This week I am posting a series of reflections on discipleship.
‘“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”’ (John 14:12-14)
‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’ (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus models for us what discipleship is about. Having led his disciples from being fishermen to being fishers of men – those who cast the net of the kingdom, and see who is caught up by it – Jesus hands his mission over to them, and goes off to do something new (sit at the Father’s right hand, praying for us). There are lessons here that we need to learn, both about being a disciple and about discipling others.
Firstly, on being a disciple. Jesus’ intention is that we will do what he did, and even greater things. Listen to him: even greater things. The things Jesus did were not to demonstrate that he was the unique Son of God (though he is), but to show the world what God is like. And now we are called to do the same and even greater things. That is the goal of discipleship: that the world may know what God is like; that our neighbours might know that God is for them, not against them.
Secondly, on being someone who disciples others. Jesus ‘gives away’ his ministry – of healing and deliverance and proclamation; of teaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven, through actions and words – to others. Not just the Twelve, but the Seventy-Two, and all disciples throughout history: including us. Jesus’ identity is not dependent on the role he has been playing, but on his relationship with the Father...and that means he can let go of one role, and take up something new.
Jesus’ disciples move from ‘conscious competence’ to ‘unconscious competence’ – to being ‘naturally supernatural’ as some have described it. Now they are the teachers, the disciple-makers. But it is hard to teach someone else what is ‘natural’ to you unless you recall the stages you went through in order to get there. (Just because you can drive a car does not mean you will make a good driving instructor...)
What aspects of being a disciple come naturally to you? What have you learnt to that point? Perhaps you know that you can trust God to provide for all your needs? Perhaps it is something else. Go...back over the journey that brought you to that place, in order that you can Go...and teach someone else what you have learnt.