This week I am posting a series of reflections on discipleship.
‘The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.’ (John 1:35-39)
‘After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.’ (Mark 1:14-20)
Jesus models for us what discipleship is about. It starts with an invitation: come and spend time with me. As relationship grows, the invitation grows: come, follow me. There are lessons here that we need to learn, both about being a disciple and about discipling others.
Firstly, on being a disciple. Jesus’ disciples followed him. They had no idea what it was that they were letting themselves in for, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t ask for information up front: What will happen? How will it work out? Will we be home in time for tea?
Secondly, on being someone who disciples others. Jesus gives them very little information at the start, no explanation at all. What does ‘fishers of men’ mean?!
Jesus’ disciples start out with ‘unconscious incompetence.’ That is, not only do they not know how to be disciples (incompetence), they don’t know what they don’t know. Not only do they not know how to heal the sick, they don’t even know that they should. Unconscious incompetence is always the starting point in discipleship: we don’t know what we don’t know.
Jesus does not start by teaching them competence. He doesn’t even start by pointing out their incompetence. Instead, he simply does what he does, and invites them to be with him as he does it.
When Jesus calls you to follow him into something new, do you want to know how it will all work out before you take the first step? Or is it enough to accept his invitation? And when teaching someone else the lessons you have learnt, do you want to download everything at once? Or is it enough to invite them to be with you?