life of Jesus? List at least
three examples of the prayers or actions of dependency on God the Father.
8. Give an example of at least
one area in your life where you are inclined to worry rather than committing a matter to God with full confidence.