Discipleship as the Call of the Kingdom (i.e. a brain dump on discipleship)
The call of the Kingdom is Jesus’ call to “follow me”.
If the kingdom is the in-breaking of God’s reign, the call of “follow me” is the call to bring your life under that reign.
If the Kingdom is that God is breaking into time and space for the purpose of reclaiming what is His..
The call to “Follow me” must be heard in light of this reality.
The call of “follow me” is to have your life be so under the reign of God that people get a glimpse of the Kingdom through you.
This way Jesus called them it was not possible to half-ass the response to follow me.
I think that today, with the way we talk about discipleship in our day, the way we define it, we are able to get away with half-assing it far too easily.
Take a look at how the disciples responded to the “follow me” call of Jesus in Mark 1:
Simon and Andrew:
- they left their nets
- followed him
James and John
- they left their father in the boat
- and followed him.
They leave their livelihood.
They leave their family.
They leave their inheritance.
They leave behind their dominant culture’s view of success.
Bottom line: They get a whole new life. The exchange their current way of life to respond to the call of the Kingdom.
This begs some questions:
- How do we call people to follow Jesus?
- How were we called to follow Jesus?
- How were YOU called to follow Jesus?
We need to know, that when Jesus calls, He calls for all of our lives.
That is the call of the kingdom.
He doesn’t just call us to ascent to certain beliefs. He doesn’t just call us to make us feel better about our poor self-esteems.
In fact, on some level the call of Kingdom isn’t about us at all. It’s about Jesus and his kingdom. It’s about Jesus and his reign being realized here and now.
Yes, the call of the kingdom comes about because God loves us and cares for us and we are his children and he wants to rescue us from our places of despair.
But we are not the end users of the gospel.
The gospel of the kingdom, the good news of the Kingdom does not end with our praying some prayer and “getting saved”.
Now, its more than that.
We are vessels through which the kingdom flows.
We are vessels through which the reign of God flows.
We do not get to stay by and watch Jesus on the sideline, or as George Ladd calls, Balcony-type Christians.
“Mark campaigns agains balcony-type christians who are too high for mission and discipleship that in Mark’s terms involves cross-bearing and self-sacrifice.”
No, the only response is to drop everything and follow him.
But following Jesus often isn’t what we think it will be.
Kingdom discipleship isn’t the comfortable, happy, easy place we want it to be.
In fact, what we see in Mark is Jesus who says “follow me” …
and then walks the road to the cross.
What we see is that the disciples do not get that. Over and over again we see them misunderstanding who Jesus was and what he came to do.
The disciples see exaltation without suffering
Jesus has a different view of exaltation
Jesus says exaltation through suffering
So, the disciples unwittingly offer us an example of how discipleship is supposed to look.
Yes, the left everything to follow him.
But they also totally missed the boat over and over again.
They are somewhere between a faithful response and not understanding what they were getting themselves into.
You might say the disciples are unwittingly faithful and what we see in the disciples is a progressive conversion. Slowly, they get it. Slowly they see what Kingdom discipleship is all about.
And I think this is the point where we need to stop.
In spite of their screwing things up and not really counting the cost of what it meant to be part of the in-breaking reign of Jesus…
They walked with him.
They put their lives under is care.
The did just what Jesus asked. They followed.
As Dallas Willard says,
“they were simply with their rabbi”
Alan Hisch says it well too…
“Focusing our discipleship on Jesus forces us to take seriously the implications of following him, of becoming like him…like God. The spiritual agenda for discipleship is thus set: Jesus is our primary model, teacher, guide, savior, and Lord… And we must be come living versions of him – little Jesuses.
So if we want to know what God is like, we need to look no further than the person of Jesus Christ. Now, while this may seem like an incredibly obvious thing to say, it is staggering how few of us really integrate this most fundamental of truths into our lives.”
Kingdom discipleship is about being with Jesus.
The disciples may not have had it right at first, they may have followed Jesus without counting the cost.
But they were with Jesus. They walked with him.
What does this look like for us?
It means being students of Jesus.
It means being with Jesus.
It means being with others who have been with Jesus longer and more intimately than us.
This is the essence of discipleship is it not?